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Reaching Out to Neighbors

An update on the activities at Maison du Sacre Coeur in Haifa.

by Katerina Katsarka Whitley

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Maison du Sacre Coeur in Haifa is home for 60 severely handicapped children. The Sisters of Charity who administer the Maison give this community hope. These women are daily confronted with the realities of physical pain, of poverty, and of family violence, yet they know their purpose.

The Maison also offers day care to the neighborhood community’s children. It offers a love-filled environment for the children who attend and reaches into the community with support.

This Arab neighborhood is overwhelmed by the problems of an industrial city. The population suffers from severe drug abuse among the poor. This problem makes the work of the Maison’s day-care school even more important, if not urgent.

There are 220 children in the day-care school, which was established in 1984 at the urging of local clergy and parish families. Places for infants are in great demand. Other slots are reserved for one-, two-, and three-year-old children, and at any time 60 to 70 children are on the waiting list.

When the children start at school – some from bad neighborhoods and very large families – they are frightened. With the attention they receive, they improve steadily. The most obvious change comes in their ability to communicate – a welcome improvement by the time they enter the class for five year olds.

In this culture, some children are shadowed by the abuse they see heaped on the mother. One four-year-old prays that God makes his father stop hitting his pregnant Mama.

The teachers and aides are Christian women from the community. After graduating from high school, they received two years of teacher training at the Hadara School near Tel Aviv.

The children who attend Maison du Sacre Coeur are the fortunate ones of the poor of the city. These beautiful youngsters are most vulnerable during the years when they attend day care. Here they come under the influence of the serene, loving sisters and the good training of their teachers. They are fed well, and they learn that life is more than the struggle to survive in a large family. They learn of beauty and kindness and of the hidden treasures that only reading and learning can reveal. No matter what life holds in store for them, it is these five years that can make the difference.

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Maison du Sacre Coeur receives regular support from Catholic Near East Welfare Association.



Tags: Children Israel Education Disabilities