My first 6 weeks of officially working for Ayadi Organization I did on-the-ground research of various crafts around Egypt. I was looking to find a craft that has been passed down for hundreds of years and that would benefit from working with Ayadi. My vision was not to create something new. I didn’t want something redundant or to recreate the wheel if it had already been created and spinning, but rather to build on others' work and make more impact.
When I arrived in Egypt I had a plan to retain traditional craftsmanship through the empowering development of microfinance. I was in love with microfinance. I loved that it was not a handout, that it was partnering with poor people to launch their own initiatives and that it seemed so empowering and dignifying. So I had this vision that I was going to use microfinance, but I wasn’t sure which artisan skill I was going to focus on (initially I was leaning towards much of the beautiful mother of pearl work and copper work that is done in Egypt…)
For many years I had this dream that I would be working to retain traditional craftsmanship among poor artisans in Egypt. I decided to make a leap and see if I as one individual could make a difference in the country where I was born, Egypt. I created a nonprofit, Ayadi (which means many hands in Arabic) and am now in Cairo trying to retain traditional craftsmanship in Cairo.
It’s been over a year, but hardly a day goes by when I don’t think about the slums of Cairo. Of course, the incessant talk of slums for no reason other than the cinematization of Mumbai’s own in Slumdog Millionaire may have something to do with this revival of my memories, although I found that its screening did little, if any, justice to the issues or indeed the people living the daily reality of abject poverty.