An Appeal for The School of Joy in Beit Sahour, Bethlehem

A heart-warming Carol Service with reflections was held at St Ignatius church in All Saints Parish, Devon on Friday, 29th December. Several members of the parish were actively involved, and the service was led by Fr Mark Skelton, with Deacon Anthony Carey taking a leading role as a narrator. The little village church was also beautifully decorated by parishioners, who used greenery, candles and oriental lanterns to create an uplifting atmosphere.

During the event, parishioner Josephine Attar made an appeal for donations for the disabled and often abandoned children at The School Of Joy, in Bethlehem. On this feast of the Epiphany, we are sharing her words in order to encourage people across our Diocese to give what they can or help bring awareness to the needs of the Christian community in the Bethlehem region.

A Palestinian Catholic priest, Fr Mamdouh Abusada, founded the school in 1998 on seeing the plight of disabled children in the region. The school is situated on a hill in Beit Sahour, The Shepherds’ Fields area. These poor children, who suffer from a variety of physical, mental and emotional disorders, receive a basic education in as far as they are able and some of them successfully manage the training given in carpentry. They make olive wood products, while the girls learn textile embroidery, creating an attractive selection of souvenirs. All of these are then sold to tourists. In this way many of these disadvantaged children have been able to earn a living. I admire the aim of helping these children without hope to become capable of providing for themselves later on despite their disabilities.

During Advent and Christmas time, many of us will have been donating money to various charities and some of you will have been actively involved in fund raising events. Now, on this feast of the Epiphany I am asking you to turn again to “the least of Gods little ones” and give whatever you çan to a most worthy cause, which is not served by any big charity organisation and depends totally on donations. I have been involved in raising money through concerts, for the needs of the abandoned, disabled children of the School of Joy for several years and have made many visits to the school.

They are currently more isolated than ever and this year there were no little Christmas treats to put a smile on their young faces. Christmas was cancelled in Bethlehem and there were no pilgrim tourists to visit and donate, or to buy their hand made souvenirs.

So, as we begin our journey into a new year let us follow the kings to Bethlehem, giving gifts from the heart, along with our prayers for peace in that war torn region, where the poor and the young suffer most.’

Fr Mark Skelton and Deacon Anthony Carey echo the consistent message of our Diocesan Administrator Canon Paul Cummins in encouraging us to continue to keep all those in The Holy Land in our prayers at this time.

If you would like to support the School of Joy please visit Friends of the Holy Land, either through their webpage , or by post to their office: Farmer Ward Road, Kenilworth, CV8 2DH or by calling their office on 01926 512980. Please ensure you put a note stipulating that you wish your donation to go to The School of Joy. You can also contact the director of Friends of The Holy Land directly at:

Photos of St Ignatius church are courtesy of Zak Attar, and the photo of Fr Mamdouh with children from The School of Joy and friend Josephine is courtesy of Eli Grey.

Warmest thanks to all who have supported the appeal so far and to the organisers and participants at the carol service at St Ignatius Church Shaldon: Lynda and Barrie Dennett, Gerry Gillespie, Christine Bloor, Millie Waite, Carmen Jaye, Geralyn Arthurs, Josephine Attar and Zak Attar.