In 1961, there was a huge need for physiotherapy services for children with disabilities, as a result of Polio becoming widespread amongst the Palestinian population. In response, our Centre was established under the name ‘Crippled Children’s Charitable Organization-Jerusalem’ and registered in the Jordanian Ministry of Social Welfare. Once the building was completed, the Centre started operating in 1964. Her Royal Highness Princess Basma, sister of King Hussein of Jorden inaugurated the building on 16 April 1966, and in her honor, the Centre took her name.
The expansion of physiotherapy services for both inpatients and outpatients from all Palestinian regions, (West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem) was supported by the inauguration of a hydrotherapy pool in 1971. An Orthopedic Workshop was also established to serve the needs of a population requiring braces, splints and surgical boots. In addition, physiotherapy and nursing staff at the Centre started home visits to maintain continuity of care for our beneficiaries.
During this time, there were fewer post-polio cases and a greater prevalence of different conditions such as Cerebral Palsy, Spina Bifida and Congenital Malformation, which resulted in a shift from long stay admissions for rehabilitation for older children to shorter stays for younger children. Until this point, a child would have expected to stay two to three years at the Centre.
In the 80’s, professional facilities at the Centre were upgraded and programs and services expanded. A day care program was established, field visits were enhanced. adults Physiotherapy section was established. And, an active international campaign was launched to enlist professional volunteers to share skills.
In this decade a pioneering school was opened, integrating children with disabilities into mainstream schooling, and vocational training was started for young adult residents at the Centre. It also saw the establishment of the Occupational Therapy Department with a separate section to assist elderly female adults needing daily physiotherapy.
With the establishment of the Palestinian National Authority, the Jerusalem princess Basma Centre JPBC was assigned as the main national Centre for referral for children with disabilities and became widely recognized as a resource for capacity building and working with partner organizations in the field to share best practices and sell quality services. It embraced the concept of Community Based Rehabilitation being advocated by the World Health Organization which changed the Centre’s orientation from residential care to short stay rehabilitation programs. Its focus was threefold; to develop a national Centre for referrals, a resource center to share best practices in the field of rehabilitation, and to become a provider of specialized services for Palestinian children with disabilities.
As a result, the Outreach Program in the West Bank was extended, our core Mother and Family Empowerment Program was established, and there were greater emphases on social care, coordination with local clinics and professional in-service training for staff.
Our Inclusive School flourished with the addition of pre-school classes and special education classes. Notable moments include the first graduation ceremony for the elementary school in 1995. The Vocational Training Program was introduced at the new Sheltered Workshop.
The Centre established a new fully equipped space for recreational therapy to strengthen the relationship between the mother and child, optimize the therapy process, and to emphasize the importance of the mother’s role in the therapy and treatment.
The Clinical Training Program was introduced as a means of sharing expertise with university students. And, work with the Intermediate Level Services in the West Bank was extended.
The school started providing inclusive education for its students by following the regular educational curriculum and extending it to 12th grade. Aiming to integrate them within their society, to be active and productive in their communities either at work or in education.
During this period, the Jerusalem Princess Basma Centre was a national resource Centre and at the forefront of pioneering developments for children with disabilities and their families in education, rehabilitation and advocacy. The treatment of children with Autism was one key focus area and in 2011, a new Autism Department and a sensory room were established. Staff was trained in ASD and ADHD, and Music therapy was added to our package of therapies.
In addition to major renovations and service development, there was a drive for the East Jerusalem Hospital Network, of which the JPBC was a member, to gain international accreditation. As a result, the Centre obtained the Joint Commission International Accreditation for Ambulatory Care three times, in 2015, 2018, and 2021.
School classrooms were upgraded and provisions expanded increasing the school’s offer of quality education for KG1-12th Grade students. Notable moments included the first high school graduation in 2010.
By the end of the decade, the Centre’s integrative services provided a model of best practices for children with disabilities in education and rehabilitation. On average, the inclusive school had on role one-third of students with disabilities, who alongside their education were able to receive psychosocial support, nursing and medical services, and comprehensive rehabilitation at the Child Rehabilitation Centre.
The Jerusalem Princess Basma Centre has been treating children with disabilities since 1964. Through wars and times of unrest, its doors have stayed open to vulnerable children and their families, offering a lifeline of support, education, and rehabilitation.
In 2020, the Centre faced the Coronavirus pandemic with faith and hope, sustaining service provision and creating new programs and online platforms to meet the challenges of this period.
It continues to operate under the umbrella of the Arab Anglican Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, in the fields of education, health, and disability. It is currently the leading referral Centre for Palestinian children with disabilities and is a national resource Centre for capacity building, clinical training, dissemination of knowledge, and best practice to practitioners and partner organizations.