Friends of the foundation have contributed generously to the Bedouin of St Catherine village, substantially augmenting the $24,000 in support agreed by the London, New York and Geneva boards in November 2013. A total of $95,000 has been collected to date for distribution by the Fathers and the South Sinai Foundation’s local team, in agreement with a local committee.
Dr Hilary Gilbert of the South Sinai Foundation reports that ‘the impact of this support cannot be overstated. The funds have halted the Bedu’s need to sell their camels – an irrevocable step, and one which deprives local men of the ability to earn their living as guides once tourists and pilgrims eventually return. In addition to food, many families have used the help to buy essential medicines. In a recent outbreak of measles, several children in remoter areas tragically died without treatment, but children in St Catherine had medicine and none were lost. Funds have been used to help restore high mountain gardens (many dating to Byzantine times), and for the first time in many years local produce is appearing in local markets. People have reinforced their roofs against the winter rains, which have brought misery to St Catherine for three years, and illness in their wake. Others have been able to buy a sheep or a couple of goats or chickens to improve their livelihoods.’
The foundation has sufficient funds to carry the Bedouin through to the end of February 2015. But with no upturn in tourism in sight, the community will continue to experience hardship. The monastery needs the foundation’s continued assistance if the Fathers are to maintain the present level of aid. Once again this year, the Saint Catherine Foundation will dedicate the proceeds of Christmas card sales and Christmas donations to the Bedouin of St Catherine.