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ROTARY AMBASSADORIAL CHALLANGE 2004

... a project sponsored by
                UK Rotary District 1060
and organised with the help of Rotary Ambassadorial Scholars from
 
USA - Jennifer Hansel, Monica McMillan, Robbie Hudson, Paxton Williams, Teresa Breen, Belkys Lopez 
 
Japan - Noburu Akuzawa, Fumiko Kondo, Mayumi Tanaka
 
Romania - Dan Stoenescu 
 
Italy - Caterina Ferrario, Valentina Michellangeli
 
Jamaica - Heather Bernard
 
Taiwan - Nancy Lin 
 
South Korea  - Hyunjung Kim.
 
 

With the help of the Rotary Ambassadorial Challenge the African Hope School received in August 2004 1,166 from UK donations, 500 from Japan and about 1000 from the US

 

THANK YOU AMBASSADORS FOR YOUR HARD WORK AND THANK YOU TO ALL THE DONORS!   Dan

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The African Hope School in Cairo, Egypt

     

   There are more than a dozen Rotary Ambassadorial Scholars in District 1060 from countries such as Romania, Taiwan, Japan, Italy, and USA. The New Year 2004 will be a truly Rotarian year for most of them, not only because of their ambassadorial duties but also because they will embark on a new international project. The project is called Ambassadorial Challenge 2004 and it is initiated and co-ordinated by the scholars themselves. The projects location is Egypt, and the mission is to provide financial assistance to the African Hope School in Cairo, an educational institution for the Sudanese refugee children. The Rotary Ambassadors will organise fundraising events in District 1060 but also world wide, in their home countries.

     Now more than ever they need assistance and Rotary is there to help. The Ambassadorial Challenge 2004 hopes to raise enough money to feed these children and provide educational materials, Together and with the help of Rotary clubs from District 1060 and around the world we will put a smile on the faces of these destitute refugee children.

 

The Ambassadorial Scholars are looking for help from Rotary Clubs in District 1060 to support them in this venture in one of three ways. By making a direct contribution to the fund, by organising a specific fund raising event or by sponsoring the scholars on one of the activities they will be undertaking. At the same time they will be seeking similar help from their sponsoring districts and clubs.

 

This is perhaps the first time the Districts Scholars have taken the initiative and contributed both to the spirit of Rotary and to a specific cause. Please try to find ways to support them in this most worthy venture.

 

Further details of the project and specific case study materials to help you decide the worthiness of this venture can be had from Don Stoenescu, University of Warwick, Tocil Flat 9A, Gibbet Hill Rd, Coventry CV4 7AL, Mobile 779 296 3002 or e-mail  danstoenescu@hotmail.com. Equally with Alan Pearces approval the scholars could come to your club to talk about the proposals and discuss ways in which you could help.

                                                                                            Dan Stoenescu

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     In order to understand why I have chosen to get involved with the African Hope Learning Center, a closer look at the refugee situation in Egypt is necessary.  Egypt hosted more than 55,000 refugees and asylum seekers at the end of 2000: approximately 40,000 Palestinians, about 3,000 refugees and 9,000 asylum seekers from Sudan, some 3,000 refugees and 1,000 asylum seekers from Somalia, and about 1,000 refugees from various other countries. 
      Most of the refugees in Egypt received at least limited material assistance from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). UNHCR provided a monthly subsistence allowance, education grants, and subsidized medical care for refugee children who needed such aid. Some refugees also received job training, health education, computer training, and English-language classes.
          Funding constraints, however, hampered UNHCRs assistance programs during 2000. The agency curtailed refugees already inadequate subsistence allowances by as much as 20 percent. Education stipends, medical payments, vocational training, and self-help projects supported by UNHCR also suffered severe cutbacks. These funding problems placed more pressure on small private agencies in Cairo that struggled to assist Egypts destitute refugee and immigrant communities.
       First time, I worked at the African Hope School refugee school for Sudanese children in the outskirts of Cairo, in el Maadi area for a few months in the summer of 2002. The school had about 400 students ranging from 3 to 16 years of age and about 10 dedicated teachers who were themselves refugees. Most of the children here emigrated from Sudan to Egypt in search of a better life, but even here they face discrimination. Some of the children were sent away by their parents who decided to stay in Sudan hoping that their children will get a better future if they immigrate. Although their stories are tragic they still had a friendly smile on their faces, a smile of hope. With the help of UNHCR most of these children will emigrate to the United States, Canada, Australia or Finland, so it is crucial for them to have a basic education.

       My humanitarian work with the refugee children was not palpable: a glance, an attention, a feeling. I believe that the most significant is sometimes just to listen, to exchange a smile or a few words. The refugee children are there to remind the world which looks down at them with condescendence, where ethnic difference can lead. War is here, very close, but also much too hidden from our eyes. These children, men and women have no energy left; they are worn out by their daily life, which strips them of their desires, their honor, and their pride. Their life and future is decided now in Egypt, in large offices, by the UNHCR.

My daily assignments were to teach English and Social Sciences classes at all grade levels, and coordinate student groups in activities for children such as music, sports, and drama. During the time I spent at that school I really enjoyed working with the young students. I sat next to them, talked with them and interacted with them at a personal level making them feel at ease with me. By the end of the week I managed to get to know most of my young students: Tyason, Umnia, Ibrahim, Ahmed... It was a real joy seeing the children greeting me: Hi Dan! How are you?

Behind their apparent joy there is a tragic story, a story of war. For decades Sudan was devastated by a civil war. The powerful Arab north, which is Muslim and represents two thirds of the population, is trying to dominate the Christian south of the country. Tens of thousands of people died in this war just because of religion. It is so odd that in our times people still kill each other just because they believe that they have a different God. Both Islam and Christianity are religions that propagate compassion for everybody, they are tolerant religions. It makes nonsense to kill each other for that. Many trying to escape this horrendous war cross the northern border of Sudan and arrive in Egypt. For them being black and Christian creates much discrimination. Many Egyptians view them as foreigners that want to take their jobs. Their children are not even allowed in the Egyptian public schools. For the Sudanese refugees, every day is a struggle for survival.

Through my volunteering at that school I realized that I was not the only one teaching. The children taught me also something. They taught me how to keep my hopes up and how to survive with a smile.

Last year I began fundraising for this school, mainly through the Texas Rotary clubs of Sherman and Grayson county and, Austin College. We raised over $1,000 ... Now through the Rotary Ambassadorial Challange 2004, I hope that with the help of other Ambassadorial Scholars, we can really make a difference...


If you want to get in touch  feel free to email me at danstoenescu@hotmail.com

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The Refugee Children of Sudan

 

       

When westerners think of Egypt, they see the magnificent past overshadowing the present. Few realise that Egypt is also a gateway to freedom for millions of refugees escaping the famine, repression and civil wars of the African continent. The statistics of 2002 show that there are 10,000 refugees living in Egypt (this does not include 70,000 Palestinians), and over two thirds of these are Sudanese. Most of these refugees are young people, who have escaped the hardships of war, torture and oppression.

        Since the early 80s, Sudan has experienced conflicts between the Arab Muslim northerners, the base of the government, and the black Africans of the south, who practice mainly Christian or animist beliefs.  Since 1983 at least one out of every five southern Sudanese has died because of the 17-year civil war. Nearly two million people have died and about 80% of southern Sudan's estimated five million people have been displaced. Besides the atrocities of war, famine is devastating the country. Malnutrition is the main cause of death for hundreds of thousands of people. Due to the everyday nightmare that the Sudanese experience, many chose to cross the northern border to Egypt, and then hoping to immigrate to a safe heaven in the west.

 

The reality of undocumented immigrants and refugees in Egypt is very different from what the official statistics say. Many non-governmental associations and churches talk about hundreds of thousands, even millions of Sudanese refugees in Egypt. The situation is complex because many Sudanese do not receive refugee status from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). In fact many do not even apply or are afraid to do so. Among the refugee community, there are many stories of people being deported back to Sudan; once they arrived they were executed because they were considered rebels by the Sudanese government.

Once in Egypt many Sudanese realize that this is not paradise. Once here many become homeless, unemployed and face much discrimination. This is particularly hard for the thousands of children that face the real world and the harsh life of being refugees. The Sudanese refugee children are not allowed to attend public schools in Egypt because they are not citizens. In order to help with their education, churches like the Presbyterian Church USA and non-governmental organizations, like Rotary International, have established special schools for the Sudanese refugee children. One of these schools is the African Hope School.

           The African Hope School is in the Maadi district, a relatively nice neighborhood of Cairo where few Sudanese live. Because of that, many children and teachers have to travel a long way just to get to school. The school has about 400 students ranging from 3 to 19 years of age and about 10 dedicated teachers who are themselves refugees. Most of the children here have emigrated from Sudan to Egypt in search of a better life, but even in Egypt they face discrimination. Some of the children were sent away by their parents, who decided to stay in Sudan. They had hoped that their children would get a better future if they immigrated to Egypt. Although their stories are tragic, they still have a friendly smile on their faces - a smile of hope. With the help of UNHCR, most of these children will emigrate to the United States, Canada, Australia or Europe. Therefore, so it is crucial for them to have basic education.

        The school is located in a small building that has few facilities. In the school yard there is another provisional small building made of wood and cardboard. This small room is the Social Sciences classroom, and it is able to stand because it was built next to an old tree that holds the whole structure together. The classroom has no windows and there are no differences between being outside and inside the classroom. Because of the overcrowded classes, this room is used even in the winter. In the middle of January students study here at a temperature of 50 degrees while wearing gloves and hats. 

         In spite of the poor conditions, the students are the ones that warm the whole school through their willingness to learn and through their strong characters. Many passed through terrible experiences that transformed them into adults maybe to early.

Anna Charles is a 14-year-old student from Yambio. She came to Egypt in1999, with only her mother. When her mother applied for refugee status in May 1999, she got sick and was not able to go for the interview. Ever since then she was not able to get another interview and when she and her mother went back, they were ignored. She has been able to adapt to the new life in Egypt, but she has been the object of teasing in the streets and even in her own house: Some Egyptians are not polite with us. They see that we have a different color skin and they call us demeaning names like monkey, chocolate or honga-bonga (carbon monoxide powder). They throw stones at us when we walk on the street. Once they even came to our apartment, threatened us and asked for money. I would like to go to the west because for me this country is not secure and I am threatened everyday. Even though she goes through so many hardships, this 14-year-old girl has a strong character and, according to her teachers, she is the leader of her class. In the future Anna would like to become a doctor and go back to southern Sudan where medicine and doctors are in great demand. 

 Zaki Tameem is a 15-year-old young man from the southern Sudanese city of Juba. In 1999 he and the other 7 members of his family were forced to live in tunnels for months because of the intense fighting between the government forces and the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA). After months of sufferance the family decided to flee Juba and go to the capital Khartoum, and afterwards to Egypt. In Egypt, Zakis family endured lots of hardships.  For Zaki, even coming to school is a hard task. Because the daily 1-pound (20 cents) for transportation is too much for him, he comes to school every other day. Also simple things like the lack of soap to wash his clothes are an impediment for him to continue his education. In spite of these hardships, for Zaki as well as for the other Sudanese, Egypt is a better place in some aspects: In Sudan we live sometimes for days without food because there is simply no food or it is too expensive. In Egypt is not so bad, with 10 piasters  (2 cents) you can buy a piece of bread to survive

       In Cairo, Zaki and his family experience the same kind of discrimination and racism like all the other refugees. There is a lot of police brutality and abuse against the Sudanese, he recounts. My brother Abdul Rahman Tameem while he was looking for a job, was taken to jail by the police although he had the UNHCR residence card. Right now he is in jail and in order to bring him food we need to bribe the guards.

       The Tameem family fears for Abdul Rahmans safety because they had tragic experiences in the past with the Egyptian police. In 2001, Zakis cousin Deng Karbino, 20 years old, was taken to the police station to be questioned in a case in which he was the one accusing some Egyptians of theft. After a few months the family received Dengs dead body with signs of violence. His eyes were missing as well as many internal organs. When the family wanted to know what happened they were threatened, and then beaten by the police who told them not to inquire anymore about Dengs death.

      Victor James Aquat is a 14-year-old boy that simply could not stand the constant humiliation that he was enduring in Cairo. Without telling his parents he left Cairo and traveled south all the way to Aswan, trying to cross the border back to Sudan. He wanted to go back to Sudan to live with his old grandmother. Having no papers he was caught at the border by the Egyptian border patrol and put in jail in Aswan. It took months and lots of bribes for his parents to get him out from a Cairo jail.

        For most of these children the African Hope School is just a short episode in their lives before immigrating to a Western country. In spite of that their education here is crucial. For many children, especially for those from the rural and tribal areas of Sudan, acquiring a basic education, learning English, and having some kind of moral support is critical for a future integration into a western society, like the American society for example. Although many will immigrate, the real aim for most of the refugee children and their parents is to go back to their native country. However until the political disagreements are solved or the economical situation improves, returning to Sudan is impossible.

 

Dan STOENESCU

 

 

The Sudanese Refugee Children Need Your Help

 

 

 

AFRICAN HOPE SCHOOL

Sharia El Nadi 25, El Maadi, Cairo, Egypt

Tel:++ 202-3584049, ++202-3588817

 

 

QUICK FACTS

 

Why the refugees leave Sudan?

 

When many Americans think of Egypt, they see the magnificent past overshadowing the present. Very few Americans realize that Egypt is also a gateway to freedom for millions of refugees escaping the famine, repression and civil wars of the African continent. The statistics of 2002 show that there are 10,000 refugees living in Egypt (this does not include 70,000 Palestinians), and over two thirds of these are Sudanese. Most of these refugees are young people, who have escaped the hardships of war, torture and oppression.

 

 Since the early 80s, Sudan has experienced conflicts between the Arab Muslim northerners, the base of the government, and the black Africans of the south, who practice mainly Christian or animist beliefs.  Since 1983 at least one out of every five southern Sudanese has died because of the 17-year civil war. Nearly two million people have died and about 80% of southern Sudan's estimated five million people have been displaced. Besides the atrocities of war, famine is devastating the country. Malnutrition is the main cause of death for hundreds of thousands of people. Due to the everyday nightmare that the Sudanese experience, many chose to cross the northern border to Egypt, and then hoping to immigrate to a safe heaven in the west.

 

The reality of undocumented immigrants and refugees in Egypt is very different from what the official statistics say. Many non-governmental associations and churches talk about hundreds of thousands, even millions of Sudanese refugees in Egypt. The situation is complex because many Sudanese do not receive refugee status from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). In fact many do not even apply or are afraid to do so. Among the refugee community, there are many stories of people being deported back to Sudan; once they arrived they were executed because they were considered rebels by the Sudanese government.

 

 

What is the African Hope School?

 

 

 

The African Hope School is in the Maadi district, a relatively nice neighborhood of Cairo where few Sudanese live. Because of that, many children and teachers have to travel a long way just to get to school. The school has about 400 students ranging from 3 to 19 years of age and about 10 dedicated teachers who are themselves refugees. Most of the children here have emigrated from Sudan to Egypt in search of a better life, but even in Egypt they face discrimination. Some of the children were sent away by their parents, who decided to stay in Sudan. They had hoped that their children would get a better future if they immigrated to Egypt. Although their stories are tragic, they still have a friendly smile on their faces - a smile of hope. With the help of UNHCR, most of these children will emigrate to the United States, Canada, Australia or Europe. Therefore, so it is crucial for them to have basic education.

       

 

What are the issues that the African Hope School is facing?

 

 

        The school is located in a small building that has few facilities. In the school yard there is another provisional small building made of wood and cardboard. This small room is the Social Sciences classroom, and it is able to stand because it was built next to an old tree that holds the whole structure together. The classroom has no windows and there are no differences between being outside and inside the classroom. Because of the overcrowded classes, this room is used even in the winter. In the middle of January students study here at a temperature of 50 degrees while wearing gloves and hats. 

         In spite of the poor conditions, the students are the ones that warm the whole school through their willingness to learn and through their strong characters. Many passed through terrible experiences that transformed them into adults maybe to early.

The school has been established 5 years ago and has grown from 150 to 555. If the school gets enough support, the 11th grade will be added next year. According to Norma Smith, president of the schools board of trustees:  The school is too crowded and ca not get a larger facility because we do not have the money. My husband helps with the money handling for our board.  He has calculated that we have enough money on hand and with the regular monthly support promised to be opened until Aug. 1.   It is crucial that we get funding.   There are proposals pending, but since we are in our infancy we do not have much clout yet. Right now my greatest stress is feeding 600 people every day.   The Danish Embassy did it for a year and paid the cook and the assistant.  Then they stopped and these people were used to eating a hot meal at school.   It breaks my Heart that last Saturday there was no food for anyone

 

           

 

 

What will the African Hope School do with donations?

 

 

On the short term

 

Norma Smith: Can you imagine how much $1000 will help with the exchange being 6.37!  We can even have meat once a week stretched thru the pasta and fruit and even milk at least once a week and of course, the cook and the assistant have to be paid out of that "food" money.   I keep saving little donations people give me and I was able to pay the cook last month and we had been given 3000 LE.   Well, that was only enough for a bean sandwich each day......better than nothing, but I am hoping for a little more.   We are budgeting 4000 LE a month so there is a bit of variety and vegetables in the sandwich and even an egg once in awhile.

 

 

On the long term:

 

 

Envisioning Needs for a 6-floor Building:

 

Lowest level would be recreational area for primary levels and game room for intermediates as well

Highest level would be to house single staff members both math and female with separate restrooms

Four floors in between will be classrooms for grades K-12

Outside parents and visitors will have to be buzzed in  for scheduled conferences or tours of the facility.

Gates will be locked before and after children  are allowed to enter their classrooms.

 K-3rd  grade  on  2nd floor  with a media room / storage room for primary  materials  and the main administrative office with air conditioning , copy machine,  2 computers-- one for online and one for data base and  all record keeping.  The media room should have a TV - VCR , Overhead projector, tape players besides all the learning aides that are needed for younger children.   It will need regulators for the electronic items that come from USA.110's.   Upon entering the floor there will be cubbies for each grade level to keep their belongings each with the child's name on his-her cubby. (The rooms may be large enough to have the cubbies inside each room.   There should be a toilet with a sink in each room  if at all possible.child size.  The kitchen on each floor should be the place for teachers to get a cup of tea before school starts.  All food would be dispensed from this kitchen.

Each class master should have in the room a big desk with supplies for that class, a file cabinet , a globe and  maps, chalkboards, bulletin boards, or white boards.   Each child should have a desk and a chair assigned and responsible for it.  Classes should NOT exceed 25 children.  If it is more feasible to have a desk-chair unit for two, each child is responsible for HIS / HER   side.

 

The 3rd floor would have a kitchen and at least one W.C. maybe two.one for boys and one for girls. This floor will be for grades 4, 5 and 6.  A media -storage room is needed and personal cubbies for all the children.  Each class master will need a big desk for needed supplies and personal items, a globe, maps, chalkboards, bulletin boards etc.   A TV-VCR will be needed, an Overhead projector and tape players.    A computer lab could be on this floor with air conditioning for protection of the machines.

The 4th floor needs to be exactly like the 3rd floor with grades  7, 8 and 9 .  Hopefully, another computer lab can be equipped for these teenagers.

The 5th floor will be the Library beside a Resource, study room for teachers, Media/ storage room, kitchen, W.C. for male and female.   There should be a separate one for the staff who do not wish to use the student facilities.    Ceiling fans shall be in all rooms and in general areas.   The library and resource rooms will be air-conditioned and there will be computers available for teachers only. 

The 6th floor will be like a dormitory for single staffdivided for female and males but with a common room with a TV-VCR -----dining-living room atmosphere with the kitchen for staff to make their own mealsor share as the case may be.  A washing machine will be on this floor for staff and for kitchen laundry, etc.   This free lodging would be part of salary and I would suggest they pay only for the phone bill.  Perhaps a board would suggest they pay all utilities but have free rent.   I would like to see just a small room for each one with a single bed and closet for clothes etc.   Perhaps two could be in a room but all single beds and private closet for personal effects.  Each teacher would have a personal disk for using the computers in the resource room and teachers on demand could access this.

            We will hire our own security people and hire refugees to keep the building clean, a cook to help the Danish-hired cook to include the staff.    We will also include in our budget money to feed staff one main meal a day.

 

 Also necessary items include:

- photocopy machine
                                   
                  
- 2 cupboards for teachers           
                  
- 43 twin tables for grades 8-11     
                  
- short table for computer           
                  
- shelves for library                
- the need an Art teacher who takes 
- school tuition LE75/year *25student
- 50 shirts, 25 trousers, 25 socks, 25 shoes, 25 bags
- drawing notes,
                  English & Math exercise notes, Bible, etc.
 

How can I help?

 

 

You can send a check to:

 

AFRICAN HOPE LEARNING CENTER

P.O. BOX 9551     PEORIA, IL  61612

 

Your check will be deposited in the AFRICAN HOPE LEARNING CENTER account in Peoria. Copies of the checks will be sent by fax to Cairo sends. Afterwards the Board of Trustees of the African Hope School will send receipts to donors according to IRS specs, as they have just become tax exempt and non-profit -AFRICAN HOPE, INC. If you are affiliated to Rotary United Kingdom, please get in touch with Dan Stoenescu.

 

For questions and more information: danstoenescu@hotmail.com