“Our supporters have never abandoned us, on the contrary, they have been even closer.” This is how Andrea Avveduto, in charge of communication for the Pro Terra Sancta association talks about this time marked by the Covid-19 emergency. The NGO that supports many initiatives of the Custody of the Holy Land promptly responded to the emergency situations caused by the arrival of the pandemic in the areas where the friars of the Holy Land work. “Donors understood that we are in a time of difficulty at global level and we immediately received many messages of support. We were surprised and gratified by this,” continued Andrea Avveduto.
“I want to thank you for what you send me and which really is useful to walk with Him and with all those who love him,” one donor wrote. “I am not at all well-off, but amongst the few situations with which I want to share what I have there is the Holy Land. Although being locked up at home because of the Virus, I obtained permission to go to the Post Office and so I have sent you my small contribution. Let us remain united in prayer and in sharing.”
In the Projects Dept. at the Pro Terra Sancta office in Milan, they were active from the very start to create new initiatives, such as online meetings, which have become a way to stay close to the donors, speaking about the situation of the Holy Land and also a new way of carrying out campaigns, through which to help fund projects. The new initiatives supported include one in Bethlehem which features women: “Active Women Against Covid-19”, a project financed by F.A.I. (Fondation Assistance Internationale) and implemented by Pro Terra Sancta, which aims to train personnel who can produce protective masks, to be distributed free of charge to charities and social welfare bodies in Bethlehem.
In the meantime, the ordinary projects of the Pro Terra Sancta association are continuing, for example the one to meet the water emergency in the Palestinian Territories, as well as the site of Dar Majous, the Bethlehem shelter home and the training for work activities. “We have not stopped, but the Covid-19 has spurred us on to do more,” continues Andrea Avveduto of Pro Terra Sancta. “We want to provide support for a fragile health care system. If we distribute masks to the elderly, guaranteeing a safe environment, this lightens the Palestinian health care system which is fragile.” In this difficult period, the NGO has also activated an emergency number at the disposal of patients in order not to leave them alone, trying in the meantime to guarantee concrete aid to meet the medical expenses for over 250 families.
Pro Terra Sancta, together with the funds from the Italian Bishops’ Conference, has given its contribution of euro 30,000 to St Joseph’s Hospital in East Jerusalem and about euro 30,000 to the BASR Hospital in Bethlehem, so that the two facilities can be equipped with basic therapeutic instruments and thus face the health emergency due to Covid-19.
“Recently, the most important emergency that we have to face is that of Syria, so we have created additional campaigns,” says Mr Avveduto. “We were hoping to reach a phase two of the projects in Syria, recreating commercial activities and launching vocational training, but we realize that today we are still in an emergency situation. The missiles are no longer falling but there are enemies that cause even more deaths; hunger and poverty. Work, at the moment, cannot start again, especially during this health crisis.” This situation has led to the need to promote online meetings on Syria in which friars of the Custody of the Holy Land have taken part. In addition, we cannot forget the support for the shelters for refugees in Lebanon, a country which is also in the throes of an unprecedented economic crisis.
The economic support for poor families is also continuing in Jerusalem, thanks again to funds raised by the Gelmini association.
In the past few months, the Pro Terra Sancta association has also organized an online meeting with the Custos of the Holy Land, the President of the association, where he spoke of one of the diifficulties of the moment: the Terra Sancta schools. In this period in which the schools are closed, parents are no longer paying fees and so they have to be supported in other ways,. “With the Holy Friday Collection moved to September, the Casa Nova empty, the shrines empty, the absence of pilgrims, our association linked to the Franciscans of the Holy Land felt it had to economically help some of the Custody’s emergencies,” Mr Avveduto of Pro Terra Sancta concluded, “starting from the schools and then in the future we hope to also help with the Holy Places.”