We have asked Fabrizio and Francesca, two volunteers for ATS pro Terra Sancta, to tell us of their experiences in Bethlehem. They have dedicated their day to helping the children of Bethlehem, in the morning at the nursery school managed by the Societá Antoniana of Bethlehem and in the afternoon at the Hogar Niño Dios, a center which takes in disabled children.
“It is six o’clock on a warm summer afternoon in Bethlehem and the toddlers at the Hogar Niño Dios are calling for their baby food before their diapers are changed, before their final playtime and longed-for nightly rest. Here the small children cared for are not just any children, but are those in whose face the need of Christ’s love is most apparent, revealing both a great suffering and a great love. They are disabled children, the abandoned, the neediest in a difficult land laced with pain and contradiction; the neediest, who for the sisters of the Verbo Incarnato residing in the shelter have become the most important ones in the world. And they become this for us as well, we who as volunteers have placed ourselves entirely at the service of those in need.
What has to be done here is a very difficult task, one could even say a frightening one, and it is already an accomplishment if you don’t run away at first sight. But if you are able to get beyond initial appearances, you will without doubt become charmed and a small piece of your heart will always remain here. We have seen this in the bright eyes of the volunteers who preceded us, and who in departing passed to us the symbolic baton of hope. We feel it as an enormous joy at each diaper change, at each spoon-fed meal, at each silent conversation. Yes, silent, because the Arab language is not the only barrier. Motor problems, autism, blindness, deafness – walls that seem insurmountable in this city where sad and insuperable walls are all too common. Barriers which these little angels, by their incredible will to live, make appear trivial.
The joy that fills our heart motivates us to recommend that you yourself come here, where Heaven touches the Earth and where the comet’s light shines in the dark eyes of the Palestinian infants. You will not be disappointed, of this you can be sure.”