Today marks the International Youth Day, a day aimed at recognizing the need for opportunities and efforts in order to support the younger generation to thrive. Throughout this year as the pandemic still lingers throughout the world, affecting everyone in its path, we reached a standstill in thought. Although people of all ages were affected in someway or another, a unique event took place in Cairo for those particularly vulnerable. Spearheaded by Maria Emad, a passionate humanitarian, One Childhood Project was officially transformed from a vision into reality.
The project aims at empowering aged-out refugees in order to find the means and guidance for building up their skills, discovering new ones, and ultimately becoming eligible to support themselves financially, as well as addressing the protection and psychosocial needs for over 40 children seeking asylum. The refugee children were given various options to choose from in the fields of art, mechanics and tech, to name a few. On the final day of the project, the graduation ceremony took place at AUC’s Greek Campus where panel discussions were carried out by several influential and inspiring individuals from all walks of life in Egypt. Speakers spoke of the goals for sustainable development, sports for development, Egypt’s role in regards to refugees, the issues asylum seekers face while in their host country, and what more can be done. When asked on the role the American Embassy in Egypt partook in the project, Alexander Mclaren, Assistant Cultural Affairs Officer, said “we are a nation of immigrants” in regards to migrants being a vital source of human integration and humanity moving forward together.
The primary focus however in this case was on unaccompanied and separated children (UASC). With the help of several NGOs and volunteers from all over the country, the displaced children, hailing mainly from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan and South Sudan, were offered hope, direction, a sense of unity, and once again, a home. As they shattered the ground at night with their cries of laughter and sang alongside the volunteers and their new friends, a forgotten but familiar sense of camaraderie was ignited once again.
Three Stages of Hope
One Childhood Project had a few goals in mind, one of which involved combating violence that children aged between 6 to 12 years-old face both within their homes and schools. As a result, the project’s target involved parents, caregivers, and children. In order to support and develop the children’s upbringing within a healthy and secure environment, three stages were put into action.
1 – Empowering the parents through awareness raising of psycho-social sessions.
2 – Gaining a broader perspective and a comprehensive understanding for a child’s needs throughout their early development stages.
3 – Strengthening the relationship between the parents and the children.
Throughout the ceremony, staggering statistics on the abuse of children were brought up, in which the speakers shed light on the following:
- 37% of domestic abuse is due to pressure of circumstances within a household
- 90% of parents hope to send their children to school
- 93% of children aged 1 to 14 years-old face violent disciplinary practices which includes physical punishment and/or psychological aggression.
Outcomes & Results
Armed with 20 volunteers, 50 trainees, four vocational trainings, 50+ training hours, and with over 120+ applicants pouring in, One Childhood Project was live and set on full throttle. We had a chat with some of the refugee children who shared with us their hopes and aspirations. One such person was Mostafa, a 17 year old effervescent character coming from Sudan who shared with us his hopes in becoming an actor one day, and definitely dressed up for the part. Mariam, a 19 year old girl from Sudan, found refuge and fulfillment in joining the lino printing workshops.
The ceremony day took place in cooperation with Save the Children, Unicef, CRS, and the American Embassy in Egypt. During the graduation ceremony, an earth shattering roar of applause reached all corners of the campus as all the refugees went up to receive their diplomas. Equipped with a new skill set, new companionships, and a firm bedrock of support, One Childhood was undoubtedly a success. Despite different backgrounds and a different set of circumstances, two things were certain. Each one deserved a childhood lost to them, and each one found strength within themselves from one another.