Today we are in Ezbet el-Nakhl, in the heart of the district of the rag pickers, with Dr. Adel, the doctor of the rag pickers of Cairo, who agreed to answer our questions.
Good morning doctor! How did start working here in Ezbet el Nakhl?
I believe first that it is thanks to the Lord, to Providence and to the Virgin Mary. I met Sister Emmanuelle in 1979 in the Church of the Virgin. She lived among the rag pickers whose rudimentary living conditions often made them sick. "Don't you want to come from time to time to help us? " she asked me the first day we met. How could I have refused?
In the beginning, I visited the sick families with her. And in fact, one of the sheet cabins has been transformed into the first "Luxury Clinic", with a summary furniture: a simple table, three chairs, the stethoscope, the thermometer, an examination table - a sofa with a mattress, and in a corner, a small table with a jug, a towel and some soap for the minimum of hygiene.
Now, thanks to the Lord, to the generosity of many, to the ragpickers themselves and to Sister Emmanuelle, the Salem Medical-Social Centre has been built in the heart of the rag picker neighbourhood. It is home to many services including a hospital, a centre for disabled people, for centre for the elderly, a kindergarten and a school. I thank the Lord for everything he has done so far.
Education and health problems remain, it seems to me. Can you tell us about the school project which you want to build here in Ezbet?
The first school, Mahaba School, was built in the neighborhood years ago. In the early days, it welcomed 200 students, but the demand has grown dramatically. Very quickly, 3000 children were entrusted to us.
In 1980s, the neighborhood counted only 4000 rag pickers. Today, they are 20,000 school age children of the 1 million inhabitants of the neigbourhood. Even if all the inhabitants of the neighbourhood are not rag pickers, all live under almost the same threshold of poverty.
No less than 1500 children can go to school here each day. For this reason, we dream of a new school. Together with Sister Maria, the superior of the Congregation of the Daughters of Mary and the director of the Salam Centre, we have managed to pay for a 12,600 m² piece of land. Now, we want to start construction on 8750 m² of this site. The rest of the field will be used for sports and multiple other activities. To change the rag pickers’ life, to get them out of poverty and give them a future, we must take care of them and educate them. These are two absolute priorities.
This school is a great dream and a great hope! Let us pray to the Lord so that He can help us achieve this project.