Empowering mothers of special needs children at Princess Basma Center
Thanks to AFEDJ Trustee, the Rev. Matthew Dayton-Welch, for taking time during his pilgrimage to interview Ms Sondos, a participant with her daughter in the Mother Empowerment Program at Princess Basma Center in East Jerusalem. A signature program of Princess Basma, this two- to three-week residential program provides children newly-diagnosed with a disability and their mothers with intensive, individualized early intervention and psychosocial support.
Thanks also to Princess Basma Center Programs Officer, Nisreen Manarius, for providing translation and the Rev. Nina Pooley of St. Bart’s, Yarmouth, Maine, for lending her voice.
Below is the entire interview:
It may also be found in our Spring 2019 Newsletter.
MDW: How long have you been at Princess Basma? How did you hear about the Center?
Mother: Two weeks. I heard about the Center from other mothers. They told me that it’s a good center and I could take my daughter to it. I came first with my daughter when she was only one year old.
MDW: What kind of resources have you received here?
Mother: My daughter received occupational therapy, physical therapy, hydrotherapy and speech therapy. For me, as a mother, I received psycho-social support, lectures from the nurses. And also they offer lectures about motor control and music therapy in the afternoons for mothers and siblings.
MDW: How different would your situation be if you didn’t have the Princess Basma Center?
Mother: Very bad. [in Arabic] I didn’t know anything about how to deal with my child. My community doesn’t give me support or any help because they don’t know what cerebral palsy is. It was so difficult for me to do anything, so I came here in order to learn so that I can increase my awareness concerning my daughter’s case.
MDW: Where are you from?
Mother: Salfit. [A city of about 9,000 Palestinians a two-hour – without checkpoints – drive from Princess Basma.]
MDW: After three weeks you will return home to Salfit. Do you think you could find these resources anywhere else in the West Bank?
Mother: No. No. I will not have any kind of assistance in my community like I receive at Princess Basma. I am learning about how to deal with my child and at the same time the other professionals in my community will learn from this home program [offered to me here].
MDW: Then the resources you learn here aren’t only going to help you but you’re now able to help the whole community – your family and friends there.
Mother: Yes. Yes. All my friends and my family – my extended family, my friends, neighbors, and even the professionals in the community, they can learn from the home program. They can understand how to live with my child and [about our] goals and how to work toward them. Even the professionals there don’t have much experience or knowledge of how to deal with these children.
MDW: So you have more work ahead of you now that you have to teach everyone in the neighborhood of Salfit?
Mother: Yes. Yes.
MDW: How can we help you going forward? Why is it important for our donors in America to support Princess Basma Center?
Mother: We want you to support Princess Basma in order to let the Center be able to continue to give services as a resource for parents in the community. We need for the therapists to be updated [on new therapies] all the time in order to be able to open new therapy rooms, buy new equipment so that it will benefit the children. And because Princess Basma is the only center where they offer every treatment.
MDW: Do you feel more hopeful now going home?
Mother: Yes. Yes. Now I feel like I’m strong. I can face the community.
MDW: It’s a beautiful thing. Shukran. Thank you.
Mother: Shukran. Thank you.
How you can help
The full cost for one mother and child for one two- to three-week residential stay to participate in the Women’s Empowerment Program is $5,000. Costs covered:
- Accommodation for one mother and her child
- Rehabilitation services and therapy for the disabled children
- Development of individualized therapy plan for the children
- Training the mother to become an at-home therapist and psycho-social support for the mother
- Education, awareness-raising, and advocacy training for the mother
- Institutional overhead costs: utilities, maintenance