Community Coexistence: Save the Children’s Forsa Project Promotes Integration in Egypt
By Rachael Corbishley, Emergency Health Assistant
Two weeks ago I arrived in Egypt to join Save the Children’s emergency team to work on the Syrian refugee response. It is my first deployment with Save the Children, and my time in Cairo so far has held a lot of ‘firsts’, including the opportunity to meet some of the vulnerable people supported by our programmes.
Community Fun Days
Save the Children, alongside one of our local partners Tadamon Council, has organised a series of community events in Cairo. These events aim to raise awareness among communities of the ‘Forsa’ project is being implemented in the Giza area of Greater Cairo. ‘Forsa’ means ‘opportunity’ in Arabic and is an integrated project combining child protection, education and health. The fun days are also a fantastic opportunity to bring together different nationalities and groups from the local communities.
When I arrive in Faysal I immediately spot the venue from the give-away bright red Save the Children vests and t-shirts sported by our staff and volunteers. As the event kicks off, children of all ages scamper off excitedly to the activities area where a world of paint, plasticine and balloons awaits. Meanwhile, parents chat among themselves while staff hand out leaflets to them and provide more information about the Forsa project.
The exact number of Syrian refugees in Egypt is not known, however over 78,000 Syrians have so far registered with UNHCR in the Greater Cairo area. I had the pleasure of meeting some of these families during my evening at the Faysal event.
Raghad* and her three children Anwar*, 6; Ghazal*, 3; and Bilal*, 1 have been in Egypt for a year and a half. She told me that their family chose to come to Egypt for two main reasons; she was fearful of living in a refugee camp in other countries, and felt that the Egyptian lifestyle was very similar to her life back in Syria. She likes that the cultures and traditions here in Egypt are familiar, but things are difficult for them financially. Raghad* explains to me that whilst her husband is able to work, all of their income is spent on rent and there is nothing left over for other expenses.
Every Monday and Wednesday, Anwar* and Ghazal* attend the Child Friendly Space run by Save the Children and Tadamon Council in Faysal. The CFS provides a safe and welcoming environment in which they can play, meet other children and receive psychosocial support.
Bringing together Egyptian and Syrian Communities
Despite the fact that Raghad* took pride in telling me how alike the Syrian and Egyptian cultures are, the two communities are often isolated.
I met an Egyptian mother who had come along with a Syrian friend of hers. When dusk fell, music and dancing - plus a puppet show - took over the event. As I watched these Syrian and Egyptian mothers dancing together and their children playing, I hoped that during my time in Cairo, Save the Children will be able to do more to encourage integration between the two communities.
*Names have been changed to protect identities