If you have been following my blog you will know that I am working with traditional craftsman in Cairo. Besides my work with the craftsmen and workshops I currently work with, I am always looking to cooperate with other artisans, looking for other crafts to work on and look for ways to increase employment and alleviate poverty. After working in development for five years I guess my “development lens” is always active. I also like to travel to the various towns and villages in Egypt to be in touch with the day-to-day lives of the poor and think of ways to collabarate with them.
So a few days ago I went on a site visit to small village in Minya, which is 2.5 hour train ride from Cairo and is considered upper Egypt, even though it is in the Southern part of Egypt (random fact: upper and lower Egypt are the opposite of what you would think. It is reference to the direction of the Nile…and the Nile flows North, so upper Egypt reflects upstream and lower reflects downstream)…
I went with a group that has been doing this for 10 years…they go up once a month and visit families and help them with their basic living needs. Very basic: they go to make sure that families have a roof over their heads, electricity, water and bathrooms. I saw and heard the stories of real people that live on the equivalent of 2 dollars a day, families of 4,5, and 6 people that live on this. It was interesting because every family has a different story and different circumstances though they all share a common link: poverty and peacefulness.
On the train back all I could think of was this little girl with beautiful curls. It was the only daughter of the first family that I visited and I couldn’t stop thinking about this little girl. She was 8 years old and an only child. I kept staring at her hair…she had the most beautiful perfect curls. Her father had severe back pain, when he could he was a school bus driver. And her mother made beautiful handcrafted items. There was something so peaceful about this family. It made me wonder how these people who are always on brink of extreme poverty are so much more content than most people I know….