Egypt is home to one of the oldest and grandest societies on earth. The land of pyramids and pharaohs plays prominently in the stories of African, Greek, Roman, and Arabic civilizations. Egypt is also featured in God’s redemptive story. Abraham, Moses, and Jesus all lived in Egypt. Egyptians today are proud inheritors of this brilliant past and rich culture.
However, like many great societies, Egypt is also home to the desperately poor, sick, and hurting. It is estimated that 20% of Egypt’s 90 million people live on less than $2/day. Many of these poor are Egyptian Christians (mostly Coptic Christians, or Copts, from the ancient Greek word for “Egyptian” – but Roman Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, and Evangelicals too), tracing their faith heritage back to St. Mark in the 1st century. Of course, poverty does not discriminate and Egyptians of all backgrounds suffer every day. It is among these poorest of the poor that we have been given the privilege to serve.
Egypt’s jewel on the Mediterranean is home to thousands of poor who have no opportunities in this once-thriving center of trade and tourism. Stephen’s Children operates community education centers here to help give children a foundation for school surrounded by Christ’s love.
The 18-million-person mega-city is home to millions of poor. They live in the largely ignored urban slums that sprawl across the once-fertile Nile floodplains. Many live in the notorious “garbage districts,” where families collect and sort rubbish from the city’s wider population. Despite their essential role (Cairo would literally be buried in garbage without them), garbage collectors remain impoverished and degraded by their work. They live in cramped one-room apartments, shared among 5-10 family members and whatever livestock they can afford. Without running water, electricity, or secure toilets – and surrounded by the sights and smells of garbage – many lose their sense of hope and dignity. Abuse and addiction are common. In places like these, children are often cast aside or forgotten. Education becomes an afterthought to survival, and the cycle of poverty continues generation after generation.
Stephen’s Children works to bring the light of Christ into these neighborhoods by building Community Education Centers and Schools. We mentor children one-on-one and teach vocational skills to those who cannot attend school. One of our campsites is in Greater Cairo as weel.
The challenges of life in Upper Egypt (a region extending from the southern tip of Cairo southward to the border with Sudan) differ somewhat from those in the urban slums. A largely agricultural region, the poor of Upper Egypt struggle to make ends meet every day. Education rates here are the lowest in the country and illiteracy is common. Religious intolerance is a part of everyday life for Egyptian Christians here. Kidnappings, church vandalism, and murders have led many to flee to Greater Cairo’s slums in search of a better life.
Stephen’s Children has built Community Education Centers in Upper Egypt for 20 years. We visit many children in their homes and provide safe transportation for children to worship at local churches.
Stephen’s Children operates a 100-acre desert farm northwest of Cairo. Here, we teach young men how to grow olives, dates, and other staple crops from the desert sands. The farm also serves as a camp site for children from Greater Cairo – many of whom have never left the slums.
Over the years, Stephen’s Children has been invited to establish work in other places where similar poverty occurs. By God’s grace, we have been able to open several community education centers and love the unloved in these places.