In Cairo, since this winter of 2020, French and Egyptian volunteers of SOS Chrétiens d’Orient distribute a hundred meals at night, once a week to the humble and abandoned on the streets. A moving mission in the silence of the night.
′′On Saturday night, after the dinner, when the city falls asleep, we still have one last mission before we enjoy our weekend: the patrols. A night trip to some poor areas of Cairo to distribute lunch pack to people sleeping on the ground, the abandoned, the plague victims, the rags who tirelessly sweep the streets and collect trash from sidewalks or heaped on the floor.
Tonight we have enough packs to feed 120 people. With our translators we head to Madame Leïla's house. Before the coronavirus, this woman was in charge of a daycare, but today she loves to prepare the 120 meals that will feed the poor in Cairo. Once we get there, at the top of a concrete staircase, we knock at the door. A cheerful woman welcomes us. Once inside, we discover her living room filled with bags containing bread, soup, vegetable salads, rice and some meat. Little by little, it's a real red-hearted white t-shirt ballet that sets up: we need to fill the chests of our cars with all the dishes prepared.
Once the chests are loaded, the maraude begins. It's already past midnight, but there is no time to feel tired. Each group is assigned a predefined area in Cairo and crosses the very active streets, looking for people sleeping on the floor or rags.
Recognizable to their orange tunic, like prisoners, they walk in groups of three or four collecting trash, sweeping the sand off the streets, which will still be present the next morning. We stop at their level, giving them lunch pack out of the car window. In a country where begging is banned, we must discretely approach the sleeping homeless, to avoid scaring them. We drop off the packages near them so they don't get their meal stolen by others.
Every Saturday we cross the same people: this woman with her two children sleeping at a crossroads on the ground, this man sleeping on a concrete ledge under a bridge or another living on the corner of the station. No roof, no meal, no family, just loneliness, everyday.
“Often very pudic, they shyly smile, which is more rewarding than any other actions.”
As a volunteer who recently arrived in Egypt, the patrol is both baffling and striking. Indeed, coming from the West where we prefer to turn our eyes away from poverty than to be directly confronted with it. Here the patrols create awareness in a fraction of a second. The level of poverty I'm facing tonight, is a revelation. In our life, we all had to face misery, but here the expression of having nothing makes sense. Naked, mutilated, horrible skinny people lie on the floor in everyone's eyes, without anything being done for them.
“Paradoxically, they have nothing but their expression when we give them their meal, is a gift they make to us and it is beautiful.”
They give us, may they be they children, adults or seniors. Because in Egypt, poverty has no age. We regularly meet lone mothers with young children; it is hard to bear when we come from a country where the State cared for.
This emergency aid operation costs a total of € 900 per month to the mission in Egypt. Each lunch pack costs € 2,15. Support the upcoming volunteer’s patrols.
Pierre-Marie, volunteer in Egypt.