When you hear the word 'orphan', you probably think of philanthropy. This are certainly important and you probably feel good about yourself when you provide orphans with clothes, toys and gifts. But is that all there is to be done? What about the psychological and emotional well being of orphans?
In 2009, the number of orphaned children was estimated at 1.7 million. Most live in orphanages until marriage, while some seek a different life in the streets. They need specialized care to fill the gap their parents left, and although well-intentioned, most caregivers are not qualified. Often, their working conditions and pay are mediocre, and they undergo no training. This is the gap which Wataneya Society for the Development of Orphanages decided to fill since 2008.
According to the non-profit organization, the Egyptian orphan is subjected to unhealthy psychological and physiological environments, which makes it harder for him or her to integrate into the community when they enter adulthood. And this precisely why Wataneya provides caregivers and orphanages' management teams with vocational trainings, guidance and technical assessments. This support aims to ensure that the abandoned children reach their full potential. Wataneya provides orphanages with much more—see the video below.
In 2012, Wataneya launched its "E3rafny [get to know me]—I'm not just an orphan" campaign, which raises awareness on the social needs of orphans. Today, this campaign includes ten orphaned youth who participated in its implementation. We got to ask a couple of them what they thought of the campaign:
"It will change people’s perception about orphans," explained Aly Ahmed. "I'm an orphan myself and this campaign did have an impact on me. It inspired me to take graphic design courses, because I dream to own a movie making company one day."
Nahla El Nemr, an assessor for Wataneya and an orphan herself, said "... the good thing about this campaign is that it is unconventional. It speaks to us as orphans before addressing society. It tell us there is hope, and that us to can become as successful as Abdelhalim Hafez or Nelson Mandela, as they were also orphans. And I feel that one day instead of holding a picture of Abdel Halim I will be holding a picture of an orphan I personally know, because he or she too will become a celebrity."
The focus this year is on the caregivers' impact on raising the orphaned children and youth; the poor conditions they work in lead to a high turnover rate which in turn contributes to the emotional trauma of the orphans. Role models, such as Abdel Halim Hafez and Steve Jobs, who were both orphans, are used to change the public's perception and push away any limiting labels. In the case of Hafez and Jobs, their nurturing caregivers played a role in their success.
The campaign is set to take place in different events such as Cairo Runners and TEDxCairo and is expected to last till May 2014.