On September 15th, 2017, the Bethlehem Boys Home celebrated its ten year anniversary. Below, the Boys Home’s Director, Fr. Marwan Di’des, OFM, shares the history of the Boys Home, and describes the anniversary celebration.
Ten years ago, we started a project called the Franciscan Boys Home. The whole story started when the friars – and especially the parish priest of St. Catherine parish in Bethlehem – recognized some children having difficulties in their families because of addiction to drugs or alcohol, or due to violence, either by one of the parents or by both. In response, we started working to find a suitable solution that would guarantee a better future for all aspects of their lives; social, health, physical and academic.
We managed to launch the project in 2007. We started with only eight children between the ages of 8 to 12. A year later, the number of children increased to 20, ranging in age from 6 to 18 years old. It took us three years to better understand how to work and help these boys – although, of course, we continue to learn more every day for the sake of children.
Today the Boys Home is helping 28 students from the age of 6 to 18. Fourteen students have already finished high school at the boys home. Some of them are still attending universities and others are already working.
The staff at the Boys Home is comprised of a social worker, two educators, four teachers and four service employees (who help in the kitchen and with general care of the boys), a nun and myself . While we each have our specific jobs and responsibilities, we operate on a model of teamwork, knowing that we have to work together for the good of our children. At the end of the day we are all educators, with the spirit of parents and the care of a family for every single one of our boys.
During our celebration we had some beautifully touching moments, especially when one of our former students gave his testimony regarding life before he joined the Boys Home – how he was tired and found a better future; he was lazy at school and now he is in his fourth year at University; he couldn’t manage simple tasks of his personal life and now he works as a part-time math and physics teacher. He shared, “The warmth of the Boys Home and the family care I received in this place saved me and saved my future.” It meant a great deal to hear him say that.
We were blessed by the presence of the Custos of the Custody of the Holy land, Fr. Francisco Patton, and the Vice Mayor of the Municipality of Bethlehem. Of course, our joy was fulfilled with the presence of all the friends of the Boys Home. They came because they cared and they participated because they believe in us, and for that I am thankful.
It was a marvelous day full of joy, gratitude and love, but above all it was filled with family ties. And that is the real goal of the Boys Home.
Thank you to all of our generous donors who made this celebration –
and these past ten years – possible.