Journey to Palestine: Princess Basma Rehabilitation Centre

June 17, 2019
By: 
Katelyn Kenney and Iskandar Majlaton, Finance Director at the Princess Basma Centre

On the UTO trip to the Holy Land, one of the places we visited (and spent longer than we were supposed to because we had such a wonderful experience there) was the Princess Basma Centre. Years ago, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori visited the Centre and was so impressed with its work that she supported its application for a UTO Grant. It was wonderful to come and see not only what impressed her on her visit, but just how much the Centre was able to do with that grant. I asked Iskandar Majlaton, the Centre’s finance director, to write about the Centre because I didn’t want you to miss a single detail about this amazing and important ministry. We’re also sharing the story of this place now because, as you may have noticed from Joyce’s article, the UTO Board just awarded a new grant to the Princess Basma Centre to expand a program into a second phase to better support mothers caring for their children with special needs. The program was initially slated to be funded by USAID, but with recent cuts to international support, this program lost funding before it even began. I am grateful for the work at the Princess Basma Centre and for this exciting grant.

Established in 1965 and located on Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives, the Jerusalem Princess Basma Centre (JPBC) is a charitable nongovernmental nonprofit organization under the auspices of the Anglican Episcopal Church within the Diocese of Jerusalem. JPBC envisions increased access to quality health services and inclusive education for all Palestinian children with disabilities (CWD), and an increase in their participation in and influence on society, giving them hope and equal opportunities. JPBC works on the integration and empowerment of CWD and their families in their communities through physical rehabilitation, inclusive education, the development and dissemination of best practices, and the influencing of policy and legislation.

JPBC is a member of the East Jerusalem Hospitals Network (EJHN) and one of the four big national rehabilitation centers in Palestine; it is also the Palestinian Ministry of Health’s main national referral center for physical medicine and rehabilitation services for children with disabilities. The center runs three main operations: the Child Rehabilitation Centre, the Inclusive School, and the Vocational Training Workshop.

The Child Rehabilitation Centre treats various disabilities, including cerebral palsy, neuromuscular diseases, pediatric limb deficiencies, congenital malformations, post-musculoskeletal traumas, autism, and ADHD. Children are provided with one or a combination of the following therapies: physiotherapy, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, hydrotherapy, sensory therapy, music therapy, recreational therapy, and psychosocial support.

Children with disabilities from the West Bank and Gaza are referred for a cycle of comprehensive rehabilitation services for a period of two to three weeks; they are admitted together with their mothers and are fully accommodated at the Centre’s dormitory. During this cycle, the children receive therapy services, while the mothers are enrolled in the Mother’s Empowerment Program. This program is designed by JPBC to ensure a holistic intervention throughout the entire rehabilitation process, so mothers receive training on performing exercises with their children and a home-care plan for continuing the therapies at home. In addition, mothers are provided with psychosocial support through individual and group counseling in addition to awareness-raising sessions about the needs and rights of their children. In 2018, the Child Rehabilitation Centre treated 1,179 Palestinian children with disabilities (425 from the West Bank and Gaza and 754 from East Jerusalem).

In November 2018, the Child Rehabilitation Centre successfully passed the second audit for Joint Commission International Accreditation, maintaining its record of high-quality service provision in the field of rehabilitation. It is the only Palestinian rehabilitation center so far to receive this kind of accreditation.

The Outreach Program is the spinal cord of the tangible work done at the Jerusalem Princess Basma Centre. It aims to reach those living in rural areas and marginalized groups within communities, thus providing children with disabilities the opportunity to access the medical and therapeutic resources they need in order to reach their full potential and highest level of personal independence. The program also aims to engage community-based rehabilitation organizations by providing their practitioners with new methodologies and best practices in the rehabilitation field. It is also formulated to actively involve the community and family members in the entire rehabilitation process of children with disabilities.

JPBC has established strong rapport with eight intermediate rehabilitation centers located in the West Bank governorates of Ramallah, Nablus, Qalqiliya, Jenin, Tulkarem, Hebron, Jericho, and Jerusalem and its surroundings. A JPBC multidisciplinary team conducts weekly visits to these centers, during which CWD are diagnosed and those in need of advanced treatment are referred for comprehensive rehabilitation services at the Centre in Jerusalem.

Al-Iradeh Rehabilitation Centre (Silet al-Harthyeh, Jenin) and JPBC established a long-term partnership in 2011. Mohammad Shawahneh, director of Silet al-Harthyeh Municipality and the supervisor of the center, explained: “JPBC’s multidisciplinary team trains our staff and provides us with the required rehabilitation support, thus building the capacity of our staff and improving the center’s efficiency and performance. JPBC also provides us with the required equipment, according to our needs.” He added, “At first, we used to receive children with disabilities only from Silet al-Harthyeh, but with the partnership with JPBC, our services have expanded to serve the whole Jenin Governorate.”

JPBC also runs an Inclusive School where children with and without disabilities study together in regular classrooms from kindergarten to high school. For the 2018-2019 academic year, the school has around 400 children, 38 percent of whom are children with disabilities who, in addition to their education, receive rehabilitation services at the Child Rehabilitation Centre.

JPBC also provides vocational training through its sheltered workshop designed to support and provide a space for adults with disabilities, enabling them to gain skills, work on projects, and socialize together. At this time, 24 adults are enrolled in the Vocational Training Workshop.

JPBC’s Child Rehabilitation Centre provides comprehensive rehabilitation services for CWD referred from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip through contracts with the Palestinian Ministry of Health and other child rehabilitation services buyers. The Ministry of Health covers around 70 percent of the actual cost of the children’s treatment because of its financial limitations and ongoing challenges. The cost of supporting the mothers is not included, and JPBC has to fundraise to cover this additional expense.

Given the current financial and political challenges of the Palestinian Ministry of Health, it was unable to commit to covering its bills to JPBC, which left a huge accumulated debt at the end of 2018. To sustain the Centre’s service, USAID used to cover approximately 80 percent of the Ministry of Health’s annual bill, and the EU and the Ministry of Health provided some coverage for the accumulated debt until the end of 2017.

In September 2018, the Trump administration froze $25 million in funding for Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem as part of its punitive campaign against the Palestinian Authority for refusing to participate in its peace effort. The East Jerusalem Hospital Network, which comprises the six main Palestinian hospitals, has routinely received U.S. aid to cover some of the Palestinian Ministry of Health’s debt. In legislating threats of aid cuts to the Palestinians, Congress has always made exemptions for humanitarian care, such as hospital funding. This decision by the Trump administration does not have such an exemption, which has led to warnings of the collapse of crucial support to Palestinian health services provided by the EJHN, including the rehabilitation services provided by JPBC.

With thanks and appreciation for donations and support: The Jerusalem Princess Basma Centre,Bank of Palestine, Abu Dees Branch, P.O. Box 471, Abu Dees, Main Road, West Bank, Tel.: +970 2 279 4770, Fax:+970 2 297 4775. Account number: 504333, Branch number: 470, Bank number: 89, Palestine. Swift: PALSPS22, IBAN/USD: PS91 PALS 0470 0504 3330 0130 0000 0.

The UTO Board is also pleased to announce that the Princess Basma Centre has a wonderful woodworking program for adults with disabilities. UTO is in the process of collaborating with them to create small wooden Blue Boxes, which once ready, will be available for purchase at General Convention and from the UTO Distribution Center. All proceeds will benefit JPBC and its wonderful ministry.