“Here you can still breathe the scent of hope”: a month in Bethlehem bringing smiles to young children

Valerio, a young Sicilian who is 32, spent more than a month aiding youngsters in Bethlehem: in the morning helping out as a cook for the sisters of the Home of Peace, and in the afternoon taking care of disabled children at the Hogar Niño Dios.

A few days following his transfer to Jerusalem, where he is continuing his experience as a volunteer in the Holy Land, Valerio tells us about his extraordinary daily life in Bethlehem: “I had been thinking for some time about leaving but my thought had never been transformed into action. Then this year, free from work commitments, I made a definite decision and, encouraged by my sister who last year had visited the Holy Land, I made my reservation! Arriving in Bethlehem, I came to see how daily life in that town is very much affected by the inherent conflict arising from the socio-political context. And those who suffer the most from this situation are above all the children: for them there would be few possibilities of experiencing healthy and balanced growth, were it not for charitable works like those in which I was engaged. There you can still breathe the scent of hope!”

In Bethlehem, the days passed by rapidly for Valerio: by 9:30 in the morning he was already working in the kitchen of the Home of Peace, a facility that cares for 22 children who are orphans or face difficult family situations. The home is run by three Polish nuns, aided by a rotation of three volunteers working for two weeks. Here the children, in addition to having a bed, can benefit from the help of a number of teachers for homework and studying, but first of all they must eat! A gourmet himself, Valerio cooked only healthy Italian dishes: “The little ones”, he tells us “never offered me great compliments but there were never leftovers of food on the table, and they went away satisfied”.

But Valerio’s eyes shine especially when talking of the afternoons spent at Hogar Niño Dios, where five sisters of the Incarnate Word live together with around twenty children and teens suffering from physical, psychological or mental disabilities. The volunteer notes that “the atmosphere is like that of a large family, there is always confusion, children are chattering wildly and running about here and there, but it is a very friendly atmosphere”. From his first day there, Valerio fell in love with little Heba, a seven-year old Palestinian orphan who has severe motor problems: “She has to live in a wheelchair, but in her eyes I could see that she understands everything. In the evening she waited for me, and when I arrived there was always a party. Each volunteer who passes through this center is captivated by the smile with which the young nuns live alongside these little angels: it really is the hand of God”.

It is thanks to numerous volunteers like Valerio, and also to the many friends who in different ways have made themselves close to these youngsters, that the children of Bethlehem can continue to look at their own future with hope. For daily needs in the two homes in which Valerio worked we are relying on Providence, and on gestures of friendship by so many people.

You too can also help, through a concrete gesture, the active charity of those who each day are involved in constructing situations of peace in a land that is a crossroads of love, service and need. Suppor our Christmas campaign for Bethlehem.

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