About six years ago, an ambitious college student on a trip to Germany attended a museum for the visually impaired named ’Dialogue in the Dark’. After spending two straight blind hours there, she made a decision to turn her life, and let’s just say a thousand others, upside down.
Helm is a non-profit organization that aims to promote the full inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in all aspects of life, and specifically, to facilitate their employment and ensure that private and public premises are accessible to all. This award winning organization won many prizes including Negma Social Entrepreneurship Competition in MIT, USA in 2013, and was also awarded the Rise Egypt Fellowship, Harvard University, USA for 2014-2016 and is part of our Hanefra7 Biki Emta campaign and movement.
Inspired by this museum visit, Amena El Saie co-founded ‘Helm’, Arabic for dream, organization. The dream to include, support, and help the people with different abilities in all aspects.
“I felt that I need to make a difference and make people more aware of the hardships that people with different abilities face to make an impact on their lives,” Amena says.
The 23-year-old at the time decided to quit her job at the very beginning of her career to pursue her dream. However, she found it largely challenging to convince people that community service could be more than just a secondary job.
“People think that in order to help others, they must first help themselves, which is true. However, one can find a life that balances both,” she adds.
Amena emphasizes the fact that community service initiatives can generate more work opportunities with promising futures like any other primary jobs.
With Helm’s ongoing expansion, the set of needs and requirements demanded from the team became higher to maintain the growth stage.
“People assume that working on the inclusion of the differently abled is automatically charity. However, we do have both the foundation and the for-profit. We need to profit to keep functioning,” she says.
Yet, the most pressing challenge that Helm is currently facing is that the field is highly critical and the know-how is still missing in Egypt.
Amena stresses that Helm’s real challenge and current main goal is to shift people and organizations’ mindset on disabilities, enabling them to see it as an opportunity and not a problem.
“For that to happen, we’re not working on just disability, we are working on the field of inclusion. It does not matter what industry, field, or at home, everything should be accessible to them,” she says.
She also says that our society is not inherently inclusive to the differently abled because they adapted to the conveniences of most people, and not all of them. Hence, people cannot treat them as a liability or decide to exclude them just because their needs are different.
“We have a big percentage of differently abled people in our community and we benefit from their inclusion too. They are not a liability on the government or the company and including them is not charity,” she explains.
Moving to her more personal struggles, Amena expresses that being a young female in the field of non-governmental organizations was indeed challenging.
“This is one the biggest challenges, especially that I care about how I look. A lot of people get shocked when they see me, they expect me to be older. As much as this should be a compliment, it can also be very difficult,” she adds.
Since the community grants respect based on age, she finds it impactful on how she is perceived and treated at first.
Yet, she insists on looking as representable and feminine as possible to prove that being a successful woman does not mean forgoing other vital aspects of womanhood.
“I feel like women sometimes feel like they’re secondary citizens. They feel like they need to achieve something to prove to the community and to themselves that they can. And they feel like they need to prove something to men. However, they end up proving themselves to other women as well,” she elaborates.
According to this amazing women, if women understood the uniqueness of their personalities and praise each other’s accomplishments, they would help lift one another up, and we can’t agree more!