A few days ago, I wrote about my desire to visit the village of Mensafis, in Minya province. As you know, that desire will have to remain unfulfilled. However, I do have a friend, Halina, who has traveled to Mensafis to see the work that is being done there. She recently wrote an article that appeared in the Maadi Messenger, and she graciously gave me permission to reprint it here, along with some photos she took during her visit. It is this article that first drew my attention to the need in Mensafis and to the work that is being done there. After reading the article, I showed it to Jeff, and it was he who suggested that we support this work to the extent that we can. I hope it opens your eyes as it opened mine.
The governorate of Minia[*], 240km [note from Deborah: about 150 miles] from Cairo, is best known among tourists for its important archaeological sites including Beni Hassan, Tourna El Gebel and Tell El Amarna, a capital city established and built by the Pharoah Akhenaten in 1353 BC. However, visitors to the area do not catch a glimpse of the reality of life that is marked by the highest unemployment rate in Upper Egypt with around 1 million poor, including ultra-poor, living on the margins of poverty.
In 2007 an Order of nuns, that has been working tirelessly among poor rural communities in Egypt for 50 years, set up a mission in a small village in Minia with the aim of living among the poor and deprived families to help improve their health and living conditions and give the children hope for a better future.
Most of these families rent a small plot of land and depend on agriculture for their livelihood. They live in dilapidated, badly ventilated and windowless houses that are damp in winter and stifling-hot in summer. Few have electricity and often families are crowded into one single room in which they cook, sleep and even shelter their farm animals.
Inadequate access to clean water and the lack of sanitation in the village leads to a high rate of kidney problems and intestinal diseases - hepatitis C is rife among adults and children and few have any possibility of being cured. For most villagers the nearby canal is their only water supply and a place for children to bathe, for women to wash their clothes, pots and pans, and for everyone to dump their garbage.
Children can attend government schools but the standard of education is low. As parents struggle to earn a living, few can afford to send their children to better schools and many children do not go beyond preparatory level or drop out of school to help their parents working in the fields.
Villagers look forward to regular house calls by the Nuns who listen to their problems with compassion, distribute donated clothes and shoes, help pay for medication in extreme cases and teach and encourage women to improve hygiene in and around their homes. As community life is centered on the local parish that provides the only recreational facilities in the village, the Nuns have set up a mothers/toddlers play group and hold regular literacy classes for adults and children that are always well attended.
The Nuns have a big challenge ahead of them. As some of the Nuns have nursing qualifications, one of their immediate projects is to set up a dispensary clinic in the village where they can treat minor injuries and illnesses on the spot, detect symptoms of serious ailments in advance and help to pay for vital medical treatments. By donating to the Gold Basket you can help them to lay the ground work for this clinic so they can continue their mission to better the lives of the villagers.
The Gold Basket that is mentioned in the last paragraph is the reason why Halina wrote this article for the magazine. Each month at the meeting of the Maadi Women's Guild, one charity is highlighted. It is featured in that month's Maadi Messenger, and a brief presentation about the charity is given at the meeting. Then the Gold Basket is passed. All of the money that is put into the Gold Basket is given directly to the charity. The Sisters received generous support during this month's meeting, but it obviously was impossible to raise as much money in one meeting as they need in order to continue--and expand--their work in Mensafis. For this reason, Jeff and I feel led to continue to give to the Sisters as we are able. If you would like to support this ministry as well, please email me.
* The Arabic alphabet is very different from the English alphabet. Therefore, when writing Arabic words and names using English letters, various spellings are equally valid--even though I write the province name as "Minya" and Halina writes it as "Minia," both are equally correct.