By Jonah Svihus /// Senior Staff Writer
When Hamdan Alameri ’18 visited Egypt in his childhood, he had an experience that shaped a large portion of his time at Lewis & Clark College.
“I was so shocked when seeing homeless people in Cairo,” Alameri said reflecting on his trip to Egypt in the early 2000s. “What makes me more surprised is [that] many of those [people] are children. I felt so sad for them. I wanted to do something for them but I didn’t know what to do.”
It was at that moment that Alameri realized he needed to contribute something to the youth of Egypt. To make that happen, he submitted a project proposal to a grant called 100 Projects for Peace at LC in Fall 2015. The organization 100 Projects for Peace was started by Kathryn W. Davis in 2007.
“I want to use my 100th birthday to help young people launch some immediate initiatives — things that they can do during the summer of 2007 — that will bring new thinking to the prospects of peace in the world,” Davis said in 2007.
LC is given $10,000 every year by 100 Projects for Peace to give to the best student project. This year, Alameri, along with his colleagues Reham Bahauddin ’16, Isabella Irtifa ’18, Jessica Rosenblatt ’17 and Burnley Truax ’17 won the $10,000 award.
“The goal of our project is to create an understanding of peace within Egyptian youth affected by poverty, homelessness and other forms of injustice,” Irtifa said. “We hope the children we are working with will learn how to voice their opinions in mutually respectful ways, learn effective leadership skills, and learn how to set realistic and positive goals. At the end of the day, we want to teach children that nothing is out of their reach.”
Alameri, inspired by his trip as a child to Cairo, Egypt, contacted Resala Charities to help set up a program that teaches orphaned children various skills that they otherwise would not be taught.
“I contacted the shelter, trying to find what [Resala Charities] is missing or what they don’t provide for the children, but I found that they are very supportive in terms of education and healthcare – really in many aspects,” Alameri said. “But one thing that me and my group decided to do was have a month of summer camp that brings the children together where they learn teamwork skills.”
The group of LC students will travel to Cairo this summer to organize and create a summer camp for some of the orphaned children.
“The first thing we want to teach is leadership, the second is communication, the third is goal setting,” Alameri said. “We are planning to have it in a way that is not boring, so we are planning to have trips for the children, workshops, and community speakers to come to the orphanage. We are trying to find people from different backgrounds like acting and doctors.”
Irtifa elaborated more on the daily schedule and planned events for the children.
“Activities will include: art therapy, panels about how we lead, speakers from the community, teamwork games, and conflict negotiation role-playing,” Irtifa said. “Each day will end with journal reflections and creative writing, something that is already in place by the charity. Each week we will have series of lessons, games, and hands on activities that will promote that day’s theme. On the final week of our project, all groups will come together at the camp for a reflection week, discussions, open forums, and further connections to the community”
Both Irtifa and Alameri have significant experience in working for charities and with children.
“I had worked with Mercy Corps this past summer to implement summer camp projects,” Irtifa said. “Activities focused on food sustainability, energy poverty, economic/social development and the importance of education. Through this experience I learned about the best methods of communication and collaboration as well as how to effectively build and implement projects with youth.”
Alameri has worked with Resala charities for the past two years.
The project concerned some members of the participants families due to political unrest in Egypt.
“It was kind of frustrating for our families to accept that we are going to Egypt,” Alameri said. “But, this winter, my friend and I visited the site and met the people and the children at the orphanage.”
Another obstacle cited by the Alameri is the fact that most of the group is not fluent in Arabic.
“Three of us are non-arabic speakers and are not super familiar with the culture and how to deal with the new culture,” Alameri said.
“We had to take into account that while we are there it will also be Ramadan so we knew we needed to be mindful of when we ate, how much activity was expected and what daily life would look like” Irtifa added. “We had to plan for breaks, prayer times and lunches to ensure that we are making this program the best it can be.”
The team is looking forward to the experience. They believe their efforts will have a long lasting effect on the children. They also look forward to what the children can teach them about themselves.
“What I am most excited for is for the opportunity for all of us to learn from one another,” Irtifa said.
“I am so excited for this experience and I hope that it will be rewarding for both the children and us,” Alameri said. “But I am most excited about meeting children and working with them and learning from them – learning together.”