‘Children used to play on the rubbish, and treat it like a mountain to climb,’ explains 48-year-old grandmother Sami Ha Salah. ‘The smell was awful. It was very depressing.’
Pollution and disease
The dumping of everything from food scraps to dead dogs, nappies to broken bottles was proving a major health and environmental concern for the residents of Rashah, Greater Cairo, Egypt.
The area had become an unsafe source of pollution and disease. Asthma and breathing conditions were common.
With support from Christian Aid partner the Coptic Orthodox Church Bless (Bless), the community were encouraged to have their say and given the confidence to believe they could make a difference.
Bless works throughout the country, setting up community development committees and giving residents the training, technical expertise and know-how to begin to undertake their own initiatives to end poverty.
With their support, communities like Rashah are improving literacy, housing, health, access to clean water, sanitation and family income.
Having already established an elected committee to handle the health and environmental concerns in Rashah, community leaders – volunteers chosen by the committee - began a series of awareness-raising activities and cleaning campaigns.
A clean, green place to play
Sami Ha was involved from the start. ‘I wanted to make people be proud of where they lived. I encouraged everyone to clean in front of their own homes. We provided brushes and baskets,’ she says.
The community was soon filled with a sense of responsibility and duty to their neighbours. When local leaders asked what they wanted to do, the response was unanimous; get rid of the rubbish and replace it with a public park.
The committee negotiated with local organisations and arranged for the necessary building work, and sure enough, a green space was created.
Brick walls, too, were built around existing rubbish disposal areas, thereby making the surrounding area much safer and cleaner for all residents.
For Sami Ha, the project has made a real difference: ‘All the children go there to play now. It’s much better for us.’
Her seven-year-old granddaughter, Maria, is impressed, too. ‘I like playing here with my brother. There’s no rubbish, it’s clean. We can run around on the grass. It’s fun,’ she says.
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