“We are Life Gate – our gate is open to everyone and never closes.”
This is how Burghard Schunkert, Life Gate Director, described this unique organization that is helping physically disabled, deaf and mute children and youth become effective members of society.
Established in 1989, this German organization helps disabled children and youth gain independence and integrate into society. The organization helps the disabled develop and nurture their skills, abilities and interests to build their self-esteem and skills. Life Gate offers a wide range of courses and workshops and helps graduates find suitable jobs.
Physically and mentally disabled people usually find themselves outcast in Palestine. They are neglected by the government and usually ostracized by society. Generally, they are not provided with the support, care, facilities and means they need to develop.
“When they first come to this center, they are usually ashamed and suffer from very low morale, and some are even aggressive because of their inability to communicate with others. Our projects, especially the one-on-one tutorials, help establish a sense of self-confidence and self-worth,” explains Burghard.
ANERA, with its most recent delivery of 80 wheelchairs (donated by Hope Haven Ministries), is proudly contributing to the development of physically disabled young men and women.
George, a 19-year-old full of life and curiosity, is glad that his old broken wheelchair has been replaced with a brand new one. He can now cruise down the corridors of the rehabilitation center and talk to his friends freely and easily, and most importantly the new wheelchair has helped him gain self-confidence and to some extent, independence.
“George was in great need for a new wheelchair; his old one was constraining his mobility, which had a negative effect on him,” explains Ra’eda, the occupational therapist at Life Gate. “George has been with us for three years and has undergone some important surgeries with the help of Life Gate,” she adds.
Aside from social, physical and occupational therapy and medical care, Life Gate has its own kindergarten and offers courses in computer skills. The organization also offers the disabled a chance to discover their desires and uncover their capabilities and potential by offering a wide range of training workshops: embroidery, tailoring, knitting, smithery, turnery, carpentry, pottery and handicrafts, and many even receive monthly wages for their produces.
The center also conducts outreach activities that help families interact correctly with their disabled children and family members. Each year, the center focuses its outreach activities in one area in Palestine. “This year our outreach work is mainly in Jenin; we are now helping about 40 families care and develop their disabled children’s capabilities with seminars and medical care,” says Burghard. With the help of local doctors and a general practitioner working for Life Gate, the organization is able to provide the necessary care for the disabled in remote villages and areas in the West Bank.
“Any member of our staff who walks out the door of the center is a messenger,” Burghard asserts.
From beautifully hand-made wooden figurines and embroidered bags to walking crutches and special furniture, Life Gate proves that the disabled, if given a chance, are just as capable of producing and contributing to society as any other person.