Posts Tagged ‘Egypt’

Gaining a Global Perspective for Life

Friday, November 11th, 2011
Middle East

Mark Schnellbaecher, Catholic Relief Services Middle East Region Director, speaks at Cabrini College about CRS’ work in the Middle East. Photo courtesy of Cabrini College

By Alyssa Mentzer

Three and a half years ago I left home to go college. I can honestly say I knew very little about what was going on in the world. As far as I was concerned, my world revolved around the town I came from and the campus I lived on.

It’s not that I didn’t care about the rest of the world. I really had no idea what was going on around me. The depths of my knowledge remained within the borders of the United States.

Fast forward.

Last week I sat down with Mark Schnellbaecher, Catholic Relief Services Middle East Region Director, who lives in Beruit. Just back from trips to Iraq and Egypt, Mark was on the campus of Cabrini College to talk to students about the situation in Egypt after the recent revolution and the potential consequences of pulling American troops out of Iraq.

While chatting with Mark, my mind was full of thoughts about the struggle of the Egyptians after the Arab Spring and the upcoming struggle Iraqi refugees will face.

Southern Hospitality, Egyptian Style

Thursday, July 21st, 2011
Egypt tea

CRS staff members Kathryn Kraft, left, and Mahitab Mohamed enjoy some tea at the end of a long day. Photo by Rosalie Haughton/CRS

“What will you drink?”

It’s the first question asked at almost every meeting since we arrived in southern Egypt for a one-week tour to learn about the needs of rural Egyptian women. Two colleagues and I are meeting with local non-government organizations, businesswomen and businessmen, government officials and, of course, rural Egyptian women.

Our very first lesson in the Egyptian version of Southern hospitality was that no one can enter a home or an office without being served a drink. So, after introductions have been made but before we start talking about how CRS can help provide economic opportunities to poor women in rural areas, a decision must be made about drinks: “Do you prefer tea, Turkish coffee, Nescafe, or Pepsi?”

Counter-Trafficking in Egypt

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

By Emily Ardell

Safe shelter in Egypt

Through the work of CRS and our partner Al Horreya in Alexandria, these beds are now available at a shelter for female victims of trafficking and forced labor. Photo by Emily Ardell / CRS

“I worked every single day of the week begging for money and selling tissues on the streets near our house,” says Layla, a six- year-old Egyptian girl in Alexandria. “When I didn’t make enough money during the day, they would beat me as punishment, to get me to work harder. I was always so tired.”

Layla comes from a poor family. She is one of ten children who grew up with their mother in a two-room apartment in one of the slums of Alexandria. Her father left after she was born and her family lived in extreme poverty. Her brothers and sisters who could find work did, but those who were too young to work instead begged on the streets to help the family survive. Neither Layla nor any of her nine brothers and sisters had ever attended school.

“We worked from sunrise to sunset, and sometimes even later,” Layla explains. “Often people on the street would kick us or push us aside because they thought we were thieves. Almost no one would look us in the eye.” Layla points to the multiple scars on her face to show the physical abuse she has suffered both at the hands of her own family members as well as strangers.

Egyptian Youth Take Action

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

By Emily Ardell

Youth in Egypt

Noha Samy stands proudly next to a tree she and her fellow volunteers planted along the road. Photo by Emily Ardell / CRS

It looks just like any other road in Egypt, at least to the naked eye. It’s dry and dusty, littered with a few bits of garbage and hosting a lone donkey cart pulling a trailer of sun-scorched watermelons. But 24-year-old Noha Samy beams proudly as she shares the story of this road and why it is so important to her.

Noha participates in the Egyptian Youth Take Action Project (EYTAP) being implemented by Catholic Relief Services and its partners the Egyptian Red Crescent Society and the YMCA, working with more than 1,000 youth in nine of the poorest regions in Egypt. These young people identify key issues in their communities and develop small projects to help solve these problems. Young people take charge of designing and implementing each project, and in the process become leaders for positive change in their communities. The idea is very simple, but the impact is truly awe-inspiring.

“This road used to be like a dump,” Noha says. “There were mountains of garbage because people didn’t know where else to leave it. It smelled horrible. There were no streetlights and people who had to travel on this road were being assaulted all the time.”

A Second Chance in Egypt

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

By Emily Ardell

Refugees in Egypt

Through projects, CRS and our partner, St. Andrews Refugee Services, reach beneficiaries throughout the city through targeted outreach in neighborhoods such as this one with high concentrations of refugees. Photo by Emily Ardell / CRS

The air conditioners dripped onto the dusty concrete as I made my way through the short maze of hallways underneath the tall apartment building to the elevator. Arriving on the 13th floor, I stepped out and was greeted with a big smile from Mais, and a giant bear hug. “Thanks for coming,” she said. “We are so happy you’re here.” It was clear by the look in her large, expressive eyes that she meant it.

I stepped into their small apartment and was greeted by Mais’ family: her husband Belal, their 20- year-old daughter Hanan and their 17-year-old son Eunice. Mais and her family are among the estimated 30,000 refugees now living in Egypt after escaping continuing violence in Iraq. As a result of the assistance her family and thousands of other Iraqi refugees in Cairo have received from CRS and its partner organizations, Mais agreed to meet with me, an American, to share the story of how they became refugees.

I sat down and on the sofa and Mais and her family sat around me on wooden chairs. “So tell me your story,” I said to Mais, somewhat unsure of how to start this conversation. There was a long pause while she looked up at the ceiling and I realized just how absurd my request must have seemed. But to my relief, Mais was not the least bit shy. Once she began telling her story, there was no holding her back.

This extraordinary woman started at the beginning, explaining that she and her husband had worked as professionals in Iraq in the fields of transportation and engineering. Their life there, although complicated at times, was one they loved dearly – one that was rich with family and community.

New Dawn for Egypt: Discovering the Power of Rural Egyptians

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

Dina Omar is social counselor with CRS/Egypt. She recently traveled to some of the poorest areas in the country to explore new ways for CRS to support these very vulnerable communities.

After the revolution of January 25, 2011, which brought an end to a regime of 30 years, Egypt is in some ways a completely different country. For one thing, there is a curfew in Cairo and other big cities, which means we cannot travel at night like we used to. More importantly, we at Catholic Relief Services are expanding our programming and developing many new projects since there are many new opportunities to do exciting things.

One of the new USAID grants we’re hoping to win is for community development in Southern Egypt so we had to go there to interview five potential partner organizations we may work with. In the very early morning on a Thursday, my colleagues Kathryn, Mahitab and I piled into a minibus and headed to the city of Minya about 65 miles from Cairo We left at 6 a.m. because that was the earliest we could travel after curfew was lifted for the day. Even though I’ve lived in Egypt my whole life, this was my first time passing through any of the areas south of Cairo.

Edgy in Egypt: Bird Flu Worries Egg Fan

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009
Egypt birds

CRS helps impoverished Egyptians prevent deadly bird flu by educating women poultry raisers about the disease. It also runs vaccination campaigns. Photo by CRS staff

Until I moved to Cairo, I was never scared of eggs. They were incredible, edible. Plenty of protein in a little white package. What’s not to like?

I am now very, very afraid of eggs. I don’t cook with them much, and when I do, I spend quite a while cleaning their suspect gunky shells with surgical precision-rinsing, gently scrubbing them, soaking them in a water-vinegar solution-all with thick gloves on. Making Duncan Hines brownies from a box (yes, they sell it here) takes a lot longer than it used to.

Egypt is one of the top three countries on the world watch list for avian influenza, a strain of flu that can leap from sick birds to humans if the humans are in close enough contact with poultry. It’s not just a flu that knocks you out with fever and keeps you home from work for a week; it’s deadly. Approximately 60 people have contracted bird flu in Egypt since February 2006, and of those, more than a third died from it. The scenarios that scientists paint of a worldwide epidemic remind me of a Stephen King novel.

Turning the Tide in Egypt

Thursday, March 19th, 2009
Egypt lake

A CRS program will help villagers clean up Lake Qaron, one of the few large lakes in Egypt, which has been polluted by improper waste water management. Photo by Laura Sheahen/CRS

What would you do if your house started sinking into the earth? That’s the situation faced by many impoverished villagers in Fayoum, Egypt.

One of the few areas of Egypt that does not lack water, Fayoum is below sea level. Poor drainage and other problems cause villagers’ mud-brick homes to sink little by little. Eventually, the first floor of the house is covered in wet silt, and the family must live only on the second floor.

The villagers can escape to the second floor, but they can’t always escape the waterborne diseases surrounding them. Without proper pipes and drain systems, sanitation becomes a problem. Canals in the villages are contaminated by sewage and used for garbage and animal waste. When people use the canal water for other purposes like washing, a cycle of disease results.

In Egypt, Job Loss Threatens Family Unity

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

Todd Holmes, Regional Security and Safety Officer for CRS in the Middle East, has lived in Cairo for several years. Here, he writes about how the global economic crisis is affecting an Egyptian friend who has already been struggling.

Todd Holmes

CRS security officer Todd Holmes stands near the Avenue of the Sphinx in Luxor, Egypt. Photo by CRS staff

I met Hamed, a 30 year old single man, when I first moved to Egypt. He was hotel staff where CRS put me up until I found more permanent housing. Hamed was warm, welcoming, and gracious. Since the hotel was near the CRS office, I would run into him from time to time. We hung out several times and I learned more of his personal story. His father had died when he was a teenager leaving his mother to struggle to raise him.

He grew up into a hard working man and when it came his turn, entered military service that he completed in three years. Fresh out of the military he needed to support his widowed mother and found work as a pool hand in the hotel’s recreation area.