Amer Naser, one of our longtime volunteers was in Cairo recently. He was on the way back home to Canada from Umrah. He decided to pay a surprise visit to an orphanage in Cairo where GiveLight is supporting 50 of its children. Below is his heartfelt account.
I was returning from Umrah with family, and we had planned to visit Cairo for couple of days. I was aware of Givelight Cairo project for kids with special needs, something about this project had struck a chord with me when it was launched, it was special in so many ways. Like everyone I have family and friends with special needs kids, and I was always inspired by these parents and families. Being orphan is challenging enough, I can only imagine the vulnerability of orphan girls with special needs in a third world country. These were the most vulnerable of the vulnerable, kids that need support, most likely all their lives. It was heartwarming to see that project kick off.
Now I was in Cairo and really wanted to see if I can visit the orphanage, however I had not arranged for the visit earlier, so it was quite a remote shot for things to fall in place within a day and visiting the place. Moreover, it was a weekend in Egypt, I didn’t have local cell phone, busy day ahead, I don’t speak Arabic, so any meaningful phone conversation was not possible. I was almost certain it won’t happen. I messaged Dian that it’s a long shot and may not happen. However, Allah swt has his ways.
Early morning, I started searching online for the organization GiveLight partnered with, somehow, I was able to find the name, address, and some phone numbers. I sent them WhatsApp messages and started making cold calls, they responded after few tries but they spoke only in Arabic. Later in the day I used my driver as translator on phone and finally after a few hours we landed with someone at the orphan home who could speak in English.
They said 40 orphan girls with special needs in total ranging from 5 to 25 years old. I asked them what they usually love to eat, and I will drop by with dinner. I was expecting some big meaty local Egyptian dish, but not really! I was surprised when I heard McDonalds (I heard KFC was a close second 🙂 So that day no dinner was cooked for kids. We arrived by 8:30pm with 45 McDonald’s meals for all kids and staff; Chicken sandwich, fries, and pop. This was not part of our trip but excitement within my family was palpable! What a beautiful addition to our trip Alhamdulillah!
We were greeted by a security guard on gate. Staff welcomed us, all seemed excited to receive visitors. Office was clean and so were the 3 apartments. We entered first apartment with little girls. What a lovely welcome! I was surrounded by dozen little angels with big smiles, all approaching at the same time. Few came over and shook hands, when I lowered down on knees, some were amused with my bald umrah head when I took my cap off, some held my hand for a while. Volunteers helped distribute food. Some kids had a challenge even opening the bag (may Allah make it easy for these girls and protect them). Volunteers, staff, my sister, and I help them settle down with food. Chatter and commotion in the room was no different from excited toddlers in any McDonalds back home in Canada. I stole few fries form some toddlers! Just wanted to eat from same bag as theirs, like any other kid they moved the bag away from me 🙂
Overall, this experience was far beyond my expectations. We were touched by the warmth of these kids. We took some photos and moved on to next apartment. The second and third floors had bigger girls 13–25-year-olds. Same excitement, big smiles for the McDonalds. My sister, nephew helped distribute food. My sister who is a doc, right away spotted several medical conditions.
No one in staff spoke English. But we were able to communicate through our driver. Umrah is overwhelming experience enough. We could not have asked for a better experience to wrap up. Just underscores the impact GiveLight has on lives of orphan children far away.