Paul Calvert spoke with Maha Ghareeb from Ma'an lil-Hayat, a project of the International Federation of L'Arche Communities

Empowering People With Intellectual Disabilities In The Palestinian Territories

Ma'an lil-Hayat ('Together for Life' in Arabic) is the first and only wool-felting project in the Palestinian Territories, bringing together people with and without intellectual disabilities who share life through work and mutual relationships of friendship and trust.

Ma'an lil-Hayat is a project of the International Federation of L'Arche Communities, an international organisation dedicated to the creation and growth of homes, programmes and support networks with people who have intellectual disabilities.

Paul Calvert spoke with Maha Ghareeb about the day to day life there and how they achieve their therapeutic, social and economic objectives.

Paul: What is Ma'an lil-Hayat?

Maha: It's a workshop for people with intellectual disabilities; where people with and without disabilities share life and work together.

Paul: When was the organisation established and why?

Maha: It was established in July 2007 because there is a big need in the Palestinian territories and the Bethlehem area in particular for such projects for people with intellectual disability. We have some schools and centres for children, but when they are grown up they have nothing to do; either they are locked at home, or doing nothing, or running around in the streets. So we thought to open this workshop in order to work together with them, in order to let them feel and live like all family members who leave in the morning to work and then come back in the afternoon.

Paul: So are you working mainly with adults rather than children?

Maha: They are adults over 16 years old. After we did a little survey, we discovered that this is the age that they have nothing to do, when they reach 16 years old.

Paul: So what do you teach them?

Maha: We teach them how to do felt projects from Bethlehem sheep wool. Then we work together with the people with intellectual disabilities. We do felt projects like nativity scenes. Because we are from Bethlehem we were looking for a product that can be sold easily, so we are doing nativity scenes, Christmas ornaments and many other things. We are selling our products.

Paul: Where do you sell them?

Maha: There are a few fair trade shops here in Bethlehem and Jerusalem and also we sell them abroad to the other L'Arche communities around the world. They buy from us and sell it abroad, especially at Christmas time and also to several churches in the world.

Paul: Are their many sheep in Bethlehem?