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SOS Bethlehem, Palestine

18 Nov

Having my Palestinian father here with me made this SOS visit extra special!  We toured the school, meet with the SOS Children’s Villages Graduates Association, and visited families benefiting from SOS’s Family Strengthening Programme… and to bring on the smiles, we brought the famous performer Rony to entertain at the village!

You can watch all the fun on my youtube channel Living Borderless

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SOS Children’s Villages has been very active in Arab countries and has been present in the Middle East and North Africa for over 40 years. The countries of operation include Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Sudan, Syria, Somalia, Tunisia, and the Palestinian Territories (Gaza and the West Bank). There are over 90 facilities (children’s villages; youth facilities; kindergartens; schools; vocational training centres; social centres and medical centres, as well as family strengthening programmes and emergency relief programmes – providing assistance to nearly 17,000 beneficiaries across the region.

In Middle-East and North Africa, needs are unfortunately increasing and SOS Children’s Villages has established the SOS Children’s Villages Arab Fund (hereafter referred to as the “SOS Arab Fund”) to raise awareness and establish partnerships with institutions, corporations and individuals in order to support and extend its activities in Arab countries.

For more information, please contact the SOS Children’s Villages Arab Fund:

SOS Family Strengthening Programme

The best way to care for an orphaned or abandoned child is to help them and their families before they become orphaned or abandoned.  That is what the family strengthening programs work to do: To act preventatively and spare children the trauma, heartache and psychological devastation that comes with losing a parent and family.

Parents living in poverty and faced with a crisis often lack the resources and ability to cope with the situation. Their ability to care for their children is compromised or impossible. Many families lack essentials like money to pay for their groceries, doctor’s and school fees. Their health and confidence suffer in the long run.

Through SOS’s family strengthening programmes they hope to empower families help themselves and create a better future; a future where they are independent and self-sufficient

SOS Children’s Villages is convinced that it is always best for children to grow up in families. Millions of children across the world have already lost the protection of their families, and SOS is working to prevent more from suffering the same loss. Poverty, disease, violence, natural disasters and armed conflicts mean that every day there are more children who are at risk of being abandoned, neglected and/or abused, making family strengthening programs a vital and growing part of our work.

SOS Children’s Villages works with communities and local partners collaboratively to provide support for disadvantaged families around the world. Its family strengthening programmes are oriented according to local circumstances towards specific hi-risk target groups such as single mothers, families that have been affected by HIV/AIDS or families with financial problems that are often linked to addiction, illness and exclusion.

SOS Bethlehem started FSP in the West Bank in 2005 and has continued to expand every year, offering its services to more children.  Currently FSP in the West Bank works in both the Bethlehem and Khalil districts with a total of 840 children making up 201 families.  An additional 40 children were added this year, as opposed to the usual 200 as a result of the financial crisis.  This year a total of 13 families graduated from the programme after being able to self-sustain.

Volunteers received increased support from the new FSP Coordinator.  Three families received micro-credit loans through a partnership with the YMCA.  Caregivers were offered training, workshops, and vocational support in order to work toward self-sustainability.

For increased mobility the SOS Medical Centre Bethlehem was set up inside a container. It can easily be put on an articulated vehicle and taken to other places. Thus, help can be given where it is needed most. Inside the container, there is a simple doctor’s office and a small laboratory. About 4000 patients get treatment at the SOS Medical Centre per year.


Ibdaa Cultural Center, Palestine

16 Nov

Ibdaa… to create something from nothing…

This grassroots organization is providing social, educational, and cultural programs for the children, youth and women of Dheisheh Refugee Camp in Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank.  Since being founded in 1994, Ibdaa currently serves over 1,500 children, youth and women each year and provides income to 70 families in the Dheisheh camp through employment and income generation projects.

Ibdaa Kindergarten

The mission of the Ibdaa Cultural Center is to create a positive atmosphere for children and youth in the refugee camp to assist them in developing competence, creativity and leadership skills through a range of social, cultural and educational activities.  Ibdaa strives to empower the children, youth and women in Dheisheh camp, instilling in them confidence and strength while also educating the international community about Palestinian refugees.

The Dheisheh camp is home to more than 12, 000 refugees, half of whom are children, living on less than 1 square kilometer of land.  It was established in 1948 after Al-Nakba, ‘the catastrophe’ or the founding of the state of Israel.  It is one of 59 such camps that Palestinian refugees live in after being forced to leave their homes.  More than 7 million Palestinian refugees remain displaced around the world today.  My father is one of them.

My father, Sobhi Salhia, at the former gate of the Dheisheh refugee camp.

The ONLY children’s library in the refugee camp where thousands of children live.   Ibdaa also offers computer classes and internet access.

Through art, dance, music, media, education, and sports, Ibdaa helps children and teenagers to share their experiences and dreams for the future with each other and with people around the world. Every activity at Ibdaa incorporates the values of democratic process and respect for human rights, providing a secular, humanist, and coeducational experience for Dheisheh’s children, youth, and women.

Ibdaa Women’s Commitee runs the tatriz collective that provides skills training and economic opportunuites.

Ibdaa Health Committee provides free eye glasses, and runs a diabetes and mental health clinic.

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The refugee camp is crowded, a maze of unplanned streets with no green space… no space for children to play.  Ibdaa is creating a play park on the ground floor of its school.  My father and I were happy to contribute to this project… if you would like to help contact

Video coming soon with a tour of the camp and cultural centre… stay tuned!

You can check out a documentary The Children Of Idbaa: To Create Something Out of Nothing about the lives of several adolescents in a Palestinian children’s dance troupe from Dheisheh refugee camp in the West Bank.

Nyota… Empowering lives of children.

15 Nov

Situated in the Great Rift Valley in rural Kenya, near Nakuru and approximately two hours northwest of Nairobi, Nyota provides a nurturing home and learning environment up to 50 children who have lost their parents due to AIDs or other tragedies.

Nyota is Swahili for Star. Our vision is to empower these children to become self-sufficient adults who can in turn help their communities. We want all these children to become “stars” in their own right, and we want to empower them to achieve their dreams and in turn help their communities.

Nyota is a joint project with Mission in Action (MIA). Founded in 2005, MIA operates the Nakuru Baby Orphanage and has legal guardianship of 30 babies and small children who were either orphaned or abandoned with no family to care for them. The baby orphanage was started by Ivan and Mary Budulica, an Australian couple. MIA employs 20 Kenyan staff, providing employment and self-sufficiency to them and their families and benefiting more people from the community.  To learn how to get involved, click on the image!

For those of you in Ontario, check this out…

Solar Cookers International

7 Nov

When you give money to charity, one often wonders … does it make a difference?  After spending time in Kenya with Solar Cookers International, I witnessed just how much of a difference it  can make.

Solar cooking is the simplest, safest, most convenient way to cook food without consuming fuels or heating up the kitchen. Many people choose to solar cook for these reasons. But for hundreds of millions of people around the world who cook over fires fueled by wood or dung, and who walk for miles to collect wood or spend much of their meager incomes on fuel, solar cooking is more than a choice — it is a blessing.

Inexpensive, effective solar cookers can be life-saving tools, not only for cooking but also for pasteurization of drinking water.  Over 1 billion people do not have access to safe water. Preventable waterborne diseases are responsible for approximately 80% of all illnesses and deaths in the developing world.

More than 4,000 children under 5 die from diarrhea … everyday.

In partnership with local agencies, Solar Cookers International (SCI) has enabled thousands of families in multiple countries to cook food and pasteurize water with simple solar cookers. To ensure long-term project viability and access to affordable cookers, SCI works to incorporate solar cookers into local economies through establishment of independent solar cooker businesses run mostly by women.

Local participants are involved in project development from day one. SCI and its partners meet with community leaders and women’s representatives for extensive discussions, question and answer sessions, and demonstrations of solar cooking’s applicability to local foods.

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Refugees and other displaced people frequently lack access to sufficient cooking fuels and safe drinking water. In refugee camps, when fuel rations are depleted, women and children often must walk for miles — risking rape and other dangers — to collect firewood from ever-diminishing sources. This physically arduous activity limits opportunity for education, participation in civic life, and income-generating activities. To save fuel, refugee families sometimes sacrifice nutritious foods like beans, which require hours of cooking, for quicker-cooking, less nutritious foods. They may even trade some of their meager food rations in exchange for firewood from neighboring populations, further reducing nutrition.

SCI has enabled thousands of refugee families in multiple countries to cook food and pasteurize water with simple solar cookers. Surveys reveal that the solar cookers allow them on average to save 27% of their firewood, while some report savings up to 70%. No longer forced to trade food rations for wood, refugees have been able to increase their food consumption by an average of four servings daily.

For more information on how you can MAKE A REAL DIFFERENCE, contact Solar Cookers International.

Watch the video on my youtube page  LivingBorderless.

Hope you ‘like’ it!

SOS Hermann Gmeiner School, Mombasa, Kenya

1 Nov

Welcome to the SOS Hermann Gmeiner School in  Mombasa, Kenya.

SOS Children’s Villages places central value on education and works to provide educational assistance to children growing up in children’s villages, those participating in any form of the family strengthening programme, and all vulnerable children and young people in the communities they work in.

Check out the video of my visit to the school on my youtube channel LivingBorderless

or on my Facebook page Yasmene Salhia Around the World.

I hope you ‘like’ it!

Check out the video of my visit to the school on my youtube channel LivingBorderless

or on my Facebook page Yasmene Salhia Around the World.

I hope you ‘like’ it!


11 Oct

This touched my heart …


Each year, more babies are born with HIV in one busy clinic in Africa than in the United States, Canada and England combined.  This is because treatment to prevent HIV infection of newborns in the developed world has essentially eradicated mother-to-child transmission of the virus.

While similarly potent clinical solutions are increasingly becoming available in Africa, the impact and effectiveness for HIV-positive mothers is less successful without complementary social, emotional and psychological support.

mothers2mothers is an innovative mentoring program offering comprehensive support for HIV-positive pregnant women and new mothers.

Sub-Saharan Africa shows the highest statistics of mothers and babies infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. Worldwide, 1% of pregnant women are HIV-positive, 95% of these women live in Sub-Saharan Africa. Without care, about 24% of mothers transmit the virus to their newborns, and each year about 3 million of these children will die from HIV/AIDS-related illnesses.

But preventing the transmission of HIV from a mother to a child is a straightforward medical procedure. Its simplest application, a single dose of medication to a mother during labor and a dose to her infant shortly after birth, can cut transmission risk nearly in half.


Learn more about m2m and how you can help by clicking HERE.

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