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Volunteers' testimony - "Not moving is not living. What you give to time, time will give it back to you."

EN - Friday, 22 November 2019

The first year of medical studies can only startle students who dare to confront it. You discover inside yourself a rage to conquer, a rage to accept medical competition challenges, and most of all a will to be elsewhere. Then one day you wake up with this desire to move, which was my case.

As the new year approaches, while some people take their new resolutions, I began my researches for a future departure. 

sos chretiens orient egypte bidonville ezbet el nakhl

So here I am, off to Egypt! After a week in Cairo, I am sent in a slum of Ezbet-el-Nakhl, mainly inhabited by ragpickers, usually referred as Zabalins, and Copts from extremely poor backgrounds. They traditionally work on picking and sorting of the waste.

These people live in a despair, overlooked by authorities and the local population. Indeed, we cannot count how many times we had to explain the road to get there to taxi drivers or Cairo residents.

In front of this anthill of activities, I didn’t know what to expect.

All I wanted was to discover the humanity, the true one, the one that every person going on a humanitarian mission is seeking. I wanted to discover it and finally make myself useful.

And this was here, with the children, women, and mothers, that I realized how heart-warming a smile can be.

Most of the time adults are undemonstrative, but this is not the same for children! Their affection is candid and their feelings are true. This is how, during a morning with the kids of Ezbet, that the tough reality of life hits me.

I understood that despite our differences, the language barrier, and our very opposite cultures, we all had that same sensitivity. We are basically the same, all looking for happiness.

sos chretiens orient volontaires et enfants egypte

A child cry when he is upset, laugh with you but can also be a little bit beasty. A child is spontaneous. He is often a self-portrait, a mirror of what we really are. This is what I experienced with Bolo.

Bolo is a little shrimp of 6 years old, playful, energetic… But once in the street, his behavior is very different, as if he was startled by city noises, sights, and feelings. 

I feel his hand squeezing harder and harder as we approach the day care. He sticks to my arm and then calms down, I can see now his little angel face, crisped.

My little Zabalin is not by my side anymore but already running straight to his parents’ arms, his safe house. I finally get the tearing that this little boy with burned skin and deep eyes lives every day.

sos chretiens orient egypte chiffonniers du caire ezbet el nakhl

Each morning, his parents drop him off at the nursery: he does not have the choice and does not understand. I better get his sadness to leave them every morning and his bliss to meet them by the evening.  

I also know that I am not here to achieve extraordinary things, but to give a little bit of my time, to share moments of happiness with these kids and entertain them. Because what you give to time, time will give it back to you.

Humanitarian is far from a superficial thing, it is a reunion with ourselves, with the others. We rediscover real principles, certainties that we have lost. You are yourself, natural, authentic.

In the end, comforting this little guy, speaking to his heart even if he did not understand me, hugging him and discussing with his parents, gives me a loud wake up call.

As in France, I was here to ensure my big sister’s role, to make sure that everything was okay and that everyone would have satisfaction. A role sometimes forgotten. 

Bolo has a remarkable brightness, not the one you will find at big debates but the one capable of feeling, capable of keeping memories. A real wild and raw spirit. He had a little hint of a smile when I approached like a ghost and a mischievous smile when playing hide-and-seek.  

We had, thanks to this event, created a peculiar relationship. A trusting relationship maybe, without seeking to change the world but only trying to adapt to it.

I witnessed the surprising proximity between the abundance and the naught. As humans, we have to navigate between these two in order to grow up.

sos chretiens orient egypte visite aux familles docteur adel et volontaires

Paradoxically, you have the difficulty to choose among rushing to success or contemplate the beauty of humans’ feelings. But ultimately without obstacle to overcome there won’t be enjoyment to share.

In this mission in Egypt I discovered a wide range of emotions: I was lost between the satisfaction to be useful and the frustration of not being able to live the moment wholeheartedly. 

Wherever you are, these experiences are giving us a true liberty, an intern travel, a connexion to humans with a sharing intensity that only can give back a real serenity. 

I think that to not moving is to not living. One day we’ll leave this world with our memories, a suitcase for life, because at the end a simple parenthesis can become a life changing experience.

Marie-Eldrade, volunteer in Egypt.