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Little Stars - Luxor Children's Trust

UK Charity Commission Registration Number 1120536
 

Newsletter 28 - September 2009

Archived Newsletter - August 2009

Every month seems to be a busy month for Little Stars but September was busier than ever as we delivered new clothes to all our families along with the usual food parcels.  Alarmingly, September saw another terrible fall in the value of the pound as it became shaky on the international exchange markets.  It did not reach the low of a few months ago but it was serious enough to increase our costs considerably.  Hopefully this dip will be a temporary blip and the pound will recover its previous strength before too long. 

In October last year, Little Stars was visited by he British Consul Sir Dominic Asquith who was impressed with the clinic and advised us to apply to the British Embassy’s Port Said Fund for a grant to cover part of the cost of creating dentistry in the clinic so that we could care for the children’s teeth..  The application was made immediately but nothing was heard and so we assumed that the application was unsuccessful.  However, to our immense surprise and total delight, we have received notice through Mr. Gaddis the Honorary British Consul in Luxor that we had been given a donation of 25,000 le from the fund.  The money is at present being held by Mr. Gaddis but will be presented to Lord Carnarvon, who as patron of Little Stars will accept it on our behalf on the 3rd November.  Lord Carnarvon will be in Luxor at that time as he will be attending the opening of the new Carter Museum the following day.  We are very grateful to all concerned and enquiries are already being made concerning the employment of a part-time dentist and the purchase of the necessary equipment.

During September our doctors went on their annual leave.  We considered closing the clinic for two weeks to carry out repairs and redecoration but the families of the children who attend the clinic wished it to remain open, despite the disruption, because although the doctors were not present other staff members were able to help the children into standing frames and supervise the use of walking aids so treatment although reduced was not disrupted.  The clinic will reopen fully on the doctors’ return. 

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Using the standing framesStanding FramesStanding Frames

...........Even though the doctors were away mothers still brought their children to the clinic to use the standing frames

It is almost a year since the clinic opened and on reflection it was evident that some of the original furniture had not worn well.  When we planned the clinic we were not sure of its success and consequently had kept expenditure to a minimum which led to the purchase of chairs that were chosen on cost rather than durability.  All the original chairs had become defective and some were dangerous with loose legs which had led to minor accidents. Now that the success of the clinic has been proven, simple but better quality chairs steel have been bought at a cost of about £10 each.  Also bought were wooden cabinets to store items in the doctors’ surgeries.  These are glass fronted and more practical than the steel cabinets that had originally been installed.  The steel cabinets have been moved to the storage area of the proposed nursery school and will be used to store stationery items and toys.

 

Clinic SurgeryClinic SurgeryClinic Surgery

The replacement furniture is sturdy but inexpensive and has been added to all rooms in the clinic

Renovations are also still taking place in the homes of sponsored families.  During the last month, more toilets were installed, water connected and basic fans installed in several homes.  Similar work has been set for next month and cement bought for the completion of a safety parapet wall around the roof of a house.  The cost of the cement is estimated at around £10.00 to £15.00 and will ensure the safety of the five children that live in the house.

 

New fansNew toiletNew Sink

                

Dates were added to our food parcels this month.  The dates were bought from Jenny Oliver, the proprietor of Jen Jenna Gardens in Luxor at a very advantageous rate so we were able to give each family a generous amount.  We were then offered the remainder of her crop at little more than the cost of picking.  We accepted the offer and almost 1,000 kgs of dates are now drying ready for storage in the East Bank Centre.  The dates are being dried by an Egyptian supporter who lives close to the clinic as a gift to Little Stars.  Drying the dates means that they can be distributed throughout the year when they are no longer in season and will provide essential vitamins for the children in our care. 

During the month we were pleased to have Philippa Thomas visiting us to witness first-hand what Little Stars was achieving in the villages.  Philippa ran her own nursery school in the UK, is a frequent visitor to Luxor and has a home on the west bank.  Her report on her time with us is reproduced below.

Little Stars,

I have been visiting Luxor for many years and have always thought of the people there as being poor when you compare them to Britain and the rest of Europe. I lived on the West bank for the first 5 years and heard the regular cry of "My family has no money, please help". When I moved over to the East bank, again, many beggars asked for money and help. I thought they were unfortunate and I always tried to do what I could.
 
During the last 2 years though, I have heard several people say, Egyptians and Europeans, that these beggars are normally professional beggars and that they in actual fact have lots of money tucked away and are not in need of any help. This has made me quite sceptical when I see and hear people begging and I tend not to help them so much nowadays. I also tend to send some of them away with a flea in their ear so to speak thinking that maybe poverty is not as rife in Egypt as the locals would have you believe.
 
About 4 weeks ago, I was asked to come and help Little Stars deliver some food parcels and clothing to the village of Haja Marise. Ok I thought, why not be a do gooder for the day. However, when I got to the village I was brought back down to Earth with a bump. I honestly thought that the Egyptian government looked after all its people, even those in the outlying villages, but I was wrong, very wrong.
 
Although all the families had a house, it was the quality of housing that was distressing. 4 walls and a roof with a dirt floor was the most they could boast about having. Quite often there will be about 8 people in this space that was designed for 2. No indoor toilets, only a communal one which consisted of a hole in the ground in the middle of the village, surrounded by a small wall. There is a water pump and well  next to the toilet area where everyone gets their water from.
 

 

Village WellNew BedsBeing fitted with new clothes

1.  The Haja Marise well.  2.   New beds in Haja Marise.   2.  Children were ‘matched up’ with new clothes and shoes.

Most of the families, including the children, slept on the dirt floors until Little Stars provided wooden beds so the children could sleep on them. This enabled the children to be protected a little more from rat bites and scorpion stings. Roofs have been mended so they have protection at night from the heat/cold. There is a limited supply of electricity (when it works and is not on a power cut) and some of the fans have also been mended to help with the heat in the summertime.
 
The men are unemployed with no hope of ever getting a job. The surrounding land is totally unsuitable for agriculture or any other kind of business, it is all desert. One man was so proud that he very nearly went without the food parcels and clothing that Little Stars had brought for him and his family. He had to be encouraged to come along and get everything. He was in tears by the time the bus left and could not thank us enough.
 
Another family has at least 3 blind/deaf daughters and they all have babies too. One of the babies was so
quiet and floppy that maybe it had given up. It was over 2 months old but looked about 4 weeks. The mother's milk had dried up and they could not afford or obtain any formula for the baby. (There weren't any shops in this village as far as I could see.) Little Stars did deliver some formula again that night to the family but I have a feeling that maybe the baby might not be there the next time I visit. They may have been too late.

We visited several families all in similar situations. They were not begging, they were not asking and they certainly were not expecting anything from anyone. So the looks on the children's faces when they received new shoes, gelabyyas and food parcels to take to their houses was awesome. The adults and the children were all genuinely surprised and happy with all they received.

Many times the women got hold of us and thanked Allah for looking out for them. To be honest, it was quite scary and you feel so helpless. You know you are doing a good thing for them all but you really feel that it is not enough but there is not a lot you can do about it except carry on doing the best you can.
 
One woman we visited has 2 children. Both of them are severely disabled and now adults. They cannot walk nor can they look after themselves and they are completely dependent on their mother. The trouble is, she is now getting on in life and she is only a little woman. She finds it very difficult to lift her son and daughter up to put them to bed or any other activity that needs to be done. Again, you feel that with a little help and thought, this woman's life could be turned round. A simple pulley system so that she could transfer them from the floor to their beds would be invaluable. The trouble is finding someone who knows what to do and not charge you a fortune for doing it.
 
I now know that there are genuinely poor people in Egypt but maybe they are not in the town of Luxor or in the immediate West bank area where I have a home. I am looking forward to visiting the village again the next time I am in Luxor and am already collecting children's clothes to bring over with me.
 
Thanks for reading this and I hope Little Stars carries on with the good work it is doing,

Philippa Thomas

New clothes Over enthusiasmDistribution

Matching the children with the clothes and shoes was a mammoth task.

Philippa helped us with the mammoth task of matching our sponsored families with clothes and shoes; that amounted to around 100 adults and more than 200 children.  All the items were loaded into the van and we went first to Haja Marise with Philippa and over the next three days the villages of Naga Birka, Hamada, Gamola, Tarif, Suel and all the little villages in between.  Life is so hard in the heat and the dust without basic amenities and Haja Marise was most distressing. 

The baby we had sent milk for last month was not thriving.  In our naivety and ignorance we did not consider that neither the mother nor any of her neighbours could read the instructions on the tins of milk.  The milk had been mixed with cold water taken directly from the well and fed to the baby from the side of an old and battered tin cup.  It was heartbreaking.  Mother and baby were taken to the local hospital to be checked over and a demonstration was given on how the milk should be mixed and fed to the baby.  Basic equipment for feeding and cleaning has been provided.  We are praying that the baby will now start to develop normally.

Another setback in Haja Marise was with the little girl with the skin infection.  When we saw her last month all signs of the infection had gone but this time there were large open sores on the back of her neck.  She has again been taken to the hospital and a stock of her medication is being kept at the clinic so it can be provided on a regular basis. Weekly checks will be made by Nasser and Abdul Hamid to monitor the situation. 

This begs the question of what happened in these villages before Little Stars came along.  Did babies just die?  Often people tell us that medical care is free for children in Egypt and that we should spend our funds elsewhere.  I beg them to come and see the reality of the situation as Philippa did and then they will realise that unless medicines are free, which they are not, then children from destitute families will suffer.  A £5 bag of medicine could take the entire monthly income of a family and the purchase of tinned milk is impossible.  We have added several new families to our sponsorship list this month and are always seeking new sponsors.  If you think you can help then please contact us.

The Little Stars website has now had more than 20,000 recorded hits and this is remarkable for a small charity.  All our project pages are now up-to-date and we operate a policy of total transparency over all our operations.  Two projects have been added recently including one to eventually open a drop-in centre for Luxor’s east bank street children.  The Little Stars’ web page on Facebook has proven popular and has many ‘friends’.  It is an excellent way to keep in touch with supporters and to pass on development information.  If you have a Facebook account please have a look at our page.  You can easily add to it and leave messages there.

http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#/group.php?gid=94512927330&ref=ts

 
Thank you for your support.
 

 


With you we can do so much.
Without you we can do nothing.

 


 

 

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