SOY students completing an assignment on computers

Mina Rashed is nineteen years old and has been living in Manshiyat Naser, a garbage collection community in Cairo, since he was a little boy. In these communities, families survive by collecting, sorting and recycling about 80 percent of the city’s waste. Like many others his age, Mina was forced to drop out of school in order to help his father collect garbage full time. Without the opportunity to continue his education, Mina was virtually guaranteed to remain in the poverty cycle that dominates the “garbage city”.

One of HANDS’ partner organizations, Spirit of Youth (SOY), was able to reach Mina and enroll him in their school for non-formal education. Mina was one of more than 800 students who attended the school last year. SOY offers seven programs ranging from primary health education to literacy and math skills. The school also offers recreational and creative programs such as a summer camp, theater and singing.

The Spirit of Youth sparked a passion for performing in Mina that he didn’t know he had. It was while he was preparing for his end of semester exam that a fellow classmate introduced him to the choir and social drama program. What began as an activity to give him a break from school quickly became the favorite part of his week.

He became a member of the choir and had the opportunity to perform in nine different venues all across Cairo including cultural palaces, parks, schools, non-governmental organizations and theaters. Mina looked forward to the performances, which allowed him to see more of his city because there had been few opportunities for his family to travel while he was growing up.

Mina is a naturally expressive and charismatic young man but when he gets to perform for an audience, he stands out among his peers. After receiving his preparatory school certificate, the school recognized his leadership ability and was pleased to employ him as a permanent drama teacher. His students view him as a role model, a living example of where education can lead you.

Two years ago, Mina and 40 other graduates of the school and members of the community established an NGO called The Free Mind. He is one of the founders of the organization, which works in youth development. Along with the other founders, Mina was inspired by his own experience with youth programs that encouraged him to pursue his interests and travel outside of the community. Recognizing the value of youth development, The Free Mind hopes to reach young people across Egypt to realize their potential.

HANDS is committed to  empowering communities in the region to tackle their own problems through participatory decision making and responsible self-governance. We are honored to support the transformative work of organizations like the Spirit of Youth.