GOODWORTH Clatford is known to most as a picturesque village in the Hampshire countryside, but it is also the unsuspecting home of an international non-governmental organisation (NGO) working to help children with disabilities in Palestine.

Based up in a converted garage space of founder Val Jourdan’s home, ABCD Bethlehem has been putting children who live in the turbulent territory first for more than 30 years.

While the worlds may seem far removed, the humanitarian relationship began back in 1983 when Val was a paediatric physiotherapist volunteering at a children’s home in Palestine.

“I was there for a year and was really quite shocked by the lack of care there was for children, or recognition for children with disabilities,” Val said.

“I set up various different programmes, worked with a small children’s home in Bethlehem to get them going. Then when I came home there was nobody following me on.

“I questioned what was the good of going if you give a bit of hope and then walk away from it?”

Heading back to the UK, Val and close friend Georgina Mortimer began ABCD which has since grown since to have 12 trustees and one full-time employee, Rachel Hobley, who grew up in King Arthur’s Way.

The charity works with four Palestinian partners, including two United Nations refugee camps, as a politically neutral force for good, helping all children regardless of their faith, race or gender.

“They come first every time,” Rachel said.

“We wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for the political situation but we are there for the children and their families. That is why we do what we do.”

ABCD has established rehabilitation centres at Jalazone and Nour Shams UN refugee camps, which are now recognised as centres of excellence across the region, funds music therapy and individual needs programmes, a day centre and provides aids such as wheelchairs and ankle splints which can go a long way in making a difference to a child’s life.

Rachel added: “Disability is still a taboo but on the other side of it is a lack of infrastructure.

“Living in a high density populated area and you have a child who can’t walk, you can’t get your child down the stairs, or an appropriate wheelchair or understanding of how to help your child.

“No child will receive a rehabilitation session without a family member there to learn how to deliver the physio.”

In its local fundraising efforts, ABCD has brought a taste of the Middle East to the English countryside, with a Palestinian lunch hosted at St Mary Bourne village hall in May, and is hosting a nine-mile‘Walk for Wheelchairs event along the Test Way on September 15 which the charity is still looking for sponsorship and volunteers for.

To find out more about ABCD Bethlehem and its work or get involved in its upcoming event Walk for Wheelchairs it is staging, go to or call 07593546004.