Ramblings from the Cove...

February 23, 2014

By Lars Gren

One afternoon--the year I don't remember--Elisabeth and I were taking our normal walk and as we rounded a curve on Shore road there was the emergency crew squatting around a women lying on the street. Elisabeth wanted to get closer to see what was going on. I said, "We can't be of help and she is dead." "How do you know?" "I have seen it before." Years prior to that I was playing golf with my father in a foursome. It was a short hole and the four of us were not far apart in front of the green. As I stood there I could see Charlie out of the corner of my eye getting out of his cart and in an instant he was flat on his back---dead. I tried to help until the paramedics arrived but there was no response. No matter how long I live it is doubtful that those two events will ever be erased from my mind. There are other 'pictures' perhaps not as graphic yet indelibly imprinted in my mind which at times pop into 'view.' One is of Cairo's Garbage Village. What I 'see' comes from Rebecca Atallah who has ministered to the people that live and work there for many years.

If you are one who has read previous Ramblings and opened the August 17, 2012 then you may recall that in was an introduction to the Atallah's ministries and I should also say thank you to those who sent support for their work. Recently I received a letter from her that I think you will find worth reading. Previously I had asked whether or not they literally lived on the garbage pile or in a sort of dug out. It was that way, but now there is also a seven story building, although not completed. Her husband Ramez sent a couple of photos plus a description and it is doubtful that you would want to sign up for living there. In viewing the two the old song, "It's only a shanty in old shanty town" came to mind and as I studied the photos I said, "Yes, a shanty in old shanty town would indeed be a palace compared to that building and those conditions there."

Take a look at these photos:

“Cairo’s “Cairo’s

The photo on the left is how people lived prior to the building of the high-rise; they would bring the garbage they would scrounge through to make a living into what they called "home"- four walls made out of refuse, giving them a bit of privacy. Now, as the picture on the right shows, the construction is partially finished and people have moved in, but in order to make a living, now they bring the garbage up into their apartments. We might say that is no improvement at all, but to the people there, it is a huge difference to be able to have their place, albeit not up to our standards.

Perhaps when you hear of poverty, poor conditions, displacement camps you will have a more graphic view of those conditions from seeing the photos. Rebecca has for many years worked with the people who live on and work in Cairo’s Garbage Village. We have never been there but from her vivid letters I can’t imagine what life is like for the ones who exist in that environment. Each summer she has led with other volunteers a camp for handicapped children. She also has a work in the schooling of the Sudanese refugee children. Her letters of the work there are always read with interest by us. I asked if she would mind me sharing her latest newsletter with you.

Greetings from sunny, warm Cairo. Although these days you may be hearing bad news reports, we who serve here are continuing our normal lives and trusting God to still protect and use us!

Thanks to His help and your continuing support, we are seeing some real growth at the SDCLC. This school year, we have 350 children, a new accountant and new vice-principal and we have gone onto a two-shift system. The latter has been a great help as it has made the school a much safer and more pleasant place for us all. Some of you know that we considered renting a second building, but this solution is sure a lot cheaper!

Thanks to the help of wonderful volunteers such as Linda from Vancouver, Canada, our two, excellent co-principals Abdallah and Phillips, and a very active Board, the educational system of the school is definitely improving this year. We also hired a very skillful woman Jackie, who had been a volunteer at the school to work for us last fall. She helped us survive what was our most difficult experience ever, that of discovering that one of our admin was dishonest. We now all feel that the school is being run by an excellent admin and good staff, for which we praise the Lord.

“Greetings from the Center of Love (CL) at the Mokattam Garbage Village (MGC). In a recent letter to another friend of the Center, I described a bit about the CL. I then thought I would send it to you since you probably don’t know all this info. “The Center of Love is the only school or center for the Disabled and Chronically ill children in the MGV, (which now holds around 70,000 people!) We have around 50 children, some of whom come only for Physical or Speech therapy but most of whom are in daily attendance. Ages range from under 2 to 20 years old and we accept all handicaps, Physical and Mental. Therefore we are very busy but also extremely happy as we see the children making definite signs of progress. Our staff are all from the MGV itself except for our Physical Therapists. Therefore, the rather low salaries that they receive still help a lot towards supporting Garbage Village families. We are really excited about this new year at the CL, as we are finishing up another floor which will allow us to have another classroom for children with Cerebral Palsy as well as one for children who are mentally challenged. (Both are real needs, evidenced by the waiting lists.) God has been very good to these children these past 3 years since we opened up the Center!”

For those who may not have read the earlier letter from Rebecca from a previous Ramblings, I will include it here. If you have read it, just skip to the end.

God bless y’all and that’s it from The Cove.

Lars & Elisabeth

As most of you know, I have been working with the poor here in Egypt for almost 30 years now. I have always said that we do a lot with very little, because most of those who work with me-as well as myself, of course-are volunteers. But now I find myself the main fund-raiser for both a school for Sudanese refugees kids and a large center for the disabled and chronically ill at a Garbage Village. Also, I am not getting younger-soon to be 65-and realizing that to be fair to those 2 ministries, I need to get them on a firm foundation, which will not depend so entirely on me.

You all probably know that I do not easily ask for money for my various ministries. I prefer to pray about the needs, write letters (at times) and trust God to put it on peoples' hearts to want to give. However, the situation in Egypt at present has caused Ramez and me to decide I should break down, swallow my pride and admit that we need help!

So I am appealing to you to start supporting on a regular basis one or both of the above 2 projects:

The Sudanese Displaced Children's Learning Center (SDCLC) is one of the only 3 schools for Sudanese refugee children here in Cairo which goes all the way through High School. It now has 330 kids and 27 staff! As things are going in South Sudan, it looks like most of these kids will not be going home any time soon. Since they cannot attend Egyptian government schools, this is a long-term need. Our Board is responsible for raising most of the budget, as we charge very little to our students, who all live in one of the poorest areas in Cairo. Lately we have realized that our giving has dropped and have had to consider cutting out the Breakfast program of the school. But this would be a GREAT shame, as for many this is the only nutritious meal they eat all day!

The Center of Love for the Disabled at the Mokattam Garbage Village, Cairo, is open and running, praise God, with over 25 mentally challenged children and teens regularly taking literacy classes! (Those that need it also receive Physical and Speech Therapy and the older ones receive Vocational Training.) However, only 3 of the 7 floors are finished inside, so we are searching for a Foundation or other group that can help with finishing the Center. Furthermore, we have no group-and only a few individuals-who contribute to the regular salaries and operating expenses of the Center. Of course, as is the truth in most of the developing world, the disabled and ill people are always the poorest, so again we cannot charge much for the Center's services.

If you would like to contribute to one/both of these centers, either once or regularly, you can do so by check or credit card through either of the two organizations listed below. Please indicate (in a separate note if sending a check) that the donation is "for the work of Rebecca Atallah in Egypt" stipulating either the "Center of Love" or the "SDCLC". They will send you a tax deductible receipt and will send 100% of the money to me for these centers. Those of you not living in North America can still contribute through either of these groups, as it is simpler than sending money directly to Egypt.

God bless you all,

Rebecca Atallah

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