Al-Qahirah

Working and living in Cairo, Egypt.

Voluntary work in Mokattam

Here in Cairo we work in two different places in Mokattam. Other place is young street mother’s shelter and the other one children’s center. The way to work is quite interesting; we have to take metro and two microbuses to get to Mokattam. First we need to take metro from Sakanat el Maadi to El Malek el Saleh. There are separate carriages for women only because of the sexual harassment which is quite common here. It is really easy and comfortable to travel by metro. Although every time we travel by metro we notice many pairs of eyes staring at us, now we really know what it is to be a celebrity! 😉 And then the microbusses, there are no words… Okay, we can try to explain, first of all microbus is just like an ordinary van, but there are seats for about fifteen persons + “hanging on the door” –seats. 😉 You can recognize microbus on its white-blue color, rickety outlook and high speed. 😀 We change microbus in Sayida Aisha, which is really chaotic, noisy and always full of people. Sometimes it can be also a little bit irritating because of the crowd, pollution and cars honking. Payment in microbus can be a bit difficult unless you are good at maths, because person who is sitting nearest to the driver has to count all the other passengers money. Travelling by public transport is really cheap here in Cairo for example one metro ticket costs one pound which is 0,14 euros.

Let’s get back to work places, first we can tell you something about young street mother’s shelter. There are young girls and mothers living in the shelter, some of them have been living there longer and some may just visit there a few days. The girls are about from 13 to 20 years old and you could say that they have seen the worse sides of life. It has been really great to get to know the girls and see that in spite of their past they are lively and positive. It’s been nice that the girls have welcomed us with open arms and they often want to talk and hear something about our life. When having a conversation with the girls Aino’s help with the language has been very necessary because we only speak Arabic “swayya” (only a few words). Our host organization Kulttuurikameleontit is arranging a jewellery workshop, where the girls are making different kind of jewelleries. The host organization is selling those forward in Finland and the girls get the money from their work. We have taken part of workshop and noticed that the girls are making jewelleries concentrating properly on their work. Sometimes there is an eight year old boy taking part of the jewellery workshop and his work has been fantastic, he really is a talent! When young mothers are making jewelleries we usually take care of their babies, so they can concentrate well. Sometimes we also go to park with children to play.

And now something about the children center. There are fifteen children, aged between four months and ten year, living in the center. We go to the children’s center about three times a week and when we enter the center children often welcome us by hugging and smiling. 🙂 Our days with kids usually consist of taking care of the babies, playing with elder kids and organizing suitable activities depending on the children’s age. At the moment our help is needed because there is lack of the staff, in addition there are some girls from the young street mother’s shelter who come to help. It is easier to go to the children’s center because the language barrier isn’t so disturbing. It is easy to communicate with the children by playing and singing for example. We have sang with the kids also some Finnish songs “pää, olkapää, peppu…”, “pienen pieni veturi”, “hämähämähäkki” and “piiri pieni pyörii”, which some previous volunteers had taught to the children.

Time here has been rewarding this far and we have seen and learned a lot. To be continued…

-Saara & Pia-