The Franciscan Social Services Organization (FSSO) was established in 2008 to care for the financially, psycho-socially and medically needy individuals and families in the Bethlehem area. The organization does its utmost to reach all the needy families and individuals by opening the office twice a week, making home visits and taking care of cases recommended by the parish priest. This past year, FSSO asked the Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land if we would be willing to assist them by funding the needed medicines for those who are unable to pay. FFHL accepted their request.
FSSO provides a lot of networking, so as to increase coordination, cooperation and effectiveness. Cooperation among governmental, nongovernmental and local community sectors guarantees better results. It has been the best way to avoid duplication of services while, at the same time exchanging resources and experience. It also assists greatly in easing huge medical costs that FFSO cannot afford.
Father Custos, Chairman of FFHL stated that, “Such humanitarian aid for the poor is a Godsend, and that is what FFHL is all about – helping others!”
This organization has 4 goals needing financial support:
- Monthly assistance and allowances for elderly, widows, and families in special need
- Medical and pharmaceutical assistance
- Utilities Invoices and food coupon aid
Here are three stories of needy families and elderly people in Bethlehem. The assistance and the prevention activities are offered on a daily basis to help people both young and old. In many ways it is the only way for these people to survive in the Palestinian territories, whose government does not offer any public and social assistance. Many families and elderly people in need are seeking support from the social worker at the FSSO. This is especially true when it comes to the plight of the elderly who have no one to ask for economic and social support or have no means to pay for their medicines. In this joint endeavor, FFHL will be providing funding on a monthly basis for the much needed medicine for Christian families.
Samira is a young mother of two children. Her family is very poor with her husband providing the only income. She presently has cancer and last year she had heart surgery. Samira is living with her family in a very poor house in Bethlehem not far from the Church of the Nativity. Due to her health conditions and the difficulties of the Palestinian health system, treatment was available only at a private hospital. Her family was not able to pay for such treatment, which cost $5300.00. Samira went to the social worker of the FSSO who was able to find funding for her surgery from the public health care system.
Elizabeth is an elderly widow living alone. Three of her children live abroad and two of them are still in school. She is both intelligent and educated, speaking several languages. When she was young, she had a good job, but now, due to the lack of a retirement system in Palestine, Elizabeth is without anything. She is old, sick and alone and is living on a small amount of money sent by her daughter. The humidity in her poorly constructed home makes her symptoms worse. She has no money to pay for her medicines, and of course no money to fix her house. FFHL is now covering the expenses without which she would not survive.
Mary is strong. She is still a fairly active seventy year old woman who has suffered many difficulties in her life. She and her husband together had four children, but she has now been a widow for a long time. One of their children, whose death has never been fully explained, died in a shooting incident in the U.S.. Two of their children now live in the U.S., one of which never keeps in contact with his mother while his sister is able to send $200-$300 each trimester to her mother. She is presently renting a house and is living with her other son, who is unfortunately, mentally disabled. Regrettably, Mary is unable to pay the rent so she came to FSSO as her only option.
Rising prices and unemployment are creating more and more poverty, thus increasing the requests for help in our office. Thanks to your contributions, and to the intense commitment of staff and volunteers, this year during Holy Week we were able to provide some relief to the poor and needy here in Bethlehem. We distributed 50 boxes of food and 50 coupons making meat available to other needy families. In addition, we gave away 150 food coupons, 150 clothing, and 150 coupons for children in economic trouble. There were also contributions for 76 elderly and widows.