The Media Co-op

Local Independent News

More independent news:
Do you want free independent news delivered weekly? sign up now
Can you support independent journalists with $5? donate today!
Not reviewed by Media Co-op editors. copyeditedfact checked [?]

Student Action to Global Citizenry: Volunteering with Urban Refugees of Egypt

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
With the Executive Director of El-Wafaa Refugee Culture Center,  Mr. Abdel Rahman Siddiq of Darfur, Sudan in Cairo
With the Executive Director of El-Wafaa Refugee Culture Center, Mr. Abdel Rahman Siddiq of Darfur, Sudan in Cairo
Abdel Rahman in Ain Shams, Cairo, original location of El-Wafaa Refugee Culture Centre
Abdel Rahman in Ain Shams, Cairo, original location of El-Wafaa Refugee Culture Centre
Self-portrait in Cairo apartment during 2010 Peace Studies research
Self-portrait in Cairo apartment during 2010 Peace Studies research
With student of St. Andrews Church in Cairo
With student of St. Andrews Church in Cairo
Student at Arba Wa Nos Centre in Cairo
Student at Arba Wa Nos Centre in Cairo
Night Cafe of Bere People of Sudan in 6th of October City, Cairo
Night Cafe of Bere People of Sudan in 6th of October City, Cairo
With students and director of first El-Wafaa Centre in Ain Shams, Cairo 2008
With students and director of first El-Wafaa Centre in Ain Shams, Cairo 2008
El-Wafaa Refugee Culture Centre Logo
El-Wafaa Refugee Culture Centre Logo
With student from Central African Republic at Tadamon: The Egyptian Refugee Multicultural Centre
With student from Central African Republic at Tadamon: The Egyptian Refugee Multicultural Centre
Sudanese Teacher registers a new student at Ain Shams Centre
Sudanese Teacher registers a new student at Ain Shams Centre

Introduction

 
The focus of my volunteerism is with those who currently experience oppressive marginalization in the inhospitable host country of Egypt, who in 1951 made reservations to refugee rights chartered by the UNHCR Refugee Convention, also known as the Geneva Convention.
 
El-Wafaa Refugee Culture Centre was founded in 2006 in Ain Shams, a neighborhood in the outskirts of Cairo known for its African migrant population, by a group of committed Darfurian community leaders in order to address challenges within the refugee population in Cairo, with a focus on refugees from Darfur. The mission statement of the El-Wafaa Centre is to alleviate suffering of vulnerable refugee communities in urban areas.
 
Background
 
Egypt’s reservations to the UN’s Refugee Convention withhold national responsibility with regard to refugees within their country accessing public relief and humanitarian assistance. There are no refugee camps in Egypt. African peoples seeking asylum in Egypt continue to be unjustly marginalized based on race, ethnicity, religion, etc.
 
Initiated in July 2006 by local community within the African forced migrant population of Cairo, El-Wafaa Centre was physically founded in September 2006, with the assistance of Student Action for Refugees (STAR), a student-run organization at the American University of Cairo. Then president of STAR, Jennifer Renquist, now a foreign officer with USAID, organized the orientation of new students at El-Wafaa Centre, as well as the donation of books and stationeries to the center’s library, remaining a principal need.
 
I was introduced to this world in 2007 as a young student of literature and language at the American University of Cairo, after volunteering for STAR as an outreach English teacher. I soon met the director of the Refugee Culture Centre, named “El-Wafaa” (The Fulfillment in English) after teaching an intermediate level English course to an incredibly diverse class of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees from all over Africa.
 
The director of El-Wafaa, Abdel Rahman Siddiq Hashim, is from Darfur, Sudan, educated at a Sudanese university in English. He is a respected and humble community leader, known by many Cairo-based African refugees as “Teacher”. Abdel Rahman’s activism was far-reaching and all-inclusive, welcoming students into the education center, also serving as a cultural and community resource center, without discriminating ethnicity, religion or politics.
 
During my initial ten-month stay in Cairo, I became deeply involved in the refugee community beyond the interests of Student Action for Refugees (who soon abandoned and undermined local leadership), including organizing independent classes through the El-Wafaa community, running a food bank and managing library resources. Since then, I have poured over the role of the international community as a last vestige of light for the urban refugees of Cairo. In 2010, I returned to Cairo through a fully funded research endeavor with support from a Peace Studies consortium at the University of Calgary, where from I graduated the same year with a B.A. in the Social Sciences.
 
Highlights from the 2010 research period in Egypt include directly funding the El-Wafaa Executive Director’s return trip to Sudan to register El-Wafaa in Sudan, as well as with a Darfuri NGO network, to assess the situation of refugees returning home to respective countries of origin after living in Egypt as a refugee. Other successes included a film screening and discussion evening on related issues at the inner city Sudanese-led NGO Tadamon, offering charitable funding to vulnerable women-in-need, engaging Sudanese youth students in a music and culture recording project, and personally meeting and attending a course with Barbara Harrell-Bond, founder of the Refugee Studies Centre at Oxford University, the world’s first institution for the study of refugees.
 
Through my studies, research, and experiences in activism and fundraising since 2007 to the present, I have concluded that it is truly up to international civil society activists to help community leaders foster educational and cultural activities in their communities. UNHCR and local NGOs in the region have proven insufficient, whether as seen in the outcry of the Mustafa Mahmoud demonstration in 2005, or the current state of life for refugees during the unstable political turmoil in Cairo, today.
 
Their is a great need to support those who appreciate and enable the sustainable establishment of human rights organizations in Egypt providing proper services to any and all people, with a focus on African refugees.
 
Demographic
 
The target demographic of El-Wafaa Refugee Culture Center is any and all residents and migrants of Egypt seeking a safe and inclusive community resource center that specializes in language education services. The target communities are refugees and asylum seekers from African countries who seek to transition from Egypt to resettle in a more hospitable country, or move back home after losing many years of their lives to impoverishment, lack of education and opportunity for employment. Such social challenges are due to many causes, including misinformation and a serious deficiency of awareness regarding the nature of life in potential resettlement countries, as well as in returning to often conflict-ridden countries of origin.
 
Conclusion
 
Currently, the El-Wafaa Refugee Culture Center and its concomitant community initiatives are in dire need to generate sustainable activism (both local as well as international) to support the immensely wide gaps unfulfilled by the UNHCR, NGO, and academic, as well as faith-based service providers in Cairo.
 
On behalf of an international network to support the community vision El-Wafaa, led by the volunteerism of PhD student and Fulbright scholar based in New York City, Thomas Leddy-Cecere and myself, a freelance journalist and human rights advocate currently based in the city of Calgary in western Canada, we petition support.
 
Currently, the 2013-2014 budget for El-Wafaa Refugee Culture Centre to thrive in Cairo requires 1,280 USD (center rent, office supplies, external programs). Membership fees from refugee communities in Cairo seeking services are not adequate. International networks with preexisting solidarity groups in the U.S. and Canada are integral to the sustainability and overall maintenance of the El-Wafaa Refugee Culture Centre.
 
Related issues raised by the refugee community in Cairo include accessing micro-credit loans, contacting UNHCR, overcoming crises in housing and basic needs, among other areas of recurrent concern.
 
Anyone can learn more. If interested, please correspond with mind to the pressing need for immediate action. I would very much like to start a meaningful dialogue on this issue on behalf of an extended engagement with the urban refugee communities of Cairo.
 
References:
 
 
This blog was originally published at VolunteerCenter.com on July 29, 2013
 
To learn more about how you can be involved please view the El-Wafaa Brochure and contact me: mhanson1717@yahoo.com 

Socialize:
Want more grassroots coverage?
Join the Media Co-op today.
1092 words
Join the media co-op today
Things the Media Co-op does: Support
Things the Media Co-op does: Report
Things the Media Co-op does: Network
Things the Media Co-op does: Educate
Things the Media Co-op does: Discover
Things the Media Co-op does: Cooperate
Things the Media Co-op does: Build
Things the Media Co-op does: Amplify

User login


Google+
Subscribe to the Dominion $25/year

The Media Co-op's flagship publication features in-depth reporting, original art, and the best grassroots news from across Canada and beyond. Sign up now!