There are approximately 75 thousand Sudanese refugees living in Cairo without adequate access to housing, education or health-care. A group of Sudanese refugees from diverse communities have joined together to form an organization to help other refugees in need.
The Naath Community Development is a non-profit organization that assists Sudanese and other African refugees living in Cairo. The organization is focused on capacity building within the community, and is working towards a self-sustainable model. The organization currently provides a pre-school as well as adult education services…developed through co-operation between…diverse Sudanese communities who have been displaced in Cairo by the ongoing violent conflict in the Sudan.
One day, not too long ago, I was teaching my two sections of Argument and Persuasion at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. We were discussing genocide, the place where all humanity and compassion seems to be sucked into some blackhole of human apathy and hate, and a student proudly exclaimed, “I am a member of STAND, and we promote awareness of the genocide occurring in Darfur.” The student then made us aware of the violence that had occurred (and continues to occur) in the region. I included the website (www.standnow.org) in several classes after that to illustrate that even Freshman college students can effect positive change in the world if they are informed and, in this digital age, connected. Earlier this year, I started my conversations with a man that would extend my understanding of the spectrum of human suffering that genocidal movements cause, specifically but not exclusively, the plight of the refugee community in a land not their own.
He had successfully found refuge in Egypt, even developed a community of refugees that would help other displaced Sudanese establish themselves in Cairo. He is pictured in a suit in the pictures shown on his community’s website, www.naathcairo.com, the children playing and adult learners they serve showing confidence in their studies. Yes, they were the same as the kids I know here in New Jersey, smiling and having fun but there was a severe difference, and the adult learners were the same as my students, but with one glaring difference—they were all struggling day in and day out in a place full of political and social turmoil and at the same time discriminated against in work, in housing, in all rights and privileges given native men and women.
This well dressed, well off looking man, named Bayak Chuol Puoch, Director of the center, was another refugee like the people he serves selflessly regardless of nationality in a sometimes unwelcoming city. Here is what it says about him on the NCD website’s Board of Director’s page, “Mr.Bayak Chuol Puoch is the former Chairperson of Nuer Community in Egypt and is the founder and current Executive Director of the Naath Community Development. Mr.Puoch came to Cairo as a refugee and devoted his time to serve the Sudanese and other African refugees in Egypt. He graduated in June of 2010 with a Diploma in Nursing at Canadian College in Cairo.” He told me at one point in our several chat and Skype conversations of the past year that his wife worked in a labor position for 12 hours a day to pay for the rent and upkeep bills of the center—and he also wanted to make clear that his workers, people taking care of the kids during the day and the teachers serving the adult learners at night, most months had to forgo pay for the good of the community.
He contacted me wanting assistance with something very simple, the purchase of a refrigerator for his center to be able to store milk and other perishables, including medicine, for his community daycare service and adult learning center. ICAN worked with Narina Walls to find a donor and before I knew it, Narina posted on the ICAN Facebook Page that an organization had purchased a $400 USD refrigerator for the center and planned to continue their support in the future in the form of material goods (food and the like):
Another BIG Thank You to the Manager of the ACE Club Maadi, Cairo (Association of Cairo Expatriates) Alisa and the Committee Members for once again supporting Naath Community Centre in helping the Sudanese Refugee children in their care by donating LE500 worth of food weekly to ensure that the children receive healthy, nutritious meals. Your ongoing support is greatly appreciated and the Volunteers at Naath thank you sincerely with all their hearts!!! Our next step at Naath is cleaning up the garden and we will be cultivating Bean Sprouts as a project with the children, preparing the garden and each child will have their plant patch and will be responsible for this. We will also be growing carrots, tomatoes and courgettes to start with. Looking forward to this great group project starting!
Bayak and I spoke on Skype a few months ago, and he agreed to extend the idea of sustainability by joining the ICAN Garden Campaign, clearing a section of the center’s yard and growing some of the food they need to feed the children healthy meals. He also was interested in asking me a favor—something I could do from behind my computer to help the Naath center and my new friend, Mr. Puoch, gain volunteers in the Cairo area. He wanted a basic help wanted advertisement to put on his website. He said that they were looking for volunteers willing to devote a few hours a week playing games and educating the children during the day or teaching and tutoring the Naath adult learners at night. I said I would certainly try, so a week or so later I returned these paragraphs to him via e-mail which he posted at his center website here www.naathcairo.com/volunteer.htm :
Open Call For Volunteers in the Cairo Area!
The Naath Community Development Center is actively seeking people in the Cairo area to assist them in their mission to provide quality care to their Sudanese refugee community’s children and offer education in the form of night classes to their parents and other adult members. Due to recent events and the political climate in Egypt, our community has been at times unable to accomplish these missions due to a lack of funds to pay caregivers for the children and teachers for the adults, or to even buy enough food for the children to be well fed. It has been a struggle.
Please inquire how you might help by simply playing a game with the children or offering your skills in English or other subjects to our adult learners. With your help, the Naath Community Development Center in Cairo can continue to serve this refugee community until the time when it is safe and feasible for these Southern Sudanese people to reclaim their homeland. Thank you for your consideration, volunteering a little time each week makes a very big difference for these displaced children and their families. Even if you have no time to offer the center, please consider lending material or monetary support to the NCD in Cairo, and know that you have made a world of difference in the lives of this sustainable, refugee community. Please contact Bayak Chuol Puoch. ICAN is dedicated to helping children and their communities no matter where they live, doing our part to construct this new paradigm of sharing partnerships instead of charity, sustainability education available to all, and developing campaigns and programs promoting the powerful learning and world community building tools of computers and the internet so that the children might build a brighter tomorrow.
Just spoke with Bayak recently, and he said they needed help with the vegetable garden, and I replied that I was working on our first major ICAN Blog essay and that his call would be answered by ICAN members around the world. So please, ICAN members and guests to this blog alike, take the time to visit www.naathcairo.com and write Bayak an e-mail saying you want to help them to develop a model of sustainability that can be repeated in refugee communities displaced by war and natural disasters around the world. Let’s help them in any way we can to be successful: volunteer if you are a Cairo local or intend to visit the city, donate material goods (Bayak suggested the following food items if you are local–Macaroni, Flour, Sugar, Oil, Milk, Tea, Tomato paste, Salt, Dried Lentils, Rice, Beans, Onions and Potatoes, or Pastas) or monetary gifts, or simply visit their website and read about their organization’s brave and necessary mission.
What struck me the first time I visited the site several months ago was this one simple line about the meaning of the word Naath in the Nuer language. He stated, “The meaning of ‘Naath’ in the Sudanese Nuer language is ‘all the people of the world,’ and Naath Community Development wants to provide services to refugees from anywhere in Africa that had been displaced to Cairo.” After reading this I immediately thought, this group has the right idea—they don’t care where in Africa a person lived—if they were in need of help while in Cairo, then they would not be turned away. Bayak Chuol Puoch and his employees were selflessly giving of themselves for the good of the community and setting a fabulous example of how we might just all be able as people to sit down at the table of our greater human family, break bread together even if it is by video chat, get to know each other even if it is by e-mail or postal letter, let our kids get to know one another also as they are the future of our human species, meet as many people as this emergent technology of the Internet allows, and always make choices in line with the good of the human family and the health of our natural environment. Everyone, not just physicians, should prescribe to this part of the Modern Hippocratic Oath that I will provide to you as both my closing and my plea for assistance on the behalf of Naath Community Development Center and my Naath Brother, Bayak Puoch: “I will remember that I remain a member of society, with…obligations to all my fellow human beings.”
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post and be sure to come back often to see who we are supporting at ICAN with innovative campaigns like ICAN Garden—a campaign that promotes the sustainable practice of growing organic food locally and in schools or ICAN Communicate–an email, social network, and Skype username list which will allow schools, communities, and families to open lines of communication not possible only a few years ago. If you have any ideas for campaigns like these two—small acts of connection and compassion that need not cost a thing for the participant—please contact me at email@example.com…and Be the ICAN Revolution!
Best Wishes to the Human Family,
Damon Matthew SmithDirector, ICAN