Harold C. Smith Foundation Gifts Transform Children’s Lives Across Jordan

January 28, 2019- Posted in Disabilities, Education, Jordan, Supporters

A photo of Nancy Opalack, the CEO of the foundation and a Holy Land Institute for the Deaf Teacher smiling.

In 1860, Johann Schneller, a German missionary, founded a home in Jerusalem for boys who lost their parents in the con ict between the Christians and the Druze, with his son Theodor taking over in 1889. One legacy of the original “Syrian Orphanage” is the Theodor Schneller School in Amman, Jordan, where impoverished children, some of whom come from families broken apart by the current war in Syria, are welcomed, cared for, and offered an education. 

The philanthropy and compassion that guided the founding of the Schneller School remains alive in the work of the Harold C. Smith Foundation, whose founder, the Rev. Dr. Harold C. Smith, weaved a 40-year career in both ministry and nance. 

In the spring of 2018, Nancy Opalack, the CEO of the foundation, announced a transformative grant award of more than $500,000 to three institutions in Jordan operated by the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem: $180,000 to renovate student bathrooms and kitchenettes in eight dorms and renovate and equip a new science lab at the Schneller School; $170,000 to provide full annual financial support for the cohort of 12 deaf-blind students at the Holy Land Institute for the Deaf in Salt; and $161,000 to renovate elementary-level classrooms and fund full annual costs for 14 low-vision students at Saviour’s School in Zarka. 

Opalack said of the award and the foundation’s relationship with AFEDJ, “There are no better organizations to partner with. We are honored to support the Diocese of Jerusalem with AFEDJ.” 

The impact of these gifts on the students at these three schools is immeasurable. An aging infrastructure in the dormitories at Schneller School resulted in bathrooms and living spaces that were worn out, unsafe, and difficult to repair. For children who have lost so much, the improvements to the place they now call home is crucial to fostering their well-being and ability to learn. 

A photo of renovated bathroom at Holy Land Institute for the Deaf.

The news that a portion of the grant would cover the costs of all blind-deaf students at the Holy Land Institute for the Deaf was met with surprise and awe by HLID Executive Director Archdeacon Luay Haddad, “This morning when I opened my computer, I was amazed to read the good news,” he said. “We look to the future with great hope, knowing each day we are making significant strides to providing better and higher quality education for our deaf and deaf-blind students and their families.” 

Dua’a Bisharat, director of Saviour’s School, had a similar response, “I was very much thrilled when I heard the news of the generous gift! It will not only further assist in achieving educational and career goals for our visually-impaired students but will increase their chances of success.” 

Smith, who died in 2017, put it this way, “We must be able to move out of our theological disciplines to engage, confront, and attempt to shape the world or any little piece of the world we might be able to shape or influence.” He added, “We’re going to live it. We’re not going to preach it.” 

It’s likely the Schnellers would agree.