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Little Stars - Luxor Children's Trust

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

Newsletter 46/47 - March / April 2011

Archived Newsletter 44/45- January/February 2011

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Luxor has no industry other than tourism.  It is totally dependent upon it for all its income.  While very few of the people helped by Little Stars have any direct contact with the tourist industry they suffer greatly when tourism falls as there is little money to filter through to the less fortunate levels of society.  The few pence that people might earn per day to help feed their families stops as nobody needs or can afford to hire unskilled labour.  The Arab Spring and a move to greater democracy will have a long-term effect on Egypt’s poor but at the moment there is increased hardship in areas where hardship was already endemic.  As tourists chose destinations other than North Africa to spend their annual holidays the situation is likely to get worse rather than better.  Eventually the situation will improve and confidence will return but it will take some time; which makes Little Stars’ work even more essential. 

There is still a degree of lawlessness in Luxor which is not immediately apparent to the casual visitor in the safety of a hotel but greatly affects the lives of local people.  There is nominal martial law but there are few military policemen to be seen.  The local police have all but vanished and the security police have been disbanded.  The old Governor is in prison and the new Governor still has to find his feet.  Villagers are worried about the safety of their families as robberies and kidnappings increase and many villages have formed vigilante groups to protect their property.  Our centre is now well equipped and could become a target for looters so we are installing iron gates on all doors that have communal access.  Unfortunately there are 5 doors so the expense has been considerable but it is still far less costly than replacing our equipment in the event of a break-in.

 

A family of 5 live in this one roomHaja Marise familyPatiently waiting for some sweets

A woman lives in this one room with her 4 children.  Life is hard.  Curious children patiently wait for some sweets.

Another aspect of the unrest is inflation which leads to increased poverty.  In Egypt, the economy has collapsed and the value of the Egyptian currency has fallen.  There is no doubt that Egypt is on the verge of a crisis.  Food prices have risen yet again and while the value of the British pound has improved it does not cover the difference.  Christian Aid has reported that cereal prices are at an all time high throughout the world.  The cost of cooking oil has also increased dramatically.  A bottle of oil that only 4 years ago cost on average less then 5 le per litre is now costing almost 12 le.  However, Little Stars has maintained the number of food parcels that it delivers and has not cut back on their contents.  Larger families are now receiving food costing up to £25.00 sterling per month.  As the average income in these families was approximately £10 per month this is a great boost and vital to children’s growth and health.  For several months, during the main part of the uprising, we stopped adding families to our sponsorship programme but we are seeing new families again and thank all our waiting sponsors for their patience.

At present there is sectarian violence in Cairo but we were able to go up there while there was a period of quiet.  We went to various Government offices in search of the relevant people who would deal with our request for a customs exemption certificate so that we could bring items into the country without having to pay crippling duties but we were not totally successful.  We were however advised of all the bits of paper that we need so hopefully we will be more fortunate next visit and will be able to get the exemption that we need,

 

Electronic MassagerOverlockerIT area

    The new electronic massager has enabled us to improve treatment.  There is now an overlocker in the Training Centre.

 

While in Cairo we bought the equipment that the doctors in the clinic needed, most important of which was a new computerised electronic massager.  The machine was very expensive and we had to debate its necessity prior to purchase but agreed that it would make a real difference to the treatment of the children.  Our physiotherapy surgery is now as well, if not better, equipped as any hospital in Upper Egypt.  We also bought some computer equipment, restocked with wheelchairs and bought an extra sewing machine (over-locker) for the Training Centre.  We were extremely concerned about getting everything down to Luxor as there has been hijacking around Minya, but it all arrived safely and without damage within a couple of days of our return to Luxor.

We have six new members of staff (4 women and 2 men) which improves the services we offer and helps the local economy.  In the Training Centre, we have a Centre Manager who will keep all the records necessary for smooth running and there are two new Tutors in the sewing area.  In the clinic we have a new manager and there is a new Needs Assessor to take care of the families.  We have bought him a motor cycle so that he can reach the villages more easily and see each family at least twice each month.  Being more mobile will also enable him to properly oversee any repairs that are taking place.  The sixth new member of staff is a caretaker for the East Bank Distribution Centre which has been neglected since the departure of the Administrator.   

We had a great disappointment during April over the purchase of a mini-bus.  We located one which was four years old and in good condition which we could afford to buy.  Then we were advised that we could not change the licensed use of the vehicle from transporting tourists to transporting children.  We are still looking for a second hand vehicle that we could license but it appears increasingly likely that we are going to have to buy a new vehicle.  This is not entirely a bad thing as we should have few repair bills but it does increase the outlay considerably and we will have to wait a few more months until we can afford it.  In the meantime, the new motorcycle will give our Needs Assessor the mobility he needs.

Hygiene among our families is an area where there appears to have been little improvement.  This is perhaps understandable in homes where there is no water supply and no toilet facilities but it is a problem that has to be tackled.  Our new Needs Assessor is introducing a programme of hygiene instruction and will be taking a volunteer with him who will explain the link between cleanliness of children’s health.  The little girl who had widespread impetigo still has it.  She has been taken to the hospital and our clinic many times over the last three years but poor hygiene means that she is constantly re-infected.  Education is the only way forward and hopefully the new Needs Assessor will make a real difference.  Many of the mothers were married at 13 or 14 years old and have never been to school thereby only knowing what they learned from their mothers, who were similarly lacking in knowledge.  It would help if we could build an outreach clinic in Haja Marise with a bathhouse attached but funds do not allow this at present

 

Young girl's infected footHaja Marise
This is not the foot of an old woman, it belongs to a young girl.  Her body is  covered in impetigo and blisters

 

Our Needs Assessor is also overseeing the programme of repairs which resumed this month.  Initially we are concentrating on replacing damaged roofs.  Straw is being replaced with metal beams and plates.  At first we thought that this would prove to be impractically hot but it is surprisingly cool as any shiny surface is on the outside and deflects the heat.  Due to the unevenness of the mud brick walls, existing walls had to be built up and straightened before the roofs could be installed.

 

Repaired roofReplaced roofReplaced roof
The first roof shown has been repaired rather than replace.  Replacement roofs are now made of metal
 
    Although our remit is for children, we are now helping some totally destitute old people who are without families to care for them and two families of severely disabled adults.  One very old man lives alone in a straw hut near Suel.  We have given him food parcels and a blanket to help fight the cold nights.  Societies that rely on family support without Government assistance work well only when that family support can be guaranteed.  Where there is no family there is no support at all and when a man or woman can no longer work there is no hope.  Savings for the future are impossible when working for less than a $1 a day.  A supporter suggested that we refer to this part of our work as Little Stars’ Golden Stars. 
 
The delight of a televisionHaja MariseDelight at a television
Due to the generosity of a sponsor a batch of second-hand televisions was delivered to the village of Haja Marise
 
    Due to the extreme generosity of one of our sponsors we have been able to deliver some second-hand televisions to Haja Marise.  Where possible the televisions have been put in shared areas so that they can be seen by as many people as possible.  Haja Marise is the only one of our villages that we are able to do this in as our families in the other villages are too dispersed.  The children were totally overwhelmed with having a television to watch and were reluctant to leave it even to have their photographs taken.
 
IT areaReceptionSewing Room
The IT Room, the Reception and the Sewing Room
    Three areas of the Training Centre are now complete and soon all will be up and running.  In May we added to the items bought in Cairo and now have a full set of computers for the IT room plus one for the clinic and another for the Nursery School.  The Literacy area is ready to take students and our Needs Assessor will soon spread the word around the villages that we are able to help those girls and women who never had a chance to learn how to read. 
 
Sewing RoomSewing StudentsSewing Room
 

There are 15 students in the Sewing classes working in two separate groups.  We had not intended to take on so many students at one time but there was a rush of applicants that we did not want to disappoint.  Now a waiting list has been started.  There is a wide span of ages in each class but all the women are working hard to improve their skills and are amazingly cheerful. To start off they are being taught how sew straight seams and to make simple children’s clothes but later will learn more intricate skills such as beading and appliqué. 

The Nursery School will soon finish for the long hot summer holiday and the Needs Assessor will start collecting names for the new school term which will start in September.  Children will be drawn from the poorest families and provided with uniforms and all necessary items.  Now that the kitchen area is complete we will be able to supply each child with a simple but nourishing late morning meal.

Much to the delight of the children, the nursery school and the clinic now have a 32” flat screen televisions and satellite or DVD player.  They are totally enthralled by the adventures of Shaun the Sheep, Timmy and Pingu. We chose children’s DVDs that were without dialogue and brought them out from the UK.  If you know of others that cross the language barrier well then please let us know. 

We are receiving a steadily increasing number of applications from people wanting to volunteer their help with Little Stars.  Some are from students who want to look at medical services in other countries others are from individuals who just have a desire to help others.  We have to disappoint most of the applicants not only because there is a language barrier to be overcome but also because supervising volunteers is costly and takes staff away from their duties. Some other charities in Luxor require a fund raising commitment from volunteers which proves a genuine long-term interest in the charity.  Little Stars will in future adopt a similar approach in the future.   There is also an increasing number of visitors to the clinic.  Visitors are always welcome but please remember that few of the staff speak English and visits should be pre-arranged if you wish to discuss the work of the centre rather than just see it.  To keep track of visitors, we are introducing a visitors book which we would be grateful if all visitors would sign and give contact details. 

 
The old houseSleeping in a tombNew house
    Before and after.
     
    On a wonderfully positive note; can you remember the tomb house that had a sewage soaked wall and was on the verge of collapse?  We pulled the house down and now the rebuilt house is finished.  Instead of sleeping inside the tomb there is now a large living/sleeping area and a roof area plus an internal toilet and shower.  The whole family are delighted and so are we.  We could not have done it without you.

      Thank You.

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


     

     

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