On February 19-20, 2010, Stancil Campbell, Ann Shalaby, Denise England, Lyn Lightell and Tom Crowley participated in a Habitat for Humanity build in southern Egypt. It was a whirl-wind, two-day trip with not nearly enough time to see and experience Egypt’s rural village life but it was a wonderful opportunity to peek inside a farming community.
Habitat – Egypt is the largest Habitat in Africa and does building projects with both Christian and Muslim families. Habitat Egypt started in 1989, building 20-30 houses per year. At present, they help with over 2,000 houses each year and serve in more than 25 villages.
Most village houses lack running water and sewage systems. The homes have thatched roofs and dirt floors which cause constant flea and rodent problems. As sons marry, the new wife moves into the home with more children added along the way. Many families can not afford to add more levels to their house so homes are over crowded and some family members end up sleeping outside in the street. Because the family live-stock is extremely valuable to the family livelihood, they often live inside the house with the family to keep them safe. Habitat – Egypt aims to improve the living conditions in these poor villages.
The community we served in was El Kom el-Akhdar. It is located in southern Egypt, an hour away from the city of Minya. The population of this village is 10,000. 75% of the people fall below the poverty line, which in Egypt is less than $2 USD per day. Most of the villagers are farmers. The village has a primary school only. During our time serving we helped home owners haul limestone blocks, lay block, manually spray cement-type plaster onto inside walls, haul and sift sand for making concrete, and lay the wooden decking on roofs. It was amazing to see the differences in construction practices from the USA and Britain.
We were told that it was looked upon as a great honor to be one of the houses chosen to have Habitat volunteers come and help build. Not because any of us had more knowledge or skill than the villagers but because they value the chance to share their lives and work side-by-side with us. The home owners took great pride in introducing us to neighbors and sharing tea with us. Many villagers joined in the work so they could be a part of things and the neighbors all joined in with banter and fellowship. Some of the group were even treated to donkey rides.
Habitat for Humanity – Egypt is doing wonderful work and it is a privilege for St. Andrews to be part of it. The Friday Group has been studying the Book of Acts which tells us God calls each of us to serve others. The five of us did just that but we certainly received much more than we gave. St. Andrews participates in one build every year. Plan on attending next year. You won’t be disappointed.