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Prevention of isolation and social exclusion of people with disabilities in the Palestinian Authority

Palestine is a country facing numerous social, economic, and political problems. The scope of support for people with disabilities provided by the public sector is painfully small, inadequate to the extent of needs – according to estimates approximately 7% of Palestinian society are afflicted with some form of disability. The decisive majority of care and support for people with disabilities comes from NGOs, which are frequently affected by difficulties caused by shortages of funds and qualified personnel. No specialist higher education courses in special needs education are available in Palestine. At the same time, the society lacks understanding of problems faced by people with disabilities and their families; as a result, a child with disability is perceived as a source of shame.

Prevention of isolation and social exclusion of people with disabilities in the Palestinian Authority

The project was carried out from 1 March to 31 December 2016 in the Bethlehem region. The project was executed by Caritas Polska in cooperation with Caritas Jerusalem as the local partner.

The overall goal of the project was to increase access to social services for groups facing exclusion. Under the project, rehabilitation equipment was purchased for ten centres in the Bethlehem region which provide services for children and adults with various types of disability. Despite coping with constant financial problems, they carry out their mission with passion and stand out thanks to very committed personnel. The purchased medical and educational equipment has raised the standard of provided assistance and enabled them to offer help to a larger number of people in need. The centres include, among others, a school for people with impaired vision, a school for people with impaired hearing, workshops in occupational therapy, and rehabilitation-and-care facilities for children and adults with mental disabilities. One of the centres receiving support is the Holy Child Program – a centre in Beit Sahour which provides care for children with social and emotional problems, behavioural and psychological disorders, and mild intellectual disability. These children’s problems are frequently caused by experienced traumas; oftentimes, they are children from orphanages, deprived of intimacy and a sense of security. Besides school activities, the centre provides support and education groups for parents, assuming that only by working with the entire family will truly effective help be possible. Under the project, the centre has been extended with an artificial turf playground to facilitate psycho-motor rehabilitation therapy.

Social workers in Palestine agree that substantial problems arise due to the lack of access to education in working with children and adults afflicted with a variety of disabilities. Local institutions of higher education do not offer such courses, so personnel at the centres acquire their professional skills in practice, learning from one another. Under the project, ten employees of the units within the project participated in specialist post-graduate courses in special needs education at the Palestine Ahliya University in Bethlehem, obtaining a certificate recognised by the Palestinian Ministry of Education. The course provided the participants with an opportunity to increase their knowledge and skills.

The programme also included a social campaign carried out on Radio Bethlehem 2000, which broadcast radio spots promoting positive perception of people with disabilities. Information brochures related to problems of people with disabilities and the language to be used when speaking about them were distributed in schools and universities.

Prevention of isolation and social exclusion of people with disabilities in the Palestinian Authority

Ten centres aiding people with disabilities in Bethlehem, Beit Jala, and Beit Sahour have received additional educational and medical equipment. This has allowed the centres to help more people and to raise standards of the care they provide to approximately 450 people. The value of purchased equipment totals PLN 485,905.74.

Ten people employed at the centres finished post-graduate courses in special needs education, which resulted in higher qualifications of the personnel providing care to people with disabilities.

A network of connections between the centres (which did not know each other previously) has been created, facilitating more efficient assistance for disabled people.

A social campaign was carried out on Radio Bethlehem 2000, which broadcasted radio spots four times a day for two weeks. Information brochures related to problems of people with disabilities and the language to be used when speaking about them were distributed in schools and universities.

An informal platform has also been established for exchange of experience and cooperation between individual centres employing course graduates.