‘Don’t Tell My Mother!’

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Friends-International CYTI Alliance technical advisors travel the globe offering support and advice to our partner organizations in the Alliance. As he comes to the end of his time working for FI, former CYTI coordinator Pierre tells us of a day in his working life, the last one of 3,287 spent with FI, full of (amongst other things) fulfillment, inspiration, frustration, fear, food and things that go bang… not quite the usual mix to expect on a working day, but reflecting some of the reality for those organizations in the Alliance who are supporting young people under very difficult working circumstances…

… and please, don’t tell his mother!

Sebastien and Pierre in Cairo


…still one more day to go, but I think I’ll remember today as my last real work day with Friends-International.

The FACE team with Pierre

I’ve spent the last three weeks in Cairo with Kanchan (who has been teaching us some very rude cockney rhyming slang…!) and Sebastien Le Mouellic (aka Abd El Mouellik) who will be supporting CYTI partners. We’ve been working with FACE, our partner in Cairo, since 2008. I’m extremely happy to see the immense progress made by the FACE team and I have to say I am very proud of their ongoing development. Many FI colleagues and I have spent over 10 months in total in Cairo over the last four years and the result is really worth all the hard work and travel. I feel sad saying goodbye to my Egyptian colleagues but very happy seeing how FACE have progressed over the years.

Today started like any other day with breakfast at our morning ‘HQ’ Wadi-El-Nile (taamaia sandwich and akwa mazbout with lemon) . Our hotel is quite near the now world renowned Tahrir Square. It’s calm now after the bloodshed of the last few days although still covered with rocks thrown by protesters. There are still a few around this morning, sleeping rolled in bedcovers around the square and not in any hurry to leave despite the awful violence they have faced. During the last few days the blame is being shifted onto street kids for being responsible for violence on the square but strangely enough we didn’t see any of them this morning…

After waiting 45 minutes for our translator we decided to go. We couldn’t wait for him any longer, so we jumped into a cab to head for our first visit to Banati, an NGO who started working with street girls two years ago. Their shelter and office is in 6th October city, 25 km from downtown Cairo. Security is paramount in our work, but sometimes things crop up that can’t be foreseen. It took an hour to reach the city… I was reading the newspaper when I was aware we had slowed down… a pick up had stopped in the middle of the road 15 meters in front of us with three or four men in the back, first shouting, then shooting AK 47’s and handguns to either side of the road. Seb and I courageously hid behind the seats while our driver didn’t seem to give a damn… we couldn’t believe what just happened but the taxi driver calmly restarted the engine and left the spot, following the pickup. We actually had to tell him to stop for a few minutes, long enough for me to smoke a cigarette in two breaths…. We left the baltegeya behind (this is a local name for thugs, apparently often police in civilian dress who instill fear and chaos in the population to underscore the need for ‘the authorities’ to have a firm grip… we had inadvertently driven into an area where elections were being held!) and kept going our way.

After this little adventure we finally arrived at the huge shelter run by Banati, located in the middle of the desert. After a couple of hours there we went back to the city to visit their drop in center not far from the old Coptic Cairo. We had a great visit, meeting the highly committed Banati staff members who are doing an incredibly challenging job working with street girls and young street mothers. Street girls in Cairo are living in the most extreme and dangerous conditions, most, if not all of them are victims of violence and sexual abuse … We had a long interesting discussion with the assistant of the center and one of the social workers and we left the place with only one thing in mind, coming back soon to work with this great team.

At 2 pm we reached our hotel downtown. The nearby square is still occupied by crowds of protesters camping out amongst the rubble scattered around them.

After a quick and garlic laden lunch we received a call from UNICEF asking us to come to the Intercontinental Hotel on the other side of the square to meet with them. After waiting around for our meeting with them and observing an NGO conference happening in the hotel we finally came to the end of what had been for us a long, eventful, pretty exhausting but inspiring day, then went back to the hotel to complete our reports, and to Skype our beloved CYTI boss Pauline to tell her (in the most convincing way possible) that everything was fine and that we had really had a very quiet day… it was then time to turn off the computer and get a few well deserved beers in our night HQ, the ‘atmospheric’ bar next to the hotel.

Our CYTI partners across the globe are doing great work with young people, often under very difficult circumstances indeed… here in downtown Cairo, let’s hope there wont be any attacks on the protesters tonight and that we won’t be awoken again by the acrid smell of teargas and the noise of gunshots at 3 am … what an introduction for my mate Sebastien (whom I will miss and I think enjoyed a lot his first experience in Egypt)! I will miss Cairo but I know I will surely come back soon to meet the many friends I’ve made here…’

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