Ma'ayan School for Severely Disabled Jewish and Arab Children

Maayan School1


Ma'ayan School for Severely Disabled

Jewish and Arab Children


The Need: Modern Jerusalem, with about 830,000 residents, is a microcosm of Israel’s ethnic, religious and cultural diversity. Jerusalem‘s central challenges are – besides empowerment of the civil society – poverty reduction, social justice and education.

The municipal Ma'ayan School is situated on the premises of the St. Vincent de Paul Monastery in the Ein Kerem, neighborhood of Jerusalem. The school serves children and youth of all faiths who suffer from severe cerebral palsy and mental disabilities. Few can walk, talk or eat on their own. Due to the gravity of the students' disabilities, for many years, the school served more as a day care nursing facility than a school. However, over the past 8 years, with a new school principal the approach changed and the students now learn to fully utilize their individual capabilities. Today, the school bustles with activities: children who learn how to climb stairs, ride on tricycles, train with walkers or to hold a spoon and eat on their own. The results are astonishing: Not only the children's quality of life changed for the better, but even their life expectancy increased.

With these findings, mind-boggling questions become ever more urgent: How much more could be achieved, if these youths were stimulated even further? And secondly, how can children with severe motor and mental handicaps move about in a building that was never intended for such a purpose? The Ma'ayan School building is not properly handicapped accessible.

Impact on Jerusalem: The Jerusalem Foundation seeks to create opportunities for all of Jerusalem's population groups, among them opportunities for education and for vulnerable populations. Many of the children in the school live at the monastery, either because their disabilities are too severe to be taken care of by their parents at home, or because they were left behind at the hospital when they were babies. These disadvantaged children are among the most vulnerable of all. Having almost no-one to speak up for them, the Jerusalem Foundation has taken upon itself to turn the Ma'ayan School building into a handicapped accessible facility. In addition, existing open spaces on the school's and the monastery's campus are to be developed in such a way that they provide the children with more multi-sensual stimuli, allow them to train their motor skills and to enjoy the picturesque Ein Kerem landscape around them.

For a long time the principal of the Ma´ayan School has been rallying the Jerusalem Municipality for the school to be handicapped accessible. Multiple solutions have been deliberated, among them the relocation of the school building. However, the daily transport of the children cared for on-site is undesirable and the idea was discarded.

The Ma'ayan School at a glance

  • Municipal school, open to all religions
  • Cares for children and youths aged 3 to 21 suffering from most severe cerebral palsy, mental and multiple disabilities
  • 45 of its students are living in the facilities provided by St. Vincent de Paul. Another 23 are taken to school daily by their families.
  • 80 employees take care of the children in school, among them teachers, therapists, caregivers, assistants, a social worker, a doctor and psychologist (some of them part time).
  • Principal objective: to develop the children’s independence as much as possible with great love and patience.

Partners: The Jerusalem Municipality