Responsible for the Fund’s governance as well as grant allocation, our Trustees and Directors are all actively involved in the Order’s work, bringing depth of knowledge as well as a global perspective.
We met with H.E. Michele Bowe, Chair of the Fund’s US Board of Directors and the Head of the Order’s Representative Office in Palestine, to discuss the Order’s international work, her particular focus on the Middle East, and the insight that her experiences with the international works of the Order bring to her role at the Fund.
How did you first become involved in the Order of Malta?
I first heard about the Order of Malta through friends who were members. I was so inspired by what they told me about the projects and the great works of the Order that I wanted to get involved.
You are currently the Chair of the Fund’s US Board of Directors; what other roles have you held across the Order?
On a national level, I was the Hospitaller for the Federal Association, and I currently serve on the Board of Directors and the Lourdes pilgrimage committee.
Internationally, I was on the Board of Malteser International, where I experienced the hands-on aspect of the Order’s work around the world and saw the impact the Order has through its humanitarian works first hand, visiting works in South America and particularly those run in Peru. Currently I serve as an Ambassador, the Head of the Representative Office, in Palestine and a member of the Board of Holy Family Hospital in Bethlehem.
How does this experience help with your role at the Fund?
My experience running our own, national works in the US means I know what it is like to put together and manage a project. Visits to many interesting and varied international works of the Order with Malteser International and spending time at the Holy Family Hospital in Bethlehem, has helped me understand the range of the Order’s works, and the challenges it meets and overcomes in different areas. All of this helps me understand and evaluate the applications for support that we receive.
How do you see the role of the Order in the Middle East?
The Order began in the Holy Land, running a hospital for Muslims, Christians and Jews in Jerusalem, so it is a very important and natural place for the Order to have a presence. The sovereignty and neutrality of the Order allows it to play a unique role in the humanitarian assistance it offers in the region.
As well as the emergency humanitarian work that Malteser International runs in Iraq and Syria, the Order has a strong and influential presence in Lebanon, where the Association provides medical care through clinics and outreach programmes, centres for the elderly in rural areas, emergency care for the many Syrian refugees, as well as international camps for disabled guests in Chabrouh throughout the year. Finally, of course, many members visit the Holy Land on pilgrimage. It’s a very fitting place for the Order have a strong presence, caring for everyone, regardless of faith and race, as it always has.
Tell us a bit about the Order’s works in Palestine
Holy Family Hospital, the Order’s maternity hospital in Bethlehem, is a flagship work of the Order that belongs to all members of the Order worldwide.
In the North West of Palestine, the Order’s Dignity Loans Programme helps marginalised communities by providing loans to individuals to start micro-enterprises, from a shepherd, to a hair salon or bee-keeper. We provide financial seed investment, as well as business expertise to help them grow and become successful, creating jobs, increasing family income and serving the community.
What has been your most inspiring moment throughout your time in the Order so far?
We have been planning to renovate Holy Family Hospital for almost five years. The hospital serves so many people and the facilities desperately need improving to be able to continue providing medical care at the highest level. Despite 408 babies being born each month, work commenced this January and seeing the impact of all that careful planning come to fruition is inspiring.
What advice would you give to young members and volunteers wanting to get involved with the Order on an international level?
Joining international works is a wonderful way to understand the true nature of the Order. I would highly recommend young people join their country’s pilgrimage to Lourdes in May, the Caravan Project in Lebanon, the International Summer Camps in Europe, or the national summer camps run by many national associations to experience the hands-on work of the Order worldwide, crossing cultural and language barriers.
The Fund would like to thank H.E. Michele Bowe for her time talking to us, and for her insights into her many and varied roles across the Order.