Thursday,20 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1259, (20 - 26 August 2015)
Thursday,20 September, 2018
Issue 1259, (20 - 26 August 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Porto Um Mahmoud

A creative solution to providing leisure-time activities for poorer children in Cairo has been shut down, writes Omneya Yousry

Al-Ahram Weekly

The heat wave that has hit Egypt, and the inability of many of the less fortunate to go away for the summer, made Um Mahmoud, a Cairo resident and founder of the “Porto Life” project, come up with a unique idea to help her neighbours’ children in the summer heat.

She designed a portable swimming pool that put a smile on the faces of the neighbourhood children whose parents cannot afford to take them to a summer resort.

Her “Porto Life” pool, a reference to the chain of Porto Life resorts in Ain Sokhna, Cairo and the North Coast, set up in the informal district of Dweika in the Manshiyet Nasser area of Cairo, gave poorer children a taste of the Porto Life lifestyle.

The pool offered a respite from the summer heat and was installed for children whose families could not afford to take them to the beach. For LE1, the equivalent of $0.16, children were allowed to play in the water for the whole day.

“I found that the children could not stand the hot weather without any sort of entertainment, so I decided to design this little project that allowed me to make a living at the same time,” Um Mahmoud, a Dweika resident who herself has five children, said.

“Water is available in Dweika, so I decided to build the pool. I stood next to it to make sure the children were safe while they were using it, and I made sure the water was changed regularly,” she added.

However, despite the project’s success local officials have closed down the pool, citing hygiene concerns.

“All I did was try to do something for these deprived children for a few days,” Um Mahmoud protested. “They came last Thursday to take away the portable pool, one of them threatening me with an enormous fine and even a jail sentence.”

She continued, “I have never asked anybody to take care of me and my five children. I rely on myself. If they think this is illegal, they should provide other sources of income for local people.

“They claim the pool is not hygienic, but the whole neighbourhood is a swamp. If they really cared about hygiene, they would do something about the living conditions in the area.”

Um Mahmoud’s portable pool was a breather for lots of children, who may now be tempted to spend their time on less worthwhile activities.

Mohamed, one of Um Mahmoud’s neighbours, said she had been offering a leisure-time activity for local children that was better than the alternatives.

“Some of the children sit in local cafés and do nothing all day. Is this what the government wants?” he asked.

The Dweika children also expressed their disappointment. “We want the Porto Life Um Mahmoud pool back. We were enjoying every moment. Why did they remove the pool? Don’t we have the right to have fun like other kids?” one asked.

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