Six o'clock in the morning and already outside. There is no way to sleep more this morning, a big and important project is waiting for us.
Ezbet el Nakhl’s streets are empty, strangely quiet. Here, only early hours give you a soothing silence. Some people are wandering here and there in the streets, full of dust and potholes. Chill morning wind is well welcome on our cheeks, before the sultry heat of the afternoon.
For one week, the volunteers are expected to make donates to the poorest. This Wednesday is no exception, but it is still a small change for us because we are venturing far from the ragpickers district. The meeting is in Cairo’s center and we are so exciting that we absolutely don’t want to be late.
After a few minutes walk, we met again the classical Cairo turmoil: took-took, cars, and trucks, all of this sounds like a horns concerto. A group of eight Egyptian volunteers from Coptic Orthodox St. Mary Church are waiting for the bus.
I remember the trip as a tough experience! Twelve people tightened in a car, slaloming between bus and cars, avoiding the slowdowns without being able to avoid retarders.
We finally arrived in front of a huge and surprisingly very modern hospital with clean gardens. We just discover the world biggest hospital specialized in cancers of children. This Center can welcome more than three hundred people with full hospitalization and has a lot pedagogical rooms dedicated to the well-being of children.
I’m a nurse and to be honest, I was shocked to discover medical poverty in Egypt. Every healthcare costs a lot of money, with no aids for poor people.
This center was built only thanks to donations and it still running thanks to this system. Children from birth to 18 can “enjoy” continuity of care for free: an extraordinary luck in this country, especially when you know the miserable healthcare and social system over there. More than a modern architecture and quality medical tools, “Children’s Cancer Hospital” has its own church.
This is an incredible place, neon of the ceiling remind to visitors they’re into a hospital, in a country mainly populated by Muslims. This church owes its existence to Ola Ghabbour who wanted to keep a place of prayer for her Christian brothers. Father Bishoy, Coptic Orthodox Priest of the Santa Maria Church of Ezbet el Nakhl, at the initiative of this special day, invites us to settle in the first row.
Mass begins, in Arabic but I’m now fine with it, and a lot of people are praying in this tiny room, circled by generous incense streams. Three young mass servers catch my attention.
Dressed in white with lovely golden patterns, they are standing calm on the left side of the shrine. I can see despite their serious concentration that disease did not spared them.
The pride and admiration of these young angels make disappear even for an instant their tired eyes and their hairless pates…
His eyes are wide-open to better focus, the smaller one shows us a bald head... He has the face of children who have already experienced much more than they should have... little boy who had to grow up too fast.
Accompanied by his father, he regularly lift up his eyes to him, his smile having us forget until the smallest sign of cancer.
At the end of the ceremony we gave to a boy a coloring workbook with all the pencils he’d need; we absolutely wanted to distribute this to as much kids as we could before the end of the day! His smile is the most valuable “thanks” to us.
Later, two employees told us the story of the hospital construction, its funding and its future goals, but also how they do to respect all the hygiene precautions and measures to protect the health of the children, whom immune system is weaken by chemotherapy.
A mask over our mouth, we enter into some bedrooms to give coloring workbook to children. With our translator, I get inside Amir’s room. He is so small in his large bed. His mother is close to him. She let me approach to give the gift to her son. With his broken voice, he tells me he is 7 years old. Each word requires a great deal of effort; against fatigue of course but also against his shyness!
He seemed happy when I gave the coloring workbook to him and his mother confirmed he loves to draw and the colors.
I spoke to him in French, with the deep conviction that when you speak with the heart, there is no need to understand all the words.
I’ll always remember those few minutes spend with Amir, of the silence of the room and of our simple exchange of glances where I could read how grateful he was.
At the end of the day, seventy coloring workbooks were distributed to children suffering from cancer. Beyond the gift, we had simple but honest dialogues; our goal was not to give something but most and foremost to share our love with them.
“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop”, said Mother Theresa. This morning our little team of volunteers added a drop to the ocean of actions made to help children suffering from cancer. This was a great source of joy.
Clémence, volunteer in Egypt.
And if you can't go, support the actions of the association at the "Children's cancer hospital", donate.