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Medical and artistic activities in the Palestinian society in three cities: Bethlehem, Beit Sahour and Beit Jala

In the Palestinian Authority, most women take advantage of free government-run hospitals, where there are not as many health workers as in private hospitals. The Holy Family Hospital in Bethlehem delivers approximately 5,500 newborns each year, accounting for 75 per cent of all births in the Bethlehem Governorate. The hospital is open to all those in need and provides field services to women who have difficulty accessing the Bethlehem hospital because of checkpoints. Any and all additional assistance at the hospital is therefore highly desirable.

Because of the difficult political, social and economic situation and lack of prospects for the future, Palestinian youth feel excluded. Appropriate support is needed to enable these young people to develop properly. The workshops organised by the volunteer enabled young people to learn new skills, while also improving their emotional health and their self-esteem.

Children are a very sensitive social group. Domestic violence constitutes a major problem, particularly in rural areas. Interdisciplinary activities with the volunteer enabled children with a variety of trauma-induced disorders to open up to the world and see their surroundings from a fresh perspective.

Medical and artistic activities in the Palestinian society in three cities: Bethlehem, Beit Sahour and Beit Jala

The project was implemented between 1 July 2016 and 31 December 2016. The woman volunteer conducted project activities in Bethlehem, Beit Sahour and Beit Jala, three locations in the Bethlehem Governorate in the Palestinian Authority, between 30 August 2016 and 26 November 2016 and subsequently between 4 and 29 December 2016.

Caritas Poland was the entity implementing the project (the sending organisation), while Caritas Jerusalem was its local partner (the host organisation).

The project aimed to support and assist in social activation of the most vulnerable groups in the Palestinian community through medical and art-related activities. It encompassed activities tailored to the needs of three distinct groups of beneficiaries: women, adolescents and children.

The project beneficiaries included women patients and the staff of the Holy Family Hospital in Bethlehem, where the volunteer assisted with deliveries and supported the staff. Her work in the obstetrics ward of the Holy Family Hospital involved assisting women in all phases of childbirth. The volunteer also took care of children during their initial two hours of life, a period of adaptation to the external environment, when newborns are examined, vaccinated and the first breastfeeding takes place.

The volunteer also cared for women in the early postpartum period, when they were still in the delivery room. Additionally, her tasks included keeping documentation and ensuring the cleanliness of the delivery room and replenishment of its required equipment and consumables. The volunteer worked as a member of a team of midwives and was usually the fourth person on a given shift. She also worked as part of a mobile clinic team in the Judaean Desert.

The second group of beneficiaries consisted of young people of the Roman Catholic, Greek Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Syrian Orthodox faiths living in Bethlehem, Beit Sahour and Beit Jala, who participated in twice-weekly icon painting workshops run by the volunteer. Workshop participants also visited the Bethlehem Icon Centre (an institution that promotes iconography). In addition to participants gaining theoretical knowledge of icon painting techniques, the historical and cultural contexts of the process, and practical icon painting skills, the course was very important as a coming together of the local Christian community of various rites around the topic of sacred art, which also enabled the expression of long-suppressed emotions.

The third group of beneficiaries were children aged 5-16 attending the Home of Peace in Bethlehem and the Latin Patriarchate Church in Beit Jala, for whom the volunteer conducted a series of interdisciplinary workshops involving arts and crafts, mobility games and English lessons. Aesthetics development activities of all kinds are greatly needed in Palestine, as there is little art in the school curriculum. These classes stimulated children’s interests, enabled them to view their surroundings from a different perspective, fostered sensitivity, and enabled them to open up and express their feelings. At the same time, the workshops improved the children’s skills in simple communication in English.

The project activities sought to achieve human capital priority 3, identified in the Multi-annual Development Cooperation Programme 2016–2020, which in turn contributes to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 3, to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

Medical and artistic activities in the Palestinian society in three cities: Bethlehem, Beit Sahour and Beit Jala

1. One hundred twenty-six women benefited from the support provided by the volunteer, who worked for a total of 387 hours at the Holy Family Hospital in Bethlehem. The hospital staff gained new knowledge about best medical practices.

2. Twenty-six young people from the Roman Catholic, Greek Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Syrian Orthodox churches living in Bethlehem, Beit Sahour and Beit Jala learned how to paint icons.

3. One hundred twenty-three children from the Home of Peace in Bethlehem (ages 5-16) and the Latin Patriarchate Church in Beit Jala (ages 5-14) developed their individual talents and formed a sense of beauty and imagination, while also improving their ability to communicate in simple English through interdisciplinary workshops conducted by the volunteer.