Hogar Niño Dios, Bethlehem is located just down the hill from the Church of the Nativity. It is a home for severely disabled Palestinian children and some adults. Many of the children have cerebral palsy and other serious neurological conditions that necessitate use of wheelchairs. Some children have microcephaly, autism, Down’s syndrome, and genetic defects. Some have poor vision or hearing. Most do not speak. Half of the home’s residents cannot feed themselves, and most require considerable assistance in the activities of daily living.
Four sisters of the Religious Family of the Incarnate Word reside in the home, which was founded by their superior, Mother Maria Pia, in 2005. The sisters are the primary caregivers, assisted by lay staff who provide night-time supervision, meal preparation, cleaning, and playground supervision.
Teachers, physical therapists, and a speech therapist provide full time services right in the home because most of the children are unable to attend school outside the home. Priests of the Religious Family of the Incarnate Word celebrate Mass in the home’s chapel, provide spiritual direction for the sisters, and interact regularly with the children. A local physician provides medical services weekly.
Seminarians from the Latin Patriarchal seminary visit regularly. Italian volunteers from Unitalsi and Misericordie assist several times per year. They participate in cleaning and painting projects and assist the sisters in feeding and playing with the children. In 2022, the Lieutenancy of Ireland generously donated the sum of € 500 towards operational costs.
Mother Maria Pia is most grateful for the funding, which has gone toward general operating expenses. During recent years, an additional teacher and physical therapist have been hired. The number of residents has increased from twenty five to thirty one. Work is underway to move the now adolescent boys to a nearby home to be operated by the same religious community; this will require additional expense.
Joy, peace, and love are evident within the home as well as rambunctious behaviour typical of most children. The needs of the children are great, and the sisters would like to accommodate still more children as need arises.