1981 – The phone rings. What day, what month? I do not know. A woman’s voice asks me, on behalf of Bishop Habib Bacha, to attend a meeting at the Greek-Catholic Archdiocese of Beirut (me, a Maronite!) in order to fund an orphanage. My answer was immediate: No! (I was too young to be part of these charities “created just to entertain women who have nothing else to do!” ) At the insistence of the polite lady on the phone, I finally agreed to go, but without committing.
2006 – I’m still here. The stranger on the phone and all the ladies attending the first meeting, plus the newcomers who joined them over the years, are now my colleagues and friends. How many memories together!
They offered us a convent that needed to be transformed into an orphanage for deprived children. We had nothing, we knew nothing. Still young and without experience, we had to find the necessary funds to start that project. We were motivated and decided to succeed.
From the first day, working committees were established and, like an anthill in action, we got down to business: building, painting, furnish as soon as possible what would become the Centre Mar Semaan.
We started the construction work in Wadi al Karm. It was fun to see all of us, young mothers turned, overnight, into architects and decorators! We lived on the construction site, discussing, questioning, advising, wading through mud and concrete. Then came the furnishing: beds, mattresses, wardrobes, plus kitchen equipment, laundry and others.
Meanwhile the rest of the team was recruiting a social worker, a psychologist, instructors and staff for this big house. The interviews were going well and finally the large family of Mar Semaan was all set to accommodate fifty children, girls and boys of different ages, and ready to teach them how to live, play, work, and love.
And there it was, this convent, once silent, full with children whose shouts and laughter echoed through its walls, children who, after an early unhappy childhood, had rediscovered the joy of living. Just seeing them smile, jumping to our neck as soon as one of us paid a visit to the Centre just to feel a little ‘je ne sais quoi’ in the back of her throat and a little warm in her heart. In their eyes we can read that we were right to fight for them.
Thirty years later, we are now grandmothers. With our minds full of happy memories, we continue, all of us, to work tirelessly perpetuating the work we are proud of.
THANK YOU for calling me that winter’s afternoon 1981!