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Rose is far more than an engineer and project coordinator. As I observed last February while making the rounds with her, she has become a family friend as well as a family helper.

“My work is as much social work as engineering,” she told me, “and the satisfaction comes from bringing a little joy to people living in miserable situations.”

Damp walls are perhaps the most common and difficult problem facing those living in the Old City. Buildings are built of stone, often with walls two to three feet thick. They retain moisture, which seeps through the porous stone during the winter rainy season. Since houses lack central heating, the resulting dampness often causes bronchitis and other health problems, especially for young children. Crumbling plaster can be replaced, but without proper waterproofing plaster will peel again. Rose wants to convene a seminar for engineers and builders so they may explore better waterproofing techniques.

Meanwhile Rose does what she can with available technology. Victor Marizian’s apartment was so damp and in such bad repair that he was unable to live in it after he suffered a stroke. When his wife, Mary, learned of CNEWA’s housing program, she applied for a grant to waterproof and replaster the walls of their bedroom. Only after the work was completed was Victor released from the hospital and allowed to return home.

Father Adib Zoomot, Director of the Latin Patriarchate’s Solidarity housing project, observes that the Palestinian Christian attitude is, “If I have a house, I have something; if I have a house, I can stay.”

By relieving the lack of decent housing for Christians, CNEWA ultimately helps to maintain Christianity’s presence in Jerusalem and the Holy Land.

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George Martin is a frequent contributor to these pages.

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Tags: CNEWA Jerusalem Economic hardships Homes/housing