When People Really Care..
I mention this quite a lot but the people of any city are as important as the city itself. This is derived from the fact that only people can help those that need help, if they are willing to. Communities are held together by the bond of empathy between its individuals and in a country like Egypt this significant diversity plays a huge role. In most cities I’ve visited so far people, regardless of their social standard, seem to be making a sufficient living. And every time I come close to major city, the signs of poverty start emerging.
Poverty on a level of severe need for the least of basics, the type that when witnessed forces other more fortunate souls to move swiftly for their aid. Egypt as any developing county receives a heft amount of aids from foreign countries and organizations. Also there is a generous number of NGOs focusing on the different aspects of development needed for the general population of Egypt. Knowing all of this, it would make sense for regular people to do nothing but watch and wait those people needs to be met. But on the contrary, people don’t, instead some go to great extents to support their fellow Egyptians.
During my brief visit to Alexandria I was fortunate enough to encounter a couple of local initiatives created, managed and funded only by the community. “Happiness” was the name, the mood and goal of the first group of people I got to meet. After being lead to a narrow street in a certain part of town where the gap between opposite socioeconomic standards is only one small street, there in the middle ground do both meet and exchange everything. A local group of people some are friends, others are family or even acquaintances have gathered there for a common good. They have created a fully functioning kitchen capable of catering for over 3000 people a day for iftar.
People from different age groups, different gender and even different religions gathered there with one objective in mind, to leave no one without food for iftar in Ramadan; feed every hungry soul. The process was well organized, there were different stations each contributing to a certain stage. They wash, cut, cook, pack and deliver the food after, all this is their fifth year of creating Happiness. With five different locations around Alexandria where they serve people their iftar, they have managed to spread out, to reach more and more people each day.
Anyone would be proud of such an accomplishment, specially that the few hundred participants are not only in charge of the whole process, but fund themselves as well. It is miraculous what ordinary people are capable of once they unite on a common objective. Year after year, by increasing their efficiency and their funding, they strive to cater not only for others in their community but reach towns outside their grasp on the other side of the country; sending supplies, clothes, and blankets all the way to deprived towns in upper Egypt.
You would think that with such a strong initiative everyone would be covered but unfortunately it’s simply not enough. This forces others to take a collective stand and force change wherever possible. One of the things I noticed about Alexandria is the importance of women’s role in most major aspects. Alexandrian women show strength, resilience, and resourcefulness, they are a strong pillar of the community. This is specially evident in the role of “Tant kawthar”, a proud Alexandrian mother that helps shape the change in a town in the outskirts of Alexandria.
I arrived there to discover a full system in place, a proper count of all the less fortunate families in the area. Their names, addresses, and status all documented with special IDs created for them. People were gathered as they knew that Friday was one of the days they were to receive their quota of meat and rice, enough to nourish the whole family. I saw order and discipline, the freshly slaughtered cow was was cut, divided and packed into separate plates. A sufficient quantity of rice is then packed next to the beef and handed to someone representing their family.
The names are called one after the other and the bags handed after showing the IDs they created as proof of who they are. In a couple of hours almost 300 families received the raw ingredients for a healthy meal. They help draw a smile on the faces of those who need it most.