Marta and Claudia, three months of charity work in Bethlehem

Giacomo Pizzi2 April 2014

The words of Marta and Claudia, two young Italians, upon the completion of their service as volunteers working with the children, youths, elderly and disabled of Bethlehem.

After having received a degree in Community Psychology, it was our wish to serve as volunteers with the hope of being able to give to others what we are and what we are in a position to give, and to receive the same in return. We therefore began to research the various possible associations which led us to learn about ATS pro Terra Sancta.

Thanks to this Association, which focuses on the protection and care of the communities in the Holy Land and the whole Middle East, we departed for Bethlehem at the end of January, ready and curious but also a bit fearful of what we would see and experience.

Our volunteer work involved dedicating our days to the nursery school of the Società Antoniana in Bethlehem, to the Terra Sancta College (school), occasionally at the elderly day-care center run by the same society, where we had accommodation, and lastly at the Hogar Niño Dios, a home for disabled children. We were welcomed in all these places and met many fantastic people full of infinite kindness … difficult, if not impossible, to say how many.

In the nursery school we set ourselves the task of carrying out a project of recreational activities on the theme of colors. After a bit of a rough start we were able to establish some organized moments during the day, which have now become part of the routine of the children and of the teachers themselves.

The programming of educational activities for children of this age, three years or below, is usually overlooked and not provided for before elementary school age. As we had done a course in development psychology as part of our university degree program and had experience in summer camps with children and teens, we tried as much as possible to make use of our acquired knowledge. The children were splendid and showed a great capacity for learning: this is what we were aiming for! And we will never forget the satisfied expressions on their faces when they had completed various tasks.

In terms of our work at the Terra Sancta school, which has classes from elementary through high school, we worked alongside Italian Language teachers during their lessons. In particular, we focused on working with the older children whom we tried to engage in conversation. For these Palestinian youths, knowledge of this language can be an opportunity for their future studies, in their work and in their life.

The hours we spent at the day-care center for the elderly made us understand how much they wanted to live, to do things, to chat. Even with their physical and psychological problems their joy in being with others has not been extinguished. The structure is off to a very good start, but it is essential that there never be a lack of involvement on the part of volunteers to provide an impetus for new activities.

Finally, we managed with pleasure to free several afternoons for helping out at the Hogar Niño Dios, a home for children and adults with physical and mental disabilities. The aid in this well-maintained home, in which about 20 people live, provides for the care and love that can be found in each family, and indeed when you spend time here you have the feeling of being in a family environment.

In all of these structures there is a need for eager and proactive people who are able to call upon, and put at the service of those who are more in need, their own qualities, since each one of us always has something to give. And then everyone can contribute from far, supporting these charitable works.

Throughout our stay bonds of affection, respect and gratitude developed and were consolidated, bonds that we will carry with us forever and which are truly the most important reward. We will never forget our experience in this land.