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Little Stars - Luxor Children's Trust

UK Charity Commission Registration Number 1120536. Egyptian Charity: Luxor Charity No.8 (2010)
 

Newsletter 44/45 - January / February 2011

Archived Newsletter 42/43- November/December 2010

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The New Year started with such promise and then from January 25th Egypt slipped into crisis, a situation which at the end of February had not been resolved and is unlikely to be for several months to come.  The effects of the revolution started in late January and continued throughout most of February.  While young people battled in Alexandria and Cairo for a new Egypt the rest of the country came to a standstill.  It would be foolish for us to say that this has not affected the work of Little Stars because it affected us and the children and families that we assist greatly. The situation in Egypt has also meant that this issue of our newsletter is sadly lacking in photographs. 

 

UnityDefianceCelebration

Tahrir Square 2011, Unity, Defiance and Celebration.

During the protests, in Cairo and Alexandria thousands of criminals were released from jails and police were removed from the streets throughout the country by the existing regime.  In Luxor people were left to defend their homes from looters themselves.  Looting, of course, had nothing to do with the revolution but the removal of the police force allowed opportunists to take advantage of what was a deteriorating situation.  This did not descend into vigilante action but it did lead to roadblocks with armed defenders and made moving about outside the city centre difficult. 

Anger is contagious and the Egyptian population vented their anger on Government buildings throughout Egypt, including Luxor where the Ruling Party’s headquarters were attacked and burned along with the police stations.  Schools were closed for the duration and most services were suspended.  Tourism, on which Luxor depends, came to a total halt as people curtailed their holidays and fled.  Tourists are now considered safe and there are no travel restrictions imposed by European Governments.  The city centre is safe except for a rise in opportunistic bag snatchers but Little Stars does not work in the city centre it works beyond the checkpoints where things are not so quiet.

Our nursery school was closed for more than a month along with all schools in Egypt and was scheduled to open at the beginning of March.  When it does reopen attendance is expected to be limited as some people are still afraid to let their children leave their homes.  The clinic was also closed but not for such an extended period.  Our doctors are all female and it was considered by everyone involved that it was not safe for them to be the clinic while there was civil disorder.  Patients had ceased to attend and stayed at home so opening was an unnecessary risk.  However, our staff are very dedicated and returned to the clinic as soon as their families thought that it was safe for them to do so.  Patients also started to come back for treatment though in smaller numbers. Work on the Training Centre and recruitment for the classes was also suspended but will be resumed as soon as is possible,

The delivery of food parcels at the beginning of January was accompanied by our Chairman and went as planned. A few days later we were visited by one of our sponsors who went to Haja Marise to see her family.  Her report on this visit is given later in the newsletter.  However, February’s food parcel delivery was an entirely different matter.  We were unsure whether we would be able to fulfil our obligations with a shortage of food supplies as deliveries from Cairo had been disrupted and our staff were in their homes but Egyptian volunteers came forward and they went through all the checkpoints to deliver food parcels to all our sponsored families.  We cannot thank them enough for their help, consideration and their bravery. 

Our Chairman returned to Luxor in mid February but a planned visit to Cairo to collect custom duty tax exemption papers from Government Offices and to buy musical instruments for the nursery school was considered an unnecessary risk and was deferred for a month.   We need the papers to release items from Luxor post office where unrealistic duty levels have been imposed on items waiting for collection, but they can wait until the situation is clearer.

In January Regina Widd who has been sponsoring a family inHaja Marise for some time, came to Luxor from Hurghada, where she was staying, to see her family on a one day visit.  She was driven across the desert by Christian Miller, an Englishman who is resident in Hurghada.  Regina sent us the following report on her return to England.  We were able to couple the visit with the delivery of a repaired cooker to one family and a new fridge to Regina’s family.  It was a pleasure to take her out with us.  We do the best to take sponsors to their families but it is not always possible as child protection policies dictate that all visits must be supervised.

 

Regie with her familyChristian MillerRegie with her family

Reggie and her family and Christian Miller from Hurghada

 

Reggie’s Report:

“My reason for wanting to sponsor a child in Egypt was because of ONE little girl in Hurghada -  that I could never forget - and who I think of so often  ! 

I was in down town one night , sitting outside a coffee house watching the African World Cup when a little girl appeared , seemingly from nowhere , and just stood and looked at me ! Her face and hands were dirty and her little feet without shoes ! She didn't say anything and after we gave her some money she turned around and walked away ! May be she was 4 or 5 - may be older - I don't know  - but I NEVER forgot her !

I found myself thinking about her all the time wishing I could have done more to help her or give her and - 
So I started looking into sponsoring a child in Egypt ! When I came across " Little Stars "  I found that I could sponsor a whole family instead - so I went ahead and committed myself to 
£ 10 a month for extra food ! 
"Choosing" my family didn't feel right to me at first , as I didn't really care which family would get the food - but just that they did !

I received 2 photos of 2 families ! - One was of a Mum and her 4 children , 3 girls and 1 boy ,  ! ! The Mum was clearly a mum that loves her children but concerned may be for their future ?!  I " chose " to sponsor this  family  because of the boy , who had his arm around his little sisters shoulders !  Being the protective older brother , he stood proud and determined - and being the only boy in the family of 4 children he would ultimately become the breadwinner and provider for his mum and little sisters ! - In his eyes I thought I could see hope and determination for something better ... and I wanted to support this in some small way ! The other family was just as lovely but something touched my heart with " my "  family  - though I don't know what it was ......

 

Regie's familyThe damaged roofRegie's family - Haja Marise
The house is of mud brick, cooking is done on an open fire and the roof is in a terrible state.

 

Once I had " decided " on which family I wanted to sponsor they soon  became more to me than " just " a £ 10 a month Standing Order - I thought about them often , wondering how they were and I decided to visit them on my next trip to Egypt ! This was 3 weeks ago!!! 

I can't describe just HOW MUCH I was looking forward to meeting them and HOW EXCITED I was when that day finally came ! 

I had brought clothes for the children from the UK , some bought by me and others bought and donated by friends ! Sent with all their love !! Tennis balls , skipping rope , soap, chocolate , etc all went into my case and my stuff was unpacked again : ) x Luggage allowance was an issue .....

The day before I went to Luxor from Hurghada , I went shopping and managed to buy a shopping trolley full of food , juice , milk , cups , badminton set , tubs , bin etc and sweets of course ..... Happy days : ) !!!!

Then on Sunday , we , Chris my driver and I , loaded the car and left at 6 am for our drive through the desert to Luxor ! What a fantastic experience that was ! Finally - in Luxor - we met up with Connie who was going to come with us to the West Bank ! : ) x 

We stopped off at " Little Stars " where met up with Nagar who was going to come with us to the village , and also the driver who was waiting to drive the van and deliver a repaired cooker to another family AND a Fridge to mine ( smiles ) - Before we went though I was lucky enough to meet some of the children at " Little Stars " who were still  in class : ) - IT WAS BRILLIANT to meet these kids , all smiles and wanting to shake hands ! and then we had a tour around the building and different areas , sewing room , dentist room etc which was an experience within itself and fantastic to see the work that " Little Stars " is doing and has achieved so far ......

Then finally the drive to the village ! I can't tell you how I felt - just amazing - sooooo terribly excited to meet " my " family at last !!!! .... Writing this I have tears in my eyes because it was such a VERY special drive for me - one concern I had was that I didn't want them to think that this was just a one off visit ..... 

Our first stop was to drop the cooker off ! It seemed as though all the village kids had come to greet us - everyone was laughing and sooo friendly - despite the clearly very hard life they have to lead because of the extreme poverty ! And it is EXTREME !  No running water but a well or two in the village No electricity to most homes , ripped apart " roofs " , no flooring apart from sand and dust under their feet , no furniture to sit on or rugs to walk on , no toys , no shoes , not the opportunity to brush their hair even ( for some ) because they don't have a brush nor to wash their faces because they have no soap or a bowl to hold the water for a wash ...... But  the poverty , dirty faces and unkempt hair is not what I "saw" first of all BUT children and families that are just that - people with a heart , love and zest for life that is sometimes difficult to find over here ...... When I was invited into this family’s home - I was shown the different " living areas " which were VERY dark areas with nothing really in it ! But I was shown around with smiles and everyone wanted to have their photo taken , the flash of it making these smiles even wider : ) x  

Then we drove on to finally find " my " family with the help of a wonderful old man from the village , who helped us in " locating " them !

And then the car stopped - and on getting out -  amidst a sea of childrens faces - I was trying to recognise and find the faces from my photo ! Around the corner of the wall - and there I saw " my " mum from the photo - standing proud by the entrance of her house wondering probably what the heck is going on and who am I ?! A hug I remember - and then sooooo many things happened all at once ! I was introduced as " the lady that buys the chickens"  : ) and then granddad and mum in law ( who's son sadly has passed away )came up and hugged me ! And I was introduced to the children and looking for the boy - he came forward a bit shy - and I gave him his bag with things  especially for him ! Then unloading of the boot and carrying everything into the house ! Lots of helping hands : ) x A Teddy Bear from my home that has found a loving new little owner : )  Lots of hugs , photos taken by Connie ( thank you C x ) - sweets given out by Nagar to all the children that made this home an open house for the day lol -and of course the fridge was delivered thanks to " Little Stars " -  soooo many FANTASTIC MEMORIES and SUCH a FANTASTIC FAMILY ! I am proud and honoured to know them !!!! 

And this is what I told " my " family when I left : Ana yigi taeni - wuatt  - I will come back - I promise ! 
( I know this is not correct in spelling but was for me to remember how to pronounce it lol ) 

Anyway this is my story about my visit - I send my family all my love and hope they are well and please stay safe until we meet again ! 

PS : Chris was so moved by what he saw he donated all his money from his wallet towards the repairs of the roof - Thank you Chris you are a fantastic person : ) x “

Chris Miller’s donation was very generous and will fully cover the cost of the replacement roof for Reggie’s family’s home.  We are exceptionally grateful to him.  However, our building and improvement programme also had to be suspended during February but we are hoping to arrange the repair of this roof and two others plus the installation of some much needed doors in Haja Marise during March.  March brings the hamaseen winds to Luxor with high humidity and huge sand storms so it is vital that we get these roofs mended as soon as possible.  Humidity is a strange phenomena in desert areas but it is caused by evaporation of water from Lake Nasser being caught under clouded skies.

On another totally positive note we would like to thank all of our supporters who donated extra funds to Little Stars during February.  Every penny of it is gratefully received and will be wisely used.  Our increased costs have been alleviated by an improvement in the exchange rate but with the fall in tourism and consequent massive unemployment in Luxor the demands on Little Stars are increasing daily.  We have suspended adding new sponsors to our family sponsorship scheme until we can be sure that those families who need the most help get priority.

During February we had a wonderful surprise in the form of a £5,000 donation from an International Foundation. This was arranged by a wonderful young man called Warwick who visited our clinic last October.  The donation is to partly cover the cost of buying a minibus to transport children safely to and from the clinic, to deliver our food parcels and to collect sick children to take them to the clinic for treatment.  There are many disabled children in the outer villages who are unable to come to the clinic because there are no transport facilities available to them.  With our own transport we can now provide for these children.  The £5,000 will cover half the cost of a second hand minibus and we have enough money in our Trust Fund to add a similar amount.  The bus will be painted bright yellow so that it is easily recognisable.  When further fund are available we hope to add a truck so that we can deliver building materials, beds and other items where they are necessary.

Nobody can foresee what changes the next few months will bring about in Egypt or what affect the changes will have on the population.  Optimism dictates that the changes will bring about a bright future for the children in our care and that they will have better prospects of an education and a healthy life than their parents had. 

In the meantime we need your support more than ever.

 

 

    Thank You.

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


 

 

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