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Melanie and Thelma
Israel January, 2007

A Ray of Hope, and The Sunflower Trust giving words of hope and a hand of friendship to the Domari People of Old Jerusalem.

Amoun Sleemís home, is a tiny room in the wall of Jerusalem. Hugging every wall is a bed. 6 people live in this little room. This is the bedroom, and the living room, changing room and lounge. You quickly learn to get on with your brothers and sisters.

The Lions Gate is famous for its view overlooking the Garden of Gethsemane.  I telephoned Amoun immediately, when I arrived in that Great City. We met the next day, at The Domari Society, situated just outside the city, on the East bank.

Amoun is running single handed this little center for poor women and children, who live in and around the old city of Jerusalem. Most of the women are one parent families. The children are taught how to read and write, that goes for some of the older women and children as well, who never had the opportunity, or the money to get an education. I asked Amoun what I should bring, and she told me that they were starting to do a hairdressing course for the girls. Could I bring some hairbrushes, and combs, and creams, and hairdryers, etc, etc. The centre is quite resourceful, but everything relies on things being donated.

They have a nice little library, where a lot of the books are in English. I was quite surprised when the children were retorting, Hello, how are you, Hello are you...over and over again. Amoun explained that she is teaching them English, and sees it as a way forward for the girls to get jobs in the future in hotels or shops. I met some of the mums who spend their time begging in the gates of the old city, very demeaning for them, but jobs for single mums, are not readily available, and many times they were beaten by the elders of the communities.

Poverty is looked down on, and orphans are not seen as humans of any worth. The Domari people have lived in and around Israel for many centuries, originally being nomads and Bedouins. They were very warm and welcoming towards me, and I felt at home with them straight away.

Outcome of my visit, is yet to be seen. I have put Amoun in touch with several other similar groups, who live and work in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem School, in Shekut, have promised to help with educational ideas, and will see what they can do to set up some kind of programme to develop awareness and friendship. The Domari Society also make little handicrafts, to try and help support the centre, but not enough is ever sold to actually keep the centre in rent. They have been supported by small businesses and Church groups, but money is quickly being absorbed by the utility bills and rent. Amoun, has dedicated her life to this work. We took out some hand made necklaces, that might be sold to help pay for the rent  Amoun is to much admired for her tenacity, and persistence. She doesnít  earn money because of the love for the people, so she lives very frugally. We left some money for the work, and clothes for the women and the children. Little fleeces were given to the young ones, as it was very cold at night, and many people had a very bad cough, including me.

The wind blew fiercely through the old and winding narrow streets of old Jerusalem, but the wind of change has come, as for Amoun and her work, in trying to empower her people, and to try and give them a chance to succeed, she already is a winner, I have invited her to come to the Summer Conference here in UK, where she will meet other women in similar situations. She told me her life was hard, but it would be harder if she didnít have a cause worth fighting for. I took out some Cadburys chocolates, they went down big time., and in exchange, I got a ride on a camel. We will keep our eyes on this work and help at every opportunity we can. 

Mel

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