st. andrew's holiday fundraising campaign 2009-2010

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An update on St. Andrew's Refugee Services in Cairo, Egypt accaompanied by stories of our successes and needs yet unfilled.

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  • Cairo, Egypt

    Holiday Fundraising Campaign 2009-2010

  • Elementary and secondary education for over 200 refugee children

    Fiona bursts into the director's office beaming with a smile from ear to ear. "UNHCR agreed to resettle [another unac-companied minor] this morning!" To Fiona, the Director of StARS' Children's Education Program, this is something to smile about.

    A small percentage of the students enrolled at St. Andrews CEP program are unaccompanied minors typically kids with no family or home, forced to band together to spend the night wherever they can and work jobs on top of their studies. While education for children is the number one pri-ority for most parents, these children unfortunately lack the support system of a home. StARS alleviates the incredible obstacles these children face by paying for uniforms, school obstacles these children face by paying for uniforms, school transportation, and accreditation fees and of course pro-vides all children with two hot meals a day. But the reality is that life for these young CEP students is very hard with-out family and support. To most of us, being with family around the holidays is something to look forward to each year. Most of us would not like to imagine what being alone on these special days would feel like. Last year, all the unac-companied minors had a dinner together at Fiona's on Christmas day. It was not exactly Christmas for everyone at the dinner as our students are from numerous religious backgrounds, but it felt good to be together celebrating in some semblance of a family gathering.

    Despite her efforts to create the vestiges of family, Fiona is the first to admit that these young people need more. They are in extreme risk living in Cairo without family or connec-tions. So for this reason, Fiona beams when she hears an-other one of her unaccompanied students will be resettled to the U.S. She worries for them when they arrive in Ameri-ca, where resettlement case workers will assist and follow them for a few months or until they turn eighteen, but still, there are jobs in America, more jobs than Cairo. And then there is the potential for college for these young people in the States.

    Still, these unaccompanied young people are but portion of CEP's student body. There are over 180 other students in CEP and a waiting list of over 200. The waiting list for childrens classes has been closed for 18 months, but not be-cause of lack of interest. It's a bittersweet fact that facilities are simply operating beyond capacity. Yet we still hope to make our services available to all the refugee children on our list in the near future, but cannot do this without the reour list in the near future, but cannot do this without the re-newed, generous support of donors. Like every year and every gift, there is the promise of so much potential.

    The courtyard within St. Andrews is always alive with the energy of shouting, playful kids. But upon second glance, it is evident that this is not just recess time these kids have no-where to go and nothing else to do when they are not in class.

    As of last year, St. Andrews has been fortunate enough to afford full-day education for its oldest students. All older students are now in school from 9 to 3, which is a great stride for their educa-tion. However, this also means that younger siblings are either waiting around for their afternoon class, or waiting after their morning class for their older siblings to finish and accompany them home. In addition to the younger siblings kicking a ball around the yard, there are plenty of children with working pararound the yard, there are plenty of children with working par-ents, waiting for their parents arrival with the workdays end.

    To engage these younger children in the classroom while their older brothers and sisters are also in class is ideal they are al-ready on school grounds, so it would be beneficial to make use of their time. CEP hopes to expand its full-day education to the younger students, but unfortunately does not have the capacity in classrooms or teachers at the moment.

    A new portable classroom costs approximately $8,000 and could accommodate 25 students. This means just two class-rooms could allow a full-time program for younger students and provide an opportunity to advance their education. As much as the laughter and shrieks of kids playing warms the heart, a pro-ductive and educational use of time is within our reach.

  • African Refugee CooperativePatterns and circles, making everything out of nothing

    In the entry hall at the top of the stairs, visitors are greeted by a large, colorful painting of two women walking. Behind the women are groups of more women, each group painted within a circle. Upon first glance, the circles do not seem like the focal point of the painting. However, other paintings that grace the various walls of the office have similar circles built into the design.the design. During a recent Christmas bazaar showcasing work from artists at StARS, Samuel, an artist from Sudan, was asked about the recurring circle themes in his paintings. He answered simply that it is the hole of hope. A refugee who has lived in Cairo for several years, he has painted for many years and studied art back in Sudan. When asked about the hole of hope, he talks about an exhibition in Cairo in 2004 that used talks about an exhibition in Cairo in 2004 that used art to elicit conversations and emotions about the con-cept of human dignity. It was during this exhibition that he first painted the hole of hope into his work. Now, the hole of hope is visible in each piece he paints. Samuels already beautiful paintings are made even richer by the knowledge that the simple circle that shows up in a detailed sun, a colorful ball, or outline of another image always represents something greater: the power of hope. Samuel is part of the African Refugee Cooperative (ARC) at StARS, a cooperative of over 30 refugees who create art to sell through a variety of venues in Cairo. Some of the artists, like Samuel, studied art in their home countries before moving to Cairo. Others have learned various skills here that they have put to use to create beautiful scarves, jewelry, mirror frames made of recycled materials, and a variety of other creations. of recycled materials, and a variety of other creations. Around the corner of the guild hall of StARS, the ARC has a long, narrow workspace and a shop filled with the various goods. Artists come and go, often working in the outdoor workspace. Ismail, the keeper of the keys and creator of many frames and paintings, can always be convinced to open up the shop--even when it is not shop hours. Enchanted visitors could spend it is not shop hours. Enchanted visitors could spend hours in the low-ceilinged, jumbled space, digging through the various treasures and creations.

    Albino, another artist from Sudan, showcases his work both in the ARC and in a gallery in downtown Cairo. On Saturdays, he takes StARS refugee chil-dren to the gallery, exposing them to the power and beauty found through creating and enjoying art. All his pieces are charged with energy and dynamism, as is his home, the walls and ceiling of which are splashed with the vibrant colors of his work. splashed with the vibrant colors of his work.

    However, one of his most compelling pieces is a well-worn scarf that he wears many days as the weather grows colder in Cairo. The scarf is an elaborate pattern like many others sold throughout the city, but the real beauty is in the words he has embroidered in white, running all along the bottom: Make something out of nothing. When people ask about the words, he happily takes the scarf off, unfolding it and showing the message. He always laughs as he shows the scarf, saying, See, it is true.

    -Kathleen McRae, Volunteer since November 2009

  • Resettlement Legal Aid ProjectBuilding pathways of justice to new beginnings

    RLAP has worked with over 700 refugees in Cairo this year on a variety of legal matters. Staff and interns interview clients to determine legal eligibility for refugee status or resettlement to another country,communicate with governmental agencies on behalf of clients, and prepare testimonies and appeals.

    An Iraqi doctor working in an Iraqi hospital, he had seen more unnecessary death during his residency than many doctors see in their entire careers. Dead bodies peppered his commute to work; sectarian expenditures tossed to the roadside like spent bottles. The body of a coworker was among them; a doctor shot dead on his morning commute. If there was one thing Shakir learned during his last few years in Iraq and after his flight to Egypt, it was that there is nothing that will be with you forever. A sad was that there is nothing that will be with you forever. A sad truth from a man who seemed only to want happiness.

    Shakir, a refugee and RLAP client, arrived at StARS afterfleeing to Egypt in an effort to escape the long arm of sectarianviolence in Iraq. Upon arriving in Egypt, he learned that his medi-cal residency in Iraq would not be recognized to practice medi-cine in Egypt. A qualified medical doctor from the top medical school in Iraqwith the unparalleled depth of experience that war brings to the surgical theatrewas met with the sad reality that his expensive application for a medical license in Egypt was rejected without appeal (and without an official letter explaining the reason).

    In Egypt, his medical residency was not only officially unrecog-nized, but its equivalent was a twelve-month at-cost internship running into the thousands of U.S. dollars. He paid for this, but was still denied a license to practice medicine in Egypt. It seemed every attempt to change his life for the better was met with an-other disappointment.

    But