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I am sorry to say that but as luxurious housing complexes are thriving, shanty housing for the poor are on the rise. Fancy cars drive side by side with dilapidated buses down over-crowded streets and new hypermarkets are stocking up while children work the pittiest of jobs and search the garbage for leftovers. Unfortunately, the rich are becoming richer and the poor are becoming poorer and the gap is just widening. Widespread poverty with unequal distribution of income is a development conundrum faced by many developing nations like Egypt in their quest for economic growth and development. So is one month enough to alleviate poverty for the millions of Egyptians living on less than five pounds a day?
I am not talking here about year-round charity and unpurposeful giving but rather exhibiting social responsibility as smart, educated, and talented women and men to become contributing members to our communities and as role models to future generations. Living in an ivory tower without exhibiting any sort of responsibility towards our society and expecting the government to do everything would further exacerbate matters and would lead to further sentiments of disullionment and isolation within our own country. So what can we do?
Here are some tips for all of us to become more socially responsible all year round and not just during the month of Ramadan:
Start at home
Look around you at your house helpers. Do they know how to read and write for example? Wouldn’t it be great for your maid or nanny (of course if Egyptian) to be literate? How about you give half an hour daily of “home schooling” to your helper. If you do not have the time, sponsor her to attend a literacy class offered in her neighborhood.
Give with a purpose
When you give money, give with a purpose so the effects of your giving are empowering and not just mere charity. Support the building of a new health center or school serving the underprivileged; invest in aspiring entrepreneurs to start their own businesses as small as having a kiosk; you get the idea…But how to do it? There are many reputable associations (religious and non-religious) working throughout the country to alleviate poverty, promote education, and improve health for millions of Egyptians. You could channel your giving through them.
Buy for a cause
When buying a gift or a household accessory, why not support a worthy cause? Many associations support the development of authentic arts and crafts as a way of cultural preservation, fair trade, and income generation for otherwise marginalized populations on the verge of extinction. Check out this website www.fairtradeegypt.org for ideas. A unique gift with a story behind it is priceless!
Volunteer (if you can)
If you have the time and energy, you will find volunteering a rewarding experience. You could choose the organization you want to volunteer for based upon either their geographic location; their main field of work; or their targeted beneficiary population. There are over 17,000 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) registered with the Ministry of Social Solidarity (previously the Ministry of Insurance and Social Affairs) yet only about 10% of this number is actually active and doing something on the ground. There is an excellent guide online for organizations in the Greater Cairo area that you could choose from to either support or volunteer for. The guide is available at www.cairoguideforvolunteers.org.
If you would like more information about Egypt’s current state of human development, please visit the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Egypt website at www.undp.org.eg and check out Egypt’s Human Development Database.
Finally, I would like to close this article with an old Chinese proverb “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. Ramadan Karim.