In Bethlehem the Franciscan Boys Home with Abuna Sandro and the boys
Samir is the young blue-eyed protagonist you met in the first video with Giovanni Scifoni released yesterday on our channels. The video is set in Bethlehem, the small Palestinian town animated by Samir and the many children who every day, after school, return home to study and then be accompanied by their parents to various sports activities.
In the evening the children find themselves playing together in the large manger square.
From the square, taking a narrow street full of souvenir shops, you reach the Milk Cave. This is the place where, according to tradition, a few drops of milk of the Virgin Mary fell on a rosy stone during breastfeeding, coloring it white.
A few steps from the Cave you will come across a large and well-kept structure. The garden, a vast patio, the rocking chair, a new trampoline, the beautiful table in the shade of a vineyard and the football field are the backdrop to this special house. The view over the Bethlehem Valley is stunning – an oasis of peace away from boisterous cars and the cries of the souq. It is Franciscan Boys Home, one of the many social works of the Custody of the Holy Land, established in 2007 and affiliated to the Terra Sancta College.
The Franciscan Boys Home celebrates fifteen years
It is a day and residential shelter opened in September 2007. Since that day it has welcomed over 140 Christian children and adolescents aged between 6 and 18 years. These children live within families that are not able or do not have the material possibilities to take care of them. The condition at home, in fact, is of great discomfort for these children, subject to abuse of all kinds, violence, economic difficulties and heavy separations of parents. They are therefore young people from contexts of extreme vulnerability and today the House of the Child welcomes 27. For them this is a real home. Ten boys live here permanently from Monday to Saturday, the other 17 in the evening return to their parents.
The boys do not lack anything, the House responds to every need – from the case for school to the football field to play. All the activities are told to us in this episode from our Italian podcast “Voci di Terra Santa” by the head of the great Franciscan structure Fra Sandro Tomašević, called abuna Sandro by all. For two years the Croatian friar has been directing the Franciscan Boys Home with faith, love and commitment, just like a father. Because yes, these boys are like children for the good abuna Sandro: “We priests do not get married, yet I have thirty children!” he confesses smiling. And, just like a father, he is moved to tell us the story of a boy who after so many years managed to forgive his mother, despite the pain she had caused him.
A strong family identity
After school, the children walk the three-minute road that separates them from the Franciscan Boys Home. Here abuna Sandro and the three nice ladies who every day help in the kitchen and household chores are waiting for them. When lunch arrives it is ready in the spacious canteen. Before each meal they recite the Our Father in Arabic and at the end a prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord. Immediately afterwards the students settle into the classrooms upstairs to do their homework together with professors and social workers who work inside the Home. After studying everyone to play football!
In the episode of the podcast, Fra Sandro tells that there are many success stories: a boy who is now an educator, others who are professors of mathematics and physics or another young man who has opened a restaurant and many who study at the University. These are the stories of children who before entering the Franciscan Boys Home were alone and abandoned to themselves. Today many are loving husbands and fathers who consider this Home a gift from God.
A familiar place
Last February, Pro Terra Sancta helped in the renovation of the kitchen and laundry rooms to contribute to the continuation of this great work with a true Franciscan spirit.
Samir and the children of Bethlehem have the right to a just and complete education for a more beautiful future for them; and therefore for the whole community. The family is the first place where the little ones experience an education that does not want anything in return and that is why it is important for us that every place is familiar.
And what place is more maternal than a Home a stone’s throw from the Milk Grotto?
If you missed the video of Giovanni Scifoni in Bethlehem click here!