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A canteen for the Egyptian children of ragpickers.

EN - Wednesday, 04 December 2019

Marlene was born in Ezbet el Nakhl, a slum in which Sister Emmanuelle worked so hard. This district welcomes the poorest, who sort out the waste on a daily basis, thus giving themselves the opportunity to feed their families.

She knows this life. She tells it herself:

A childhood in a poor family, surrounded by rubbish, a distorted - unbalanced - rhythm of life for a little girl so eager for rigour… but still this great chance of being able to go daily to a modest school.

It is in the midst of other disadvantaged children like her that she gets a taste for work. “I learned a lot on my own. I wanted to know, to understand, to read again and again.”

Thanks to the knowledge gained over the years, Marlene has been able to get out of this difficult life: now she lives in a central part of Cairo with her husband and their two daughters. But she did not forget the children of the slum. In 2005, with the help of the Daughters of Mary, a religious congregation in the neighbourhood, she founded a school with the hope of schooling as many disadvantaged children as possible.

This year, her school has more than 300 students, aged 4 to 15. Without this project, these children would not have been able to receive any education.

sos chretiens orient egypte ecole marlene volontaires enfants chiffonniers

Volunteers of SOS Chrétiens d'Orient go to school several times a week to teach music lessons, introduce these students to the joy of singing and instruments – those who have generally never seen a piano or guitar… From nursery rhymes for the little ones, to sacred songs for the older ones, everyone finds something in it. Marlene admits the happiness these lessons represent in her eyes: what a chance for her schoolchildren! In addition, the hours spent in school have a pedagogical objective: to learn the basics of French.

Intrigued, the children lend themselves to the game. The older ones patiently learn excerpts from the Bible. As for the youngest, there is nothing better than games to learn the days of the week or the numbers…

With the progress made, Marlene has new dreams. In addition to school education, there is food hygiene. Many children in the slum have diabetes problems, overweight, deficiencies of all kinds… And for good reason! They are used to eating many processed products, such as industrial cakes, chips, sodas, any time of the day.

  They feel richer! - explains Marlene – Yet, all these food is so bad for their health…”

sos chretiens orient egypte ecole marlene cuisine

In order to improve the life expectancy and quality of life of children of the slum of Ezbet El Nakhl, Marlene dreams of opening a canteen within her school. More than just a canteen, this room has to become a place to teach the mothers how to cook healthy gourmet food. Upon completion of the work in the kitchen, cooking classes will be set up, allowing families to enjoy themselves without putting their health at risk - and at a lower cost…

Children usually have a snack during the morning. Thanks to the cooking classes given by Marlene, their mom could prepare packed lunches tailored to their needs; goodbye chips and cakes!

“This is a real dream!” exclaims Marlene, who knows too well the disastrous consequences of poor eating habits. She adds, with a knowing smile: « If the kitchen is completed for the big Chrismas party, I would like to invite all the team working in Egypt to a traditional and friendly dinner! »


Refurbishment works have thus started in Ezbet. We hope that the work will be suffienciently advanced to offer to Miss Marlene the best Chrismas present: a kitchen!

To that end, we really need your valuable help. Indeed, connecting gaz work, fundamental in this room that was closed until now, cost 1100 euros. 
Moreover, a large table should be placed in the kitchen to allow Marlene to teach cooking to mothers. This table would cost 300 euros.

Work has begun in this future canteen of Ezbet. With Marlene, volunteers have begun to create fact sheets summarizing the benefits of each food on the body. As well, playful prevention posters will be hanged in the walls of the school.

With great patience, and thanks to the support of the donors of SOS Chrétiens d’Orient, Marlene hopes to see her project succeed and the mentalities evolve in the school and in the slum, for a better quality of life.

“Cooking is the servant of medicine.” Terence

Clémence, volunteer in Ezbet El Nakhl.

Support the projects of the association in the slum of Ezbet El Nakhl, make a donation.