Al Shurooq School for the Blind was founded in 1981 by Helen Shehadeh, an elder of St. Andrew’s Church of Scotland in Jerusalem, who overcame the challenge of losing her sight aged two, to become a devoted teacher and director of one of Bethlehem’s powerful social work institutions.
Our minister Tom Nelson and his wife Catherine, along with parishoner May MacFadyean, visited Al Shurooq in 2006, as part of their pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and were deeply moved by what they saw. So mich so, that Netherlee Church has now forged strong links with the school, and has pledged our ongoing support and friendship. Says Tom: "It is Christians like Helen who are keeping the gospel story alive in the Holy Land today."
* The Background
Al Shurooq is the story of one woman’s perseverance. Founded by Helen with the aim of enabling blind people in Palestine to become self sufficient and productive members of their society, the school is in Palestinian territory, behind the wall that divides them from Israel. In a rented building there is space to work with 25 children but ambitious plans are in hand, and a new building is now under construction. Children live in the school and have a normal schedule of learning with classes in maths, geography, history and the like. In addition they learn Braille, both in Arabic and English and are taught daily living skills and helped with their mobility. Extra curricular activities such as music and art also feature prominently - as do computer classes using synthesizers.
When the child returns home, the school keeps in touch and actively helps them to integrate, providing many of the essential tools they will need, including Braille textbooks and typewriters, Braille paper, magnifiers, canes and tape recorders. Specialised social workers visit the children in their villages and offer them, their parents and teachers support , where often there is great ignorance. There are still many people who believe that blindness is not altogether respectable and this is a prime prejudice that Helen and her staff seek to change. Helen strives to instil confidence in the children to do things for themselves and by themselves.
* A Success Story
Atieh Subeih came to Al Shurooq in 1966 when he was eleven. He had never been to school before, as no school would accept him because of his physical and visual disabilities. At Al Shurooq, he excelled and completed a four year course in just two years. He was then integrated back into his local school in the village of Al-Khader where, with the assistance of the Al Shurooq follow-up programme, he finished high school and entered Bethlehem University. Today, Atieh is a first year student reading Arabic literature and enjoying it tremendously.
* How you can get involved
Children from Netherlee Sunday School have already donated funds to the school, and have designed tactile Christmas cards with raised shapes and textures like velvet and cotton wool to send to children in Al Shurooq - each with a specially printed Braille message inside. Helen’s niece, Doris, who is head teacher at the school,visited churches in this area over the weekend in 2008 at the invitation of Clarkston Churches Together.
For more information on the school, visit the Al Shurooq website: www.nsfvh.org.
Link: Al Shurooq School