Resala AUC Launches Microfinance Projects to Help Deweika Residents

Ahmed is a baker in Deweika shantytown, one of the most underprivileged areas in Cairo. His tiny bakery shop had old, broken machinery, so he couldn’t produce enough bread to earn a decent living. However, through a microfinance loan given to him by Resala AUC student club, he was able to buy new machinery and, thereby, expand and increase his sales, developing his project into a prosperous community bakery. He repays the loan to Resala AUC in small increments, which are used then to support other microfinance projects in the area.

“These loans help the poor generate a sustainable source of income,” said Dina Hussein, architectural engineering sophomore and public relations head of Resala AUC. “We not only provide financial support, but also help in managing the projects and providing skills training. Instead of giving out money to the residents, we are helping them help themselves. The ultimate aim is for them to become financially independent and gradually pull themselves out of poverty.”

The microfinance project, which began this semester, is one of several initiatives spearheaded by the club members in Deweika. Working with Al-Asheera Al-Muhammadeya nongovernmental organization, the students collected almost LE 23,000 in donations to help repair 13 houses there last spring. With a database provided by the NGO of the poor families living in the area, the club members visit the homes of many of these families to see what they need; create a timetable for house pair; buy the required materials, including sand and bricks; and participate in the actual repair process. The second phase of the house-repair project is beginning this fall.

“Deweika is an extremely poor area in Nasr City that many people don’t know about,” explained Hussein. “Most of the houses there have broken windows, cracked ceilings that let in rainwater during winter and no doors –– just a piece of cloth or wood instead. The happiness on the faces of the families and their children was indescribable when they had a ceiling to protect them in winter, a door to keep them safe, as well as electricity and plumbing. We choose the poorest of the poor, but there are hundreds of houses that are in urgent need of repair.”

The activities of Resala AUC in Deweika extend to children as well. Club members visit the area every weekend to teach children various subjects, including English, Arabic, math, and arts and crafts. “Many of the children’s scores have improved as a result of these classes,” noted Hussein.

In addition, the club is beginning a project that aims at stopping teachers from beating up children in public schools in Deweika, as well as improving the children’s behavior in the classroom. “Having visited many of these schools as part of our regular programs,” noted Hussein, “we noticed that teachers hit students when they don’t perform or behave well. We are working to create a full-fledge rehabilitation program in one school to train teachers to stop beating children, and to promote positive behavior among the students. This program would serve as a model for other schools in the area.”

Most recently, Resala AUC – in coordination with other community-service clubs at AUC – organized a blood drive campaign on campus, which resulted in 137 bags of blood donated to the Egyptian Blood Bank; an odheya campaign to distribute meat to the underprivileged during Eid Al Adha (Animal Sacrifice Feast); as well as a keswa (clothing) campaign, giving more than 200 families and their children used clothes at nominal prices. “We have a responsibility to help these people live a decent life,” affirmed Hussein. “It is not their fault that they live in these awful –– sometimes inhumane –– conditions, and we need to take action to change that. It not only makes them happy, but makes us feel that we’re doing something useful in society.”

Resala AUC is one of more than 10 community-service clubs at the University. For more information on the activities of these clubs,click here.