Ma’an lil-Hayat (Together for Life) is the first and only wool-felting project in Palestine. Founded in August 2009, Ma’an lil-Hayat brings together people with and without intellectual disabilities who share life through work, celebration, and mutual relationships of friendship and trust. Ma’an lil-Hayat is a project of the International Federation of L’Arche Communities, founded by Jean Vanier*.
In a world that often looks with disdain on people with intellectual disabilities, Ma’an lil- Hayat celebrated their creativity, transparency, and great capacity for joy as important gifts to be shared.
Members of Ma’an lil-Hayat make felted-wool ornaments, nativity sets, and other gift items from the wool of Bethlehem sheep. The raw wool is purchased from women in a village on the outskirts of Bethlehem.
The work and production at Ma’an lil-Hayat are not ends in themselves but are a means toward the healthy integration of people with intellectual disabilities into the local community as well as an aid to changing the vision of society toward people with disabilities. We believe that all people, whether disabled or not, have capacities and abilities that enable them to make a unique contribution to society, regardless of their differences. We respect and welcome difference, which is a way to experience mutual enrichment. We are transformed in a positive way through sharing life together- our gifts, or joys, our suffering, our dreams.
Ma’an lil-Hayat seeks to affirm and empower people with intellectual disabilities in their claim to adulthood. Meaningful, challenging work encourages sense of personal responsibility and genuine participation in the building of civil society.
Ma’an lil-Hayat had three main areas of objectives.
- Therapeutic objectives, which foster the development of self-esteem, the ability to make choices, the active participation in a learning environment, and the development of creative skills.
- Social objectives, which encourage people to acknowledge their own abilities and learn to be generous in using those abilities, to become more aware of the needs and realities of other people, to work as a part of a team, and to acquire a greater sense of personal and communal responsibility.
- Economic objectives, which lead to a greater sense of self-respect and dignity for people with intellectual disabilities. It is hoped that sales of products will enable people with intellectual disabilities to receive a weekly stipend and to experience the joy of earning money through working. Sales of products are tangible expression of the social recognition gained through the work accomplished, and of the value and creativity of people with intellectual disabilities.