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Launch of the Regional President’s Project

The speakers at our March Regional meeting were from the charity Action Around Bethlehem Children with Disabilities (ABCD). This is a charity which President Alison has been associated with for many years.  It was started 35 years ago by Val Jourdan, a paediatric physiotherapist. She had undertaken  a placement  in Bethlehem with the Leonard Cheshire Foundation.

There is a high incidence of disability with a high rate of complications around birth and early years cases.  There is little use of birth control and marriages within isolated rural communities. This leads to a large number of genetic disorders.

There is still a stigma attached to any form of disability, even within families with disabled children. There is a tendency to hide them away, so without some intervention,  Val explained that these children live isolated and unproductive lives.

ABCD, is a charity based in the UK. It offers a multi disciplinary approach to therapy within 5 centre’s in Palestine and in homes, for those who cannot access the rehabilitation units. The charity works with local partners to offer education, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy and physiotherapy to the children. They also provide support to parents, so they can better care for children, many of whom have complex needs. It works with families regardless of faith, race or gender. Val brought stories of remarkable progress for children with physical and learning disabilities who have been assisted with walking, talking and learning, so that they can take part in community life.

Our second speaker, Firas Sarhan was born in Jalazone refugee camp. He now works in a senior capacity at the National Spinal Injury Centre in the UK. Firas is also a trustee of ABCD. The charity is fully compliant with UK charity law.  Its systems and processes are all focused upon supporting the front line work.  A number of medical and therapeutic staff are employed, however, other specialists give their time as volunteers. This means the charity is able to use its modest financial resources to reach a large number of children.

The area of operations has been in turmoil for very many years.  The Palestinian refugee camps, established in 1948 provide  high density living conditions. Water and power supplies are often cut off, even before the current escalation in hostilities.

ABCD have established rehabilitation centres attached to health centres, to provide holistic care. One has been raided by the Israeli Defence Force and all but destroyed (verified by the Independent Catholic News Service).

The charity continues to do all it can to provide care and relay on donations. They work to educate and influence families to take a more open attitude to children with disabilities.

President Alison had organised the Silent Auction towards the $6000 needed to pay the salary of a therapist for a year.