Building Community in an Egyptian Village

There is a Quaker saying: “Let your life speak.” Describe the environment in which you were raised—your family, home, neighborhood or community—and how it influenced the person you are today. (Required length is 200-250 words)

In 1995, when I was only 3, my father and my uncle made a decision to move their families from the sophisticated, bustling city of Cairo to a farming village on the fringe of the city. It was a farming village where veiled mothers bathed their children in the contaminated rivers, the fathers groomed donkeys through the night that were to be their transportation through the day, and the elderly gathered together on the rubble to read the Qur'an and exchange endearing stories of their pasts.

My father and my uncle built one large semi-detached home to house all of us. The home has two "mirroring" sides: one side for our family (two adults, three children) and one side for my uncle's family (two adults, three children). When you arrive at our home, you enter though a set of iron gates. Beyond the iron gates lies the village. I am certain that the villagers saw our arrival as somewhat of an invasion. We were outsiders and we were taking over a tract of their soil.

But my family did not retreat to living behind our vast iron gates; we reached out and joined in the community.The first benefits my family brought to the village were pure water and constant electricity, alongside employment opportunities for many. From the gardeners to the mechanics, we engaged with them in daily life. Slowly the adults in my family implemented social services and improved infrastructure within the village. Moreover, my parents urged my siblings, cousins , and me to participate, thus we held annual bazaars, displaying the numerous toys and clothes that we outgrew. As we assimilated into the community, resentment faded and turned to affection.

I am grateful to my parents forgiving me this kind of upbringing, an adventure in building a community. I hope I will one day be able to create this kind of stimulating and rewarding experience for my children, an experience that allows them to practice generosity and to develop compassion for others.