“Lifegate” is a German Christian organization located in Beit Jala, near Bethlehem. It helps disabled children and youth in the West Bank as part of a project initiated in 1991. With its team of Palestinian and German collaborators, Lifegate addresses this challenge. Its work is based on hope and love for all men that has its roots in the Christian faith and permeates the work of all its employees.
On the initiative of two of its members, Frank and Rita Deiters, permanent delegates to the Holy Land of the Lieutenancy for Switzerland, this Lieutenancy Order has supported a Lifegate project. These two members came to know about Lifegate and were deeply impressed by its work during a trip to the Holy Land with their family in 2010. Frank Deiters, the couple’s son, had accompanied them and had decided to stay on as a volunteer for three months. He was so impressed by their work that he offered his services as a volunteer from 2011.
250 children and young people with disabilities participate in weekly support programs. These include support for young children, with a kindergarten for children with physical or mental disabilities, a specialized school and a vocational training workshop for disabled young people, who are prepared in twelve trades. Lifegate helps with the integration of disabled children into regular schools, and its staff provides home care to elderly and those in need of support. Lifegate provides comprehensive medical and therapeutic care for children and young people because there is no statutory social insurance system or a specific allowance for disabled persons.
65 Palestinian Christians work for Lifegate. In the overall population of the Holy Land, Palestinian Christians represent less than 1%, and by giving them a permanent job, Lifegate wants to encourage them to remain.
Burghard Schunkert, founder and director of Lifegate, describes its current activities: “One of the specific programs our institution offers is to help prepare children of different age groups to integrate into a regular kindergarten and regular schools: this has allowed five children to leave Lifegate and access local schools. We were able to set up in the new wing of our school a new special needs class that allows us to teach 60 children divided into 6 classes. We are pleased to be able to allow children of the Lifegate kindergarten to continue their studies and we have some external children who are on our waiting lists”.
“In 2016 – he continues – about 50 young people were prepared by Lifegate for their future profession and in doing so helped to find their place in society.” Most of the young people trained by Lifegate have already found a job in businesses in and around Bethlehem. Apart from professional training, these young people have learned to read and write Arabic and have followed courses in mathematics and general knowledge. In addition, a new course in our workshops for occupational therapy students from Bethlehem University was one of the highlights of this summer.“
Mr. Schunkert also noted the support that Lifegate offers to Syrian refugees in Jordan, which describes as follows: “This spring we were able to help many people with disabilities thanks to medical equipment that we built ourselves at Lifegate or which were donated to us. Our employees, accompanied by therapists, traveled to a refugee camp in Jordan, to deliver much needed wheelchairs and medical equipment. Meanwhile, the Lifegate team that takes care of medical equipment was also requested in neighboring countries. We respond to these requests, when we can, with joy."
The work of Lifegate is funded by donations, the sale of the products and services available in their workshops, such as shoe repairs. In the future, a dental clinic, a laundry service and a catering service should help generate even more funds.
Jean-Pierre de Glutz
Lieutenant for Switzerland
(January 30, 2017)