Take Five: 5 Ways CNEWA Supports the Disabled

A child reads Braille at the Shashemene School for the Blind in Shashemene, Ethiopia.
(photo: Nile Sprague)

The work of CNEWA is diverse and varies throughout the regions we serve. But one thing that has been consistent in almost every country is our support for the disabled. Below are five institutions for the disabled in five different countries, all supported by CNEWA:

  1. Shashemene School for the Blind, Ethiopia. The Shashemene School for the Blind in Ethiopia is run by the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. In the May 2006 issue of ONE we wrote about the Shashemene school:

    “Three days after she was born, Meseret was struck blind. She spent much of her early childhood locked in her room; her parents did not know what to do with her. But a few years ago, Meseret&rsuqo;s family found out about the Shashemene School for the Blind, run by the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, and decided that Meseret would be happier there than at home.

    The school lies within a large, gated compound — a sanctuary in Shashemene, a bustling Ethiopian town of 50,000. It was here that Meseret, now 12, learned Braille. And it was here that she first came to understand that her life, like those of the other 120 blind students enrolled in the school, could be meaningful.”

  2. St. Anthony’s Dayssadan, India. St. Anthony’s Dayssdan is a home for children with physical disabilities run by the Preshitharam Sisters. During his pastoral visit to India, Msgr. John Kozar visited the home and was moved by the children he met:

    “The drama began the instant we arrived, when we were welcomed by all the children gathered at the front entrance to greet me with singing and clapping. Now, what I did not know was that about 80 percent of these beautiful children are not able to walk. They assembled there under their own incredible efforts. When the welcome ended they proceeded to crawl inside the building, down a long corridor (with the marble floor immaculately clean), then up a flight of stairs. I had tears watching them, as they demonstrated how they have overcome their disabilities. As I would easily discern, it is the result of the loving patience of the sisters, their devotion to teach these little ones how to overcome and to share with them the love of God for each of them.”

  3. Franciscan Sisters of the Cross Hospital, Lebanon. Founded in 1933, this hospital houses and cares for some 280 mentally and physically disabled patients. Last winter, Msgr. Kozar visited the hospital and met with the Franciscan sisters and patients they care for:

    “Our most memorable visit was in an area for profoundly mentally challenged boys and men, some of whom have severely physical handicaps. There was a remarkable sister who had a God-given ability to discern in the moans, groans or unabashed sounds of these patients ranging in age from 6 to 45 years a need for some type of attention. She calmly reached out and gave them a little hug, a pat on the check, a little touch on the head, and their anxieties or fears went away. She did it so instinctively and so calmly it might not have been noticed — she did it with love.”

  4. Ephpheta Institute, Palestine. The Ephpheta Institute, in Bethlehem, is a school for the speech and hearing impaired which has long been supported by CNEWA. During his first pastoral trip to the Holy Land, Msgr. Kozar paid the sisters and students at Ephpheta a visit:

    “Of course, the highlight was being with the children, all 125 of them. The very youngest receive wonderful one-on-one training and speech therapy, rendered in a most loving way. After a few years of such intense instruction and training, the children are ready to begin primary school education. It was so edifying to see the progression of the children as they learned first to repeat sounds, then words, then to speak in sentences. The biggest surprise was the upper level kids who were actually bi-lingual, speaking in Arabic and English. I was so proud of each and every one of them.”

  5. Santa Lucia’s Home for the Blind, Egypt. The Santa Lucia Home for the Blind in Egypt, run by the Franciscan Sisters of the Cross, has cared for blind children since the 1980s. We profiled this pioneering project in the May 2010 issue of ONE:

    “Having a blind parent or sibling, however, does not safeguard a blind child from abuse or neglect. One such child is 7-year-old Bishoi. His father is blind and never attended a day of school. Before coming to Santa Lucia, Bishoi spent most of his days on the street in a village in Upper Egypt.

    ‘His mom and dad stayed at home, and just left him in the street, where he cursed and roughhoused with other children,’ says Sister Hoda. ‘This is what happened to him because there was no one to take care of him. He did not even go to school.’

    Many parents, such as Bishoi’s, are simply at a loss as to what to do with a disabled child. Lucky for Bishoi’s parents, their dilemma was resolved when they learned about Santa Lucia from a Franciscan priest who visited their local parish. His parents called Sister Souad that day and soon after, they put Bishoi on a train to Alexandria.”

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