One of the garbage neighborhoods of Cairo, Egypt This blog has been edited, for more, visit here Emad, a friend I met through Mama Maggie's mission, picks me up at the hotel and takes me first to a factory where boys are taught to make shoes, and girls, sweaters. The mission provides a skill and an education. School isn’t available to these children, and the mission gives them hope for salvation and hope for the future. The next place we go is an orphanage for young girls, who are provided for their physical needs of food and shelter, but even more importantly, are given a loving, caring, Christian home. In Cairo, several neighborhoods exist where the economy is built on garbage. Literally. A neighborhood might be a quarter of a mile square or a mile square, with streets wide enough for two cars to pass in some spots, but mostly narrower, lined with three or four storey brick, multifamily, townhouses stained dark from years of fires or smog or cooking fumes with garbage and children and donkeys and men and women and trucks and cars and bicycles and animals and noise and an overpowering stench. The neighborhood is populated by families consisting of a dad, a mom, a bunch of children, and a donkey. The way it’s presented to me, by my host from Mama Maggie's mission, is that if they occupy a two room flat, dad, mom, and the kids get one room and the donkey, the prized possession, gets the other. The economy works because of the donkey, and the reason the donkey is so important is that during the night, dad will harness it to a cart and take it into the city where garbage is waiting for removal, load it up, take it home, and dump it into any area available up to and including the stoop of his townhouse. During the day, mom and the children who are able, mostly barefooted and under clothed (note the shoes and sweaters earlier), will sort the garbage into donkey fodder, saleable plastic, saleable metals, saleable paper, saleable glass, and whatever else they can salvage. These items, except for the donkey fodder, are baled and shipped to purchasers, and this is life in the garbage of Cairo. School is not part of that life. On first appearance, it’s an illustration of how far Cairo has to go to implement a solid waste plan; but if they do, hundreds of thousands of people will be left without livelihood. Sometimes I think it’s easy to look at places and know in my superior western mind how to fix things. The garbage only serves to reinforce how dumb my superior western mind really is.

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Comment by Lucy Gray on February 24, 2009 at 9:05pm
Wow, Gregg. This certainly puts things in perspective. I think this story would be very interesting to show to kids. I think some great discussions could come out of this.

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