Tuesday November 20, 2017
By: Shereen G. Eldin
“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” -Nelson Mandela
A Game of Ugly Numbers: UN Reports, 2011
Sometimes, we have ideas on what is wrong with our world. Sometimes, we have feelings. And sometimes, we have the numbers that give roots to our ideas and our feelings. So, it came as no surprise when we learned that from 2010 to 2011, 26,000 Egyptian children were estimated to have dropped out of school, of that whopping figure, seventy-six percent were girls.
There were 40,000 recorded cases of underage marriages, 150,000 infant births from underage girls. The rate at which girls fall victim to physical violence is 1 in 4. Heartbreakingly enough, sexual abuse inflicted on children represents eighteen percent of the total incidences related to children.
But behind these numbers, were faces. And within this great ordeal was a spark of glimmering hope shining in the eyes of children and their families whom the founder of the Heya Masr – an organization that I would thereafter become a part of – set out to help
Motivated by the noble mission of empowering young women in underprivileged Egyptian communities, through raising their self-awareness, developing their character and enabling them mentally and physically to ultimately “restore a sense of dignity and pride,” Moody Demetry embarked on the mission to found Heya Masr.
Heya Masr is a volunteer-based, registered non-profit organization. It cooperates with local NGOs to hold sessions for young underprivileged girls (aged 8-12) in a classroom setting. Each class comprises of 12-15 participants and 3 volunteer trainers. The education program at Heya Masr is administered through a set of activities over 40 total sessions. The activities are customizable according to the needs of each class and the judgement of the trainers. The overall program is divided into three levels: Beginner, intermediate and advanced, that the girls work their way through. The syllabus focuses on three main areas of development: Character Building, Physical and Nutritional Education, and Sexual Harassment Awareness.
An Ample Description of “Love’s Pains”
Every week, the volunteer teachers set out on their way to their assignment sites, carrying with them crafty classroom tools utensils and an endless supply of love for the children. They battle darkness with education, devastation with hope, and hopelessness with determination.
According to the inside testimonials of the volunteers, it came as no surprise that while their task might be dauntingly challenging at first, it is one of the most rewarding, life-changing experiences in their lives. And what would customarily be viewed as a normal teacher-student relationship, had way more depth beneath the surface.
“I came here on a scholarship assignment from my school, I didn’t realize I would get this attached to the girls,” said one volunteer.
“Seeing the girls develop from class to class was my proudest moment at Heya Masr,” said another.
“When I first missed a class and the girls asked about me, that really brought home the magnitude of the effect we have on their lives and how attached they grow to us and us to them,” said a third one.
Just like the journey of the volunteers is nothing short of emotional, the little girls of Heya Masr are nothing short of aspirational.
“I want to go to University…and finish it,” said one 11-year old. “Our teacher gave us a World Atlas. I want to travel to each and every one of them,” said another.
The Heya Masr girls are fun, full of life and unrealized dreams. They particularly love the 15-minute break between classes, for an opportunity to play a game or participate in an activity of their choice. Heya Masr has truly become an outlet for their creativity and childhood enthusiasm.
With initiatives like Heya Masr on the table, we feel confident that our community is taking steps, slowly but surely, towards securing a better future for women and allowing them to realize their full potential.
All photos courtesy of Heya Masr
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