In Ashoka Arab World’s continuous effort to highlight the profiles and achievements of our 10 new Fellows, we now bring you the story of Azza Kamel. Azza works in the Children and Youth sector with a community education center called Alwan wa Awtar (Colors & Strings) located in El-Hadaba El-Wusta–Moqattam, an underserved area in Cairo. She is bridging the social gap that children from underprivileged areas face by employing an experiential learning technique and informal education to enhance children’s development, confidence and learning potential.
Countries in the Middle East face their largest youth cohort in modern history. However, young people boast the highest unemployment rates, high exposure to health risks, and a low-quality educational system. Public schooling in Egypt has come under heavy fire as graduating students do not possess the skills needed in today’s competitive market. This is especially the case for the youth of the Egyptian middle-class, which is becoming rapidly impoverished.
Most of the underprivileged classes in Egypt are centered in the country’s slums. The 2006 population census found that almost 15.5 million people were living in slums, the worst of which are in Cairo. Efforts aiming to develop slum areas generally do not focus on children, most of which are enrolled in local public schools where there may be up to 60 children in a classroom and exhibit low attendance rates. While a few initiatives have tried to improve these conditions none of them have focused on educating disadvantaged children or with preparing them to become fully integrated citizens…
…But Azza Kamel is! Since 2001, Azza has worked in the community of Moqattam with the women of Fat’het Kheir: a grassroots volunteer organization which focuses on development through empowerment as opposed to charity. Azza founded Alwan wa Awtar with 30 children from the area and based its model on experiential learning. Azza opens the doors of her center to kids and allows children to spend time reading or painting, giving them a place to spend their free time, away from the at-risk activity that pervades the area.
Students at Alwan wa Awtar learn guitar
Azza instills values of tolerance, respect, freedom of expression, and self confidence indirectly through program activities and by providing role models for the children through her staff. Alwan wa Awtar uses theatre and music to build the children’s confidence and teach them valuable teamwork skills, as they hold performances for their neighborhoods. Children are also encouraged to conduct research and are introduced to debates, by participating in simulation models of international organizations like the League of Arab Nations. The center also offers foreign languages classes through painting and cooking, and physics through craft-making.
Volunteer with students at Alwan wa Awtar
Learn more about Azza’s project at: http://www.alwan-awtar.org or join her Facebook group at: http://www.facebook.com/search/?init=srp&sfxp&q=Azza+Kamel+&o=2048&s=10#!/group.php?gid=23842902264&ref=search.