Egypt: Winter woollies for Cairo’s children

By Nora Hassanaien, Emergencies Project Manager

Boys from a Cairo orphanage visit the supermarket to buy winter clothes with vouchers provided by Save the Children
Boys from a Cairo orphanage get Save the Children vouchers to buy winter clothes

My alarm goes off at 5:45 am, and by 7am I’m with my distribution team, who are decked out in their bright-red Save the Children vests and are buzzing despite the early start.

Helping Cairo’s orphans – and refugees

Today will be our first distribution to around 20 Egyptian boys living in a Cairo orphanage  and surviving on charitable donations from the local community – and to a family of refugees from Syria.

Our minibus whizzes the team through sleepy Cairo streets until we reached five eager boys waiting at a gate, all dressed in their best gear and excited to see us. In the corner I spot a much taller boy, trying his hardest to play it cool while clearly fighting a smile.

Woolly jumpers for all

From there we boarded a much bigger bus, rented by Save the Children to take some of the team and all of the children to our supplier. Here I met Ahmad*, who is seven, Medhat* and Saleem*, both eight, and Mazen*, 13. The time they have been in care varies but they all say they maths, English, Arabic, religious studies and football – and all seem far more excited about the outing itself than about what they might buy. Later that afternoon, however, they proudly show me the new woolly jumpers, coats and trousers that the programme has enabled them to buy.

Back at our regular bus stop, I am privileged to meet Abu-Salam*, one of the 13,000 Syrians we hope to support with this programme. He is disabled so we sit down while he tells me how his family were rich back in Syria, but had to flee with just the clothes they were wearing after their area was bombed three times. This family of ten, including eight children, some with trauma and depression and one who is also  disabled, now all live in just two rooms.

The brutality of winter

Abu-Salam describes their new life in Egypt and the brutality of winter. Despite the rooms being cramped, the cold ‘gets in your bones’ and is made far worse by the inability to afford essential household items or electricity. The vouchers will enable Abu-Salam and his wife to buy blankets and winter clothes for their children along with any other non-food items they might need. As the bus arrives to deliver his vouchers and take him to our supplier, he grabs my hand and thanks us with tears in his eyes for the respect he received from the team.

Such great need…

Speaking to Abu-Salam and other families at our distribution bus stop is always a reminder that the needs far outweigh the support we are able to give. Still, Save the Children’s voucher assistance is clearly helping Abu-Salam and the orphaned boys I met today to meet at least some of their winter needs, and more importantly, to feel cared for. For me, that makes all the late nights and logistical challenges very much worth it.

*Names have been changed to protect identities

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