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“I pray every morning to the sainted Jacques. I offer my day to him.” In the evening, Melanie prays with her rosary beads, using each bead to mark a new intention. “With each new bead, I name a new person I wish to pray for and in that way, I don’t repeat the prayers emptily. Each prayer has its own distinct intention.” Geriatric patients comprise the largest population group in Our Lady’s Hospital for the Chronically Ill — people whose families can or will no longer care for them. Many of these patients suffer from mental conditions, including a large number with Alzheimer’s disease. Sister Tammam Salameh, mother superior of the facility, performs her rounds, spread out across a number of pavilions. On her route, she pauses to exchange words,

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jokes and pleasantries with patients and staff alike. Sister Tammam brings to each room a warm and buoyant atmosphere, in juxtaposition to the condition of many of the wards themselves. The age of the buildings, most of them built some 40 years ago, is beginning to show. Patients live in crowded wards, without air conditioning, surrounded by peeling paint. “These buildings are now old and we need to restore and enlarge them. That’s our vision and it’s urgent,” Sister Tammam says as she makes her way between wards. Such a renovation and enlargement project would cost about $1 million, says hospital accountant Elie Rizkallah, but such funding is nowhere to be seen. “We don’t have the money set aside,” he says. “We are living day to day.” Of the 450 patients at the hospital, only 20 are private, fee-paying patients. For public patients, the government pays a symbolic subsidy, which amounts to about $10 per person per day, far below the real costs of care. The Father Roberts Institute and the Psychiatric Hospital of the Cross face this same funding conundrum. United Nations agencies such as UNHCR and UNRWA contribute money respectively for Palestinian and other refugees taken in as patients or beneficiaries. CNEWA and other Catholic agencies, such as l’Œuvre d’Orient assist with nonoperational support. For example, CNEWA has helped the Father Roberts Institute to build a pastry kitchen from which the institute produces, packages and distributes Father Roberts Institute-branded cookies and cakes to supermarkets all over Lebanon. It has become a new mode of income generation and a cornerstone of the institute’s slow move toward self-sufficiency. CNEWA has also provided funding

for educational materials for the school and for hearing aids for students. Despite these specific boons, all three institutions operate their finances on a month-to-month basis, depending heavily on Providence. In the meantime, the core infrastructure — put in place decades ago — is crumbling. Although brick and mortar do not last forever and these centers will indeed require serious investment soon, their collective work has contributed to an ever-expanding space in Lebanese society for the dignity and acceptance of those who were once marginalized and cast out — in particular, the deaf and the mentally ill. For that space to continue to grow and consolidate, these institutions seek out more outside support.

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here once deaf babies were kept at home and neglected, now confident youth are able to emerge as active participants in society. Where once the mentally ill were cast out, now they can begin to find a place and contribute through workshops and community engagement. Back in the lobby of the Father Roberts Institute for Deaf Children, Wadad Bou Dagher-Kharrat glances at her watch and cranes her neck. The children are unusually late showing up. The noise emanating from the schoolyard explains why. As it is the last day of the school year, class has been canceled and replaced by a full day of activities. Angie and Karl spent the morning planting seeds at the nearby park, followed by sport and games. Once they returned to the school grounds, traditional Lebanese flatbread sandwiches — called saj, after the frying pan used to make them — awaited them with a choice of water or soda.

Profile for ONE Magazine

ONE Magazine September 2017  

The official publication of Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA)

ONE Magazine September 2017  

The official publication of Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA)

Profile for cnewa