Tel Aviv (AsiaNews) – The pastoral outreach for migrants of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem runs facilities that are open to refugee children.
For Fr David Nehaus, who is in charge of pastoral outreach for migrants of the Latin patriarchate of Jerusalem, such a facility is “like a family”, with a spirituality that is “inspired by the Holy Family.” Indeed, “The little baby Jesus was Himself a migrant,” and “understood exactly what it meant to be ‘under threat’.”
This centre of mercy is essential. Although Israel allows refugee children in state schools, it offers nothing for those under three.” For locals, this gap has led to private pre-kindergarten, inside crowded and inauspicious places, where scores of children held in unsanitary conditions, without the possibility of playing and interacting with one other.
Last year, five children died in a private facility, dubbed the "children's garage," innocent victims of neglect and poor conditions.
In view of the situation, the Coordinating Committee for the Pastoral Care of Migrants sought a solution, albeit partial, to the problem. The first step was setting up a kindergarten in Jerusalem, which now has 22 children. This was followed by another facility, called the Creche, in Tel Aviv, which opened thanks to the local Church, the Vicariate of St James and UNITAF, a local NGO dedicated to children.
"Israel provides an excellent assistance to people aged 3 to 18,” Fr Nehaus told the Christian Media Center (CMC), “but there is no assistance for children under the age of 3. Everything is private and very expensive, therefore immigrant women have to work very hard and they are not able to stay home with their children.”
“If it were not for the Creche, these families would have nothing to eat. They would not have a place to live,” Fr Nehaus explained.
“Although there are hundreds of children, we are not doing this because we want to take care of all the kids . . . This is a multi-faceted project. We have a fantastic team that collaborates with Israeli organizations and with our benefactors, with our local community, as well as with our parishioners who support us all . . . all together: this is a real blessing."
“Every day and with great affection, patience and devotion, simple mothers or fathers, religious and nonreligious, follow the model of the ‘family’”. For the clergyman, “We are very close to the Holy Family. Our spirituality is inspired by the Holy Family.”
Today, the Tel Aviv facility is home to 52 children whose parents are immigrants or asylum seekers with difficult family situations.
Although not yet completed, the pre-kindergarten provides children with a pleasant and safe environment whilst their parents are at work. It opens at 7 am until 6 pm. One teacher is in charge for at least six children.
Most of the children come from Eritrea, but some are also from the Philippines, Sudan, India and Sri Lanka. Some of them are autistic and one has Down syndrome.
Over the coming months, more accommodations are planned for a dozen more children. This way migrant parents can find work and earn some money to get a decent place to live and a safe refugee for their children.
"These children need special care since their parents are not always with them because they work. They need care, love and guidance,” said Sr Dinesha.
From Sri Lanka, the nun runs the pre-kindergarten. She is helped by Catherine, a social worker employed by the pastoral outreach for migrants who helps out in running the facility.
Kiflom, from Eritrea, is a father of two, a boy and a girl. He likes the centre a lot. His wife works there, in charge of six children.
In his view, "To understand the difference” with other places, “one has to look at the conditions in which our children are usually held: groups of 40 or even 50, in the same room. Here one person cares for six children. It the same room.ix children. to provide children with aplasate of Jerusalem., tomorrow.y insuffient. is very different, because here they are not working for profit, but to give children everything they need."