Al-Afadra is a small village in upper Egypt where I first saw dirt roads, a part-time medical clinic, an optional grammar school, and houses built of mud bricks with palm leaf roofs. Several years later, I was told to create a school project that was meaningful to me, whether it involved creating, designing, or constructing something. I chose to take advantage of my resources and improve one aspect of the living conditions of the people of Al-Afadra, my father’s native village. The goal of my school project was to reduce the number of scorpion envenomations among children. Scorpion stings are second only to snakebites as causes of toxin-related deaths in North Africa, making it a significant health issue in this area of the world. For my finished product, I decided I wanted to make a documentary about life in the village, to expose others to this place that is hidden from the rest of the world, and to share my experience.
To prevent scorpion bites, I collected gently-used shoes from schools here in Sacramento, and then brought them with me on my summer trip to Egypt. I felt shoes would be the most effective method of prevention, since most bites occur when a child accidentally steps on a scorpion. I collected the shoes from my three old schools: Brookfield School, Sutterville Preschool, and Salam School. After a month of collecting and organizing the shoes by size, which I did in my living room, I realized that I had an incredible amount of shoes.
My parents and I were able to bring over 500 pairs of shoes, in 8 stuffed suitcases, to Egypt. The distribution of the shoes was slightly more hectic that I had thought it would be, but in the end, all of the shoes had been distributed, one way or another. One thing that fascinated me was the children’s large feet! Apparently, because they never wear real shoes, their feet naturally grow larger than American children’s feet. When I returned from my exciting trip to Egypt, I compiled some video footage that I had taken and put together a short documentary on life in the village because I don’t think many people here in the U.S. know about the Egyptian culture. Now when I watch and show others my documentary, I feel rewarded.
As my project came to an end, its future and potential were just beginning to blossom. At an EAS or Egyptian American Society meeting, I was asked to give a short presentation about my project and many people encouraged me to continue it. I came home with a collection of diverse business cards and phone numbers. I have even had a few parents from the schools come to my house to drop off their old sneakers. Really, I am just glad that I was able to travel halfway across the globe, which is something not everyone can do, and at the same time help out people in need.
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