A priority target group at the Holy Child program is female students. Because girls often withdraw instead of displaying aggressive behavior, they are often overlooked when evaluating psychological distress. One of our successes stories is Hiba, from one of the nearby villages. Not accepted in the public school system because she was thought to have a disease, which caused her hair to fall out, Hiba was brought to the HCP at the age of seven. Hiba was diagnosed with stress related to very difficult family situations, including four siblings who suffered from diabetes, lack of proper food and worry for her father, who needed to illegally cross the border to find work. For two years she remained at home, was ostracized by other children and was forced to cover her head with a veil. After two years in the Program, her hair grew back and for the first time she could remove her veil.
Hiba remained two more years at HCP. She returned to public school, attaining an 80% on the state high school exams (Tawjihi), a very difficult exam where many students do not attain a passing grade.
Currently, Hiba is studying engineering at one of the Palestinian universities. Hiba continues to visit the Program and considers HCP part of her family. Those of us who have worked with Hiba are very proud for her accomplishments. As one of our early students, we know that the work we have begun can bear much fruit. [Note: Two other children from this family have also been enrolled in HCP. Because of their financial situation, no tuition was ever charged; her parents would offer in-kind gifts such as bread and honey.]
Reema was enrolled in the Holy Child Program in 2011. She had become increasingly aggressive at home after the death of her father.
In the four years she attended HCP, Reema made remarkable progress in all aspects. Her mother attended and completed the Incredible Years Mothers’ Group, in order to receive guidance in dealing with Reema’s behavioral problems at home as well as gaining skills to integrate the loss of her husband.
For one such meeting, the mother was given a homework assignment – to read 15 minutes per day with her daughter. They began reading Harry Potter. Soon her cousins joined, and came each night for story time. Gradually, the entire neighborhood was reading Harry Potter in their own homes. Some parents told the mother of Reema that the children would rather be read to than to watch TV or play on the computer. Through this one child, many families were touched, and cultural norms were challenged, as it is not a priority within Palestinian society to promote reading, let alone read to your children. Public libraries do not exist, and what is known as a library is usually a private shop where stationery and school supplies are sold.
The HCP social worker continues to follow Reema’s progress. We continue to receive very good reports (academic and behavioral) from home as well as from the public school she is attending in Bethlehem.
Recently, Reema came to visit the HCP, and brought a plant to thank the staff for her years with us.
George came to the HCP in the summer of 2003. He was being sexually abused by a relative who lived near his home. While assisting the family in ways to protect George from further abuse, he also received therapy to overcome his feelings of self-guilt, his fears and ways in which to protect himself from other offenders. Despite his traumas, George continued to be a sensitive and caring boy. He was academically quite bright and had a great love of animals, which was a means of therapeutic healing for him.
On completion of his therapy, George attended a local private high school. Upon graduation, he enrolled in a college in Ramallah, studying photography. Currently, he is a professional photographer, and is successful in his work.
Amir was born with a physical handicap. He had club-feet and had learned to walk on the outside of his ankles. As a pre-teen Amir faced problems of acceptance and the stigma of a physical handicap within a society that deems such handicaps as disdainful. Within the family situation, children can suffer the extreme of both being neglected and almost hidden/ignored, or over-indulged, leading to lack of expectations by the part of the parents, behavioral problems and sibling rivalry. In Amir’s case, the latter was evident.
Amir was brought to the HCP when learning and psychological problems made it impossible for him to continue in the Catholic school. He was enrolled in the program for three years. At one point while in the program, an NGO made arrangements for Amir to go to Germany for surgery. During his interview, Amir displayed an attitude of entitlement and rudeness, and he did not receive the intervention. But this was a turning point in his therapeutic process.
After graduation from high school, Amir worked with his father in the family money exchange office, for which he eventually assumed full responsibility. Amir has since moved to Germany, where we are told he is successfully working. He has had some necessary interventions to relieve some of the difficulties in walking. Amir’s father is very proud of his son and keeps HCP posted on his son’s activities.
[In 2000, the HCP opened its kindergarten/preschool program for four students. Besides Usama, students in the program included Jack – a 3-year old only-survivor of triplets, who was sickly and with many behavioral problems, Wafa, legally blind and with developmental delays who had witnessed her father’s death during the incursion into Bethlehem, and Radisha, a 10-year old girl who had been found in the streets and had never attended school.]
Usama came to the program at the age of three. Usama displayed severe behavioral problems, had been correctly diagnosed with autism and was heavily medicated for ADHD. He was also inappropriately medicated for a seizure disorder. For the first three months in the program, Usama required one-to-one attention, as well as very close work with the mother, who was raising her three children while her husband was abroad studying veterinary medicine. Usama also suffered from echolalia and had difficulty expressing his own thoughts, but would instead repeat everything that was said to him.
Usama also posed an educational challenge to his teachers, as his sight vocabulary was very large and was reading within a few months, but without the emotional control to sustain activities on his own. As is normal of persons with autism, Usama was socially delayed and had difficulty starting and maintaining healthy peer relationships.
Usama remained in the HCP through the age of 14. Originally, Usama remained part-time at HCP and part-time at a local organization who provided vocational training, including making orthopedic shoes. Now, age 17, Usama works with his father raising Arabian horses.
Usama and his family worked very hard to overcome the obstacles associated with one who has autism, especially as regards his social abilities. Usama is able to make eye contact, initiate and sustain a conversation, has established and maintained long-standing friendships and participate in family activities. Usama’s mother remains an active part of the HCP family, completing and now co-leading one of the Mothers’ groups through the Incredible Years component, as well as assisting with visitors to HCP.
[News Article excerpt: The Palestinian boy, Yakoub Ibhisad, had been treated with dialysis at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center for seven years before a transplant became available. According to the Times of Israel, the Health Ministry’s transplant center contacted Noam’s parents, and asked them if they’d be willing to donate the kidney to someone who was not Israeli — specifically, a Palestinian.]
After his kidney transplant, Yakoub, age 8, returned to the school in his village, but was ostracized and bullied by other students who not only did not understand his illness, but who rejected him because he had received a kidney from an Israeli. At that point, he refused to attend school and remained home for one year.
A family friend arranged for his enrollment in HCP. Yacoub continued to resist, but through his family and the assistance of the office for education, they succeeded in getting him to the program.
Yakoub travels each day from Yata, a village near Hebron, over an hour drive each way and with multiple change of taxi. He leaves his home at 6:30 a.m., returning each day at 5 p.m.
His first year in the program focused on his emotional and psychological needs. In his second year in the program, Yakoub made remarkable progress, including the ability to read and write.
Yakoub no longer misses school because of fear of rejection. At HCP, he says he has found both friends and family who help and understand him. His attendance has become more random due to the increased tension in the Hebron area and road closures between Hebron and Bethlehem. He manages to attend at least 4 out of 5 days each week, often coming late. Curfew is the only thing that will keep him from trying to get to school. His family works with him to maintain his academic progress. An Israeli NGO pays for transportation for Yakoub and follows his progress.