Wednesday,22 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1254, (9 - 22 July 2015)
Wednesday,22 November, 2017
Issue 1254, (9 - 22 July 2015)

Ahram Weekly

The meaning of giving

Egypt’s charities are working as hard as ever this Ramadan, writes Mai Samih

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Al-Ahram Weekly

The Egyptian Food Bank works all year round to help feed the needy in Egypt, and perhaps with an especial intensity in the holy month of Ramadan. According to the organisation’s executive manager, Reda Sokar, the Food Bank is determined to continue with a view to ending hunger in the country by 2020.

The Bank is improving its performance and developing new tools as part of a race against time. Said Sokar, “What is new this year is that we are opening the new Egyptian Food Bank headquarters in Al-Qahira Al-Gedida, consisting of an administrative building and a factory called hedia [gift] for food packaging, in addition to the central storehouses in Badr City.”

“The factory is equipped with the latest production lines and packing machines to process the largest possible number of products per day. It also functions 24 hours a day.”

The factory also applies high-quality monitoring standards that help ensure the safe products that poor families deserve. The Egyptian Food Bank plans to distribute more food this Ramadan than last year.

“Last year, we distributed Ramadan boxes to 1.5 million poor families. This year, we plan to distribute the boxes to the more than two million poor families in our database. The food boxes are distributed as part of the Iftar Sa’em [food to the fasting] project,” he said.

 The Egyptian Food Bank is not only about food, however, and the organisation also intervenes in other areas. Sokar said that there are also programmes that support employment and training.

“We also run literacy programmes, cooking schools, village development programmes and livestock raising activities, in addition to programmes designed to help roof houses, provide houses with water, and develop veterinary clinics and schools in poorer villages,” he said.

The media co-ordinator at the Dar Al-Orman charity, Enass Galal, says the charity is also working harder than ever during Ramadan this year. “Last year, the number of boxes we distributed to poorer villages in Egypt was only 250,000. This year, it is 575,000 as the Armed Forces have given us around 325,000 extra boxes to distribute,” Galal said.

Dar Al-Orman co-operates with around 7,500 other NGOs in distributing the boxes. “We helped develop about 25 villages in June by renovating or furnishing houses, or providing them with water and electricity. The charity also helps people start development projects like raising cattle,” she said.

“We normally distribute some 250,000 head of cattle, but at the beginning of this year the presidency gave us a further 5,000 head of cattle, which we distribute to those who need to start projects. We are responsible for the veterinary insurance of the cattle and providing monthly food for them, which costs about LE24 million,” added Galal.

The overall cost of the boxes the charity distributes in Ramadan is around LE30 million. It reaches out to the neediest families in the governorates, no matter what their background.

“We target families that have no income, especially widows with children in Upper Egypt. Last year, we helped one million families, and next year we want to help double that number,” Galal said.

There are also other fields in which the charity helps the poor, including seasonal projects distributing meat during the feasts and projects providing medical assistance to the needy, such as for surgery. It also distributes artificial limbs and wheel chairs.

Another charity, the Misr Al-Kheir Foundation, is working on a campaign to feed 1.5 million people this Ramadan. It is distributing food boxes to 430,000 families and Iftar Sa’em meals in 35 tents in each governorate for those who can’t afford iftar meals during the whole month, with a total of 210,000 cooked meals being distributed.

Some 120,000 meals will be distributed in the frontier governorates and the governorates in Upper Egypt, where the Foundation is providing 30 villages with iftar meals, each village having around 4,000 inhabitants, as part of its campaign. It is working with 120 NGOs to distribute the meals.

In addition to its food-distribution activities this Ramadan, the Foundation is also working on more general development work. This includes programmes to raise health awareness among the needy, providing them with clean drinking water, and providing students with scholarships and funding research, as well as building more schools and providing training opportunities for future jobs in many fields. It also helped provide the needy with clothes and blankets last winter.

Talking of the Egyptian Food Bank’s plans for the future, Sokar said, “We plan to start an Egyptian Food Bank meat farm in Nubareya, the products of which will be distributed to poor families. We also plan to establish an industrial complex to produce food that will give the Bank greater self-sufficiency.”

In order to do these things, however, it is important that people continue donating to the charity, he said.

“The Egyptian Food Bank has started its journey and is heading towards its destination, which is to abolish hunger in Egypt by 2020. The fact that we have got as far as we have is due to the support of our donors, and we always look forward to receiving further calls.”

Said Galal, “Dar Al-Orman looks at what needy people lack and then helps them either by providing it or giving them materials that can help them earn a living, including cattle, training, or loans.”

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