Vancouver archdiocese sponsors St. Ephrem's Home for Children in Lebanon
By Brent Mattson
The B.C. Catholic
VANCOUVER--Civil war which lasted for years made orphanages a necessity in Lebanon.
Years of strife within the country, beginning with civil war in the mid-1970s, left 100,000 dead and 200,000 maimed in a country of only a few million. Most of Lebanon's infrastructure was destroyed, leaving the government too weak to help its own citizens.
One of the country's orphanages, St. Ephrem's Home for Children, is now being supported by the Vancouver archdiocese's Mission Appeal office. St. Ephrem's provides schooling, medical care, food, and clothing for about 20 children.
Father Gabriel de ChadarÇvian, OP, assistant pastor of St. Mary's Parish in Vancouver, has visited the orphanage, and says the children's stories are heartbreaking.
"Some come from broken families. Sometimes the dad has died or the mom has had to become a prostitute and was killed by one of the clients," Father de ChadarÇvian says. "This is part and parcel of the sour grapes of the civil war."
Roni and Abdo were placed in the orphanage in 2006 at the ages of 7 and 6 after their mother divorced her abusive alcoholic husband. The boys' father would beat them, and their mother would throw them out of the house in the middle of the night, or even force Roni to drink with him.
The boys' father now denies that they are his children, meaning they cannot register for identity papers needed for social and professional success as adults. Because women cannot register children in their name in Lebanon, St. Ephrem's is now working to get a DNA test to prove Roni and Abdo's paternity.
The orphanage says the boys' lives have changed for the better in their new surroundings. Father de ChadarÇvian says the three sisters and priest running St. Ephrem's work hard to create an environment that will form the children into worthy citizens.
"The children don't have families, so the orphanage allows them to live in an environment where they can experience some sort of a family life," he says. "They have the sisters as mother figures and the bishop as a father figure. They also interact with each other and learn about community life."
Though the small staff at St. Ephrem's works hard, it is one of the poorest and most run-down orphanages in the country.
"They are trying to do their best with very, very meagre resources, and that's why they need the help of Christian brothers and sisters," Father de ChadarÇvian says. "The needs are really crying."
Mission Appeal coordinator Pat Deppiesse is glad that the archdiocese has begun to sponsor St. Ephrem's and other causes like it overseas.
"(St. Ephrem's) has an excellent program, and it's wonderful archbishop is allowing me take on these appeals," she says. "We at the archdiocese like to be seen as helping the developing world, especially children."
Support for the St. Ephrem Home for Children or for other appeals should be directed to the Mission Appeal office: 604-683-0281, ext. 238; or email@example.com.