Letters from Egypt: Small Changes
I’ve been told that you don’t move to a country anticipating to change it; however, you should find one small thing that you can work on to give back to the place that houses you. After all, we are only guests and we should give back to the country that allows us to accrue experience whether it’s for your job or just life in general.
I thought my small thing was teaching the children around my office how to be nice to the stray dogs and now, they even take care of one of the puppies. This is a huge deal here as animal rights are just not on the priority list for Egyptians. Yet in addition to the poor treatment of animals, there’s another problem that faces this country: little to no environmental awareness.
First things first, I am NOT a greenie ranting through the streets about climate change or anything like the such. However, the past week or so, I’ve grown increasingly frustrated at the amount of trash I’m walking through on a regular basis, and it seems like its getting worse. I was so angry the other morning after walking through a heap of trash and finding bags thrown over a balcony near my apartment that I cleaned it up myself. This morning, I saw the same thing in the same place again. This is where I walk my dog and you know what, I’m sick of having to walk through this.
I’ve done blogs on the Zabaleen before, the largely Christian community that hand recycles and collects the trash throughout Cairo. Cleaning trash from the streets carries a social stigma, but I’m determined to help even if I’m only an army of one. I don’t understand is that age old saying, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” which also translates into something similar in Arabic, “Elnazafa men aleman” (cleaning for faith).
There are hardly any trash bins throughout the city and the ones that you do find are overflowing.
So I utilized Cairo Scholars this morning to get feedback as to organizing a cleaning crew. Someone sent this article as a parallel (Young Pakistanis Take One Problem into Their Own Hands), and while the article is discussing Pakistan, there are so many similarities.
- · “A group of young Pakistani friends, sick of hearing their families complain about the government, decided to spite them by taking matters into their own hands: every Sunday they would grab shovels, go out into their city, and pick up garbage.” Everyone here complains about the government, but no one does anything.
- · “The youth of Pakistan wants to change things,” said Shahram Azhar. As well as the youth in Egypt.
- · “The major problem people have here is that there are no bins,” said Murtaza Khwaja, a 21-year-old medical student. Same same
- · “People say, ‘This is nice, but things will never change,’ ” Mr. Khwaja said.
- · “The men in the mosque, on the other hand, were picky, wanting the young people to clean the mosque but not the surrounding area.”
- · “They said, ‘We already have Christians doing that for us in the morning,’ ” Mr. Khwaja said. Christians are a minority in Pakistan, and those who have no education often work in the lowest-paid jobs, like collecting trash, sweeping streets or fixing sewers.
I am a firm believer in grass roots initiatives, so not only do I want to help clean, but I also want to create awareness. I am not naïve to think this will help anything for awhile, but I am hopeful (which could be considered an idealist) that if organized properly, we could help make Egypt better for everyone.
Volunteer to Help Make Cairo Clean
I just sent out an inquiry on Cairo Scholars and have had many people comment/want to help with a clean up. The first matter is organizing a group of volunteers, so if you’re interested, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will add you to a list that I’m creating to send out notifications.
While this is all in the preliminary stages, I have proposed that we start off once a month to get support. I can make signs in English and Arabic that would explain what we’re doing in order to follow the concept ‘teach by doing.’ This will create awareness. The streets will be small because longer streets may cause people to feel frustrated or as though their efforts aren’t producing any results.
Participants will wear a green shirt to easily identify volunteers.
The trash collected will be taken to Garbage City for the Zabaleen to sort/recycle.
As I said, this is only preliminary thoughts so if you would like to participate or have other suggestions, comments and/or thoughts, please let me know.
So yalla Egypt, let’s get to cleaning!