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September 2022
Issue No. 310
 

Jerusalem Princess Basma Centre: Tracing the Path of Christ in the Holy Land

 

Those who attend services at St John’s Cathedral would be no stranger to Jeanniee Chan: at times, she is the crucifer; if not, she is the candle bearer; or perhaps, she is the subdeacon. Other than being an enthusiastic member of the St John’s congregation, Jeanniee is also an active member of the Hong Kong Chapter of the Compass Rose Society. On top of that, she is also a Hong Kong representative in the Jerusalem Princess Basma Centre’s Steering Committee for Fundraising.

The Compass Rose Society’s Hong Kong Chapter will be conducting a fundraiser from July to September for the Jerusalem Princess Basma Centre’s child rehabilitation fund. The Echo has reached out to Jeanniee for an interview on the story behind this initiative, and the Princess Basma Centre in general.

How did you become a member of the Compass Rose Society?

It all started with a pilgrimage. I remember going on such a journey with a group of my Anglican brothers and sisters to Jerusalem, and it chanced to happen that the group leader was the Revd Canon John Peterson, a board member of the Compass Rose Society. It was then that I knew of the Compass Rose, and that we could help those in need beyond Hong Kong via this global network within the Anglican Communion. And I thought to myself, that’s such a meaningful thing, and so I decided that I have to join them as a volunteer.

And how did you first came upon the Princess Basma Centre?

Ours was a chance encounter! On one of these pilgrimages to the holy land, one of the activities on the itinerary was an unexpected visit to this Centre where they look after kids with special needs. To be frank, I didn’t thought much of it at the time. It was only when I went on a second pilgrimage when I fully felt the impact. That time I understood that a pilgrimage isn’t just any other trip – it’s a journey to follow the footsteps of Christ, a chance to learn to walk as our Lord did. This time around, the visit to the same Centre moved me. It is an oasis, providing medical care with professional equipment to special needs kids in Palestine. There were some on the autistic spectrum, some with cerebral palsy, and the care the Centre provided ranged from medication and psychotherapy to physiotherapy and speech therapy.

The Princess Basma Centre is not just a centre of healing. It is also a school, and it is the only school in Palestine currently that admits both children with and without disabilities. This is a unique and precious thing, as almost all other schools in Palestine would simply close their doors when a disabled kid comes knocking. There is a lack of opportunities for them in the wider society there.

There exists such a distance, not just geographically, between Hong Kong and Jerusalem. What makes you so dedicated to this cause? Is there something that truly moved you?

The Princess Basma Centre is a service unit in Jerusalem under the care of the Anglican Communion. I find that the work it does truly represents the Christian spirit of overcoming differences, something that I admire from the Anglican faith. The Princess Basma Centre is situated right at the eye of the storm of religious strife and conflict. Physically, it is within the borders of Jerusalem, the children it serves are mostly Muslim, and the staff working there are a mix of both Christians and Muslims. To see the people of these two faiths putting down their prejudices against each other in Jerusalem, so that they could work together in serving children in need and their families – to say such a sight moved me would be an understatement, and it is why I have been dedicated to their cause.

When I look back at why would I go and serve in such a remote land, I would say it’s almost like a spiritual aftershock of the pilgrimage experience. I did not feel it when it first hit me, and it was only until later when I slowly saw what our Father wanted me to see: not just the outward appearances, but the love of God for us, and the call of Jesus Christ.

Could you share a bit with us the role you play at the Princess Basma Centre? And what sort of help do they need currently?

I am currently one of the Hong Kong representatives in their Steering Committee for Fundraising. There are other Anglicans from other countries sitting on this committee as well. The Centre itself was established in the 60s, and the number of people it provides services to has been increasing steadily over the years. Other than providing therapy to children who came for help, the Centre also operates an outreach project to seek out those in need within the West Bank region. The outreach project refers such cases to the Centre, which then provides them with a two to three weeks long inpatient stay. One of their parents could accompany them during the period, and the Centre provides them with the education on how to help the disabled child in their daily lives after they are discharged.

The Centre requires funding for continued operation, and the costs of the various therapies it provides could run quite high. For this reason, the Centre established a Steering Committee for Fundraising three years ago, tasked with raising financial support from the various bodies within the Anglican Communion. But as the COVID pandemic arrived, these past two years presented to us a huge obstacle to our mission. The silver lining is that the pandemic measures have finally been eased in Jerusalem. Even though the economic situation is still not ideal, at least the children there can return to school and receive the therapy they need.

Any interesting experiences you had when you were at the Centre?

I once visited a class. In a rare scene in that region, I saw children with and without disabilities learning together in the same classroom. It was a valuable lesson for those without special needs, as they were experiencing an environment where they learn to treat those with disabilities as equals. They sang and played together, and the parents were all enthusiastically helping out in running the show. Truly, it was moment of genuine, untainted love.

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What sort of fundraising activities is the Compass Rose Society’s Hong Kong Chapter planning for the Princess Basma Centre?

The Hong Kong Chapter of the Compass Rose Society is running a fundraiser for the Centre’s Child Rehabilitation Fund from July till September. The main goal we are aiming for is the hiring of a doctor, who will be providing emergency consultation and referral for disabled children during outreach trips in towns and villages. The annual salary of a doctor is about 29,760 USD, and a contract is usually four-years long. We hope that we can raise a single year’s salary from the Hong Kong fundraiser.

If you are moved to help out in the valuable work of the Jerusalem Princess Basma Centre, please write your cheque payable to ‘Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui Archbishop World Relief Fund’, with the note ‘Princess Basma Centre’ at the back, and send it to The Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui Provincial Office, 16/F, Tung Wai Commercial Building, 109-111 Gloucester Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong. For enquiries, please contact Jeanniee on 94612477.

Thank you for tuning in to the story behind the Princess Basma Centre. Please keep in your prayers this witness of Anglican charity in the holy land.

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An Overview of The Jerusalem Princess Basma Centre

The Jerusalem Princess Basma Centre operates under the Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem, providing rehabilitation services and education to children with disabilities and their parents, focusing in particular on the abused and vulnerable.

The Child Rehabilitation Centre operates under the Princess Basma Centre, and every year it provides therapy to hundreds of children with disabilities via outreach. It is one of the four largest national rehabilitation centres within the Palestine region, and is the only one specifically providing services to children.

The Child Rehabilitation Centre has been certified with high quality services by Joint Commission International. It is an inclusive school that provides services and equal opportunity to both children with and without disabilities in the community. The Jerusalem Princess Basma Centre welcomes all children and their families regardless of their race or religion.

The four main service areas of the Centre are:

• The Child Rehabilitation Centre, which provides multiple types of therapy and rehabilitation services for children with disabilities;

• The Family Empowerment Program, a boarding scheme that allows parents to take care of children at home, and works towards lessening the cultural stigma of rearing a child with disabilities;

• The Outreach Program, which has established ten clinics in the cities, towns, and villages in the West Bank region, where people may find it difficult to travel to Jerusalem; and,

• The Professional Clinical Program, which provides training for university students in the best practices and inclusive policies when interacting with children with disabilities.

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The Story of Mira Masri

During our interview, Jeanniee shared with us the story of one of the students at the Princess Basma Centre, Mira Masri in Year 1.

 

Mira Masri is a girl suffering from cerebral palsy, who needs assistance when walking around. She had long wanted to attend school, and the only difficulty she has when it comes to her condition is physical movement, but no school thus far was willing to admit her. When school after school rejected her, she tried to tell them, ‘Do not focus on my legs. I can eat on my own, and I can take care of myself. Why do you have to focus on nothing but my legs?’

When she was referred to the Princess Basma Centre, she was finally allowed the opportunity to attend school alongside children without disabilities. Mira remarked, ‘Nobody looked at me with a peculiar gaze. They’re all willing to help. I wish that one day, I could walk by myself on the streets. Though I know that that’s an impossible dream, I’ll dream it for the rest of my life. When I grow up, I want to be a lawyer, and help those in need.’

Mira’s story is a reminder to us that whenever we help others to find hope, they too would grow to bring hope to others.

 

 

 


<The above article was published in "Echo" Issue No. 310. Please click here>

 

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