In the Moquattam area of Cairo, more than 50,000 zabbaleen, an Arabic word for garbage collectors, survive on sorting and recycling trash from the city. Unfortunately, a lot of children in this community have to drop out of school in order to help their parents collect and sort garbage.

In this community, many girls have limited education and no formal work experience. But with the help of one of HANDS’ partner organizations, Association for the Protection of the Environment (APE), they are able to earn an income and support their families by turning recycled fabrics into rugs, patches, quilts, tapestries and other colorful handicrafts. Many female zabbaleen have had life-transforming experiences by participating in the job-skills training programs.

One such person is Marianne. Inspired by her mother, one of the very first trainees at APE, Marianne joined the training program in 2009 to learn patchwork techniques during her school vacation. With the encouragement of her mother and the extra income they made together, not only was she able to finish high school, but she also eventually obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree, an achievement her mother and generations of women before her could never have dreamt of. Marianne has become an inspiration to her own children and other women in her community.

Besides handicraft production training, our sponsored program offers informal educational training to combat illiteracy in this community. Over the years, this training program has enabled more than 1,500 students who had once dropped out to return to school and finish their education.  

This program also offers health services to the local population, providing immunization to combat hepatitis B and C, reproductive health education, and diabetes testing. As a result, the child immunization rate has gone from two percent to 50 percent!

We are hosting two benefit handicraft sales featuring crafts made by this group this fall. One will be in the DC-Area on December 7th, and the other will be in New York on December 13th and 14th. Come support this program and its talented female artisans!

Together we are elevating more people out of poverty, empowering women to support their families and finish their education, promoting health and increased livelihood in the region, and improving environmental sustainability at the same time!