In April, 2005, HFH Egypt celebrated the completion of 6,000 new and renovated houses, impacting the lives of as many as 24,000 people. This celebration is a triumph not only for the 6,000 families that have received improved housing but also for a 20 year history of partnership and cooperation between organizations and different faith groups.
In 1985, at the urging of UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief), Nabil Samuel, who was the Deputy to the General Director for CEOSS at that time, visited Americus and Habitat for Humanity International. Nabil was looking for a way to provide decent housing for the families in El Motamadia, a garbage collectors’ community on the outskirts of Cairo.
Registered with the Egyptian Ministry of Social Affairs since 1967, CEOSS is an experienced and effective development organization. In both Christian and Muslim communities, CEOSS staff work to develop local leadership, determine needs and facilitate programs that lead to better health, education and economic development.
Four years after the initial contact, in 1989, CEOSS submitted a proposal to HFHI to establish an affiliate in El Motamadia. The original proposal requested funding to construct 35 houses. The plan was to construct a second floor apartment with a door that could be closed to the flies and odors of the garbage below.
The people in this community, though technically squatters, have lived in El Motomedea most of their lives. The dwellings are rude structures, put together from scraps salvaged from the garbage. Early each morning, family members go out in donkey carts to collect the garbage from the city. By daybreak, they bring the garbage back to their homes to be sorted and re-cycled. “Wet” garbage is fed to the animals. Piles of garbage line the streets and are stacked in the entry way to the houses.
The Habitat renovated houses provided a way for parents and children to have a clean place to rest, away from the animals, the smells and the diseases that are a natural result of the flies and rodents which infest the garbage in the streets below.
El Motomadia became a model project. The houses that were constructed were in stark contrast to the crowded shacks, where families had been living amid the garbage and in close proximity to pigs, chickens and goats.
In 1996, HFHI decided that it was time to establish a Habitat organization in Egypt. CEOSS was very supportive of the idea and helped to gather people that were interested in forming a Habitat advisory committee. They also were helpful in recommending Yousry Makar, as a candidate for the position of HFH Egypt national director.
Under Yousry’s leadership, other community organizations were approached with the idea of implementing similar projects to those that had been developed with CEOSS. Following the CEOSS model, Habitat affiliates were soon established in five other communities, each in partnership with a different local NGO or CDA (community development association).
The value of working in partnership with locally established organizations were many, including:
• Reduced administrative costs
• Expanded networks with government, funding sources and skilled consultants
• Knowledge of the community and experience in working with local families
• Accelerated implementation of the project
• Holistic community development
In 2004, HFH Egypt received official registration as an INGO branch of Habitat for Humanity International. Today HFH Egypt is working in the thirteen communities, with repayment rates at 90% current within 30 days.
According to Nabil Samuel, who has since become the General Director of CEOSS, the success of the long partnership with Habitat is “because we have a common goal: serving, empowering the poor to meet their needs. Habitat works through housing and CEOSS through other types of development. The match really makes an impact on people’s lives.”