Our approach - past examples
Foundation for South Sinai started life in
late 2006. Starting from scratch enabled us to focus on the kind of development we believe in: small-scale, sustainable, culturally-appropriate and considered. The work we support reflects these principles, and is based wherever possible on primary research carried out by our team. In addition to focusing on grassroots, sustainable development initiatives we have been giving small grants to people who find themselves in difficult circumstances, to help address the uncertainties people face due to economic, social and climatic change. As our organization grows, we plan to maintain our commitment to steady-paced development projects that will be of lasting benefit.
Our five agreed themes for grant-making and projects are:
sustainable development and job creation
conservation of environment and heritage
enabling communities and social welfare
The following examples illustrate support given to individuals and community initiatives under these themes. Some have cost little or nothing, while others are a relatively substantial investment. Our priorities change as our understanding deepens of what local people bring to the table, and what they need us to bring.
Sustainable Development and Job Creation
Mount Sinai Bedouin Wool Project
We developed a project to investigate new uses for local wool. Wool is an under-used resource here. Many people still produce it, but it was formerly all used for tent-making. Now that almost everyone is settled in houses there is no tradition of using it to make clothes, despite the bitter cold of the mountain winter. Tests carried out on the wool at the University of Manchester showed it suitable for felting. Working with an expert felter, we have taught 20 Bedouin women in four villages to make warm clothing and blankets for their families, and for sale. We were careful to structure the project in an appropriate way, so that local women felt comfortable to be involved. We plan to expand the project to explore other uses for felt and the other types of wool available here.
Olive Oil Press
We have commissioned an olive-press from a local craftsman, enabling
small-scale producers to extract their oil locally. This saves them a
1200-km round-trip to Al Arish, where nowadays the nearest commercial
olive-press is located. There are many potential domestic and
commercial uses for olive oil. Olive trees can also flourish with less
water than other locally grown crops. Given the current drought,
helping to make olives commercially viable can allow people to
continue to tend their gardens in the traditional manner and can
protect against fluctuations in the wage labour market. Since the
press has been made available local growers have already begun to
plant more olives, and the press looks set to be a great success. In
its first year of operation the press was used by 70 families, and
enabled the man who operates the press on our behalf to return to his
father's traditional trade.
Portable Drill and Generator
Lack of access to water is the major concern expressed by local people. Helped by donations from Egyptian donors, the mo'assessa has purchased a portable drill and generator which can be borrowed by local people for expanding and deepening their wells. This will provide access to deeper water, necessary to allow people to grow fruit and vegetables to sell or to supplement their diet. Being small and portable, the drill will be available for use even by people in remote and inaccessible areas. In 2010, 22 wells were improved using the drill, bringing water to over a thousand people.
Environmental Education for Bedouin Children
Bedouin children are eager to learn, but they often struggle at school. Girls rarely have more than a few years at primary school, and many boys have to leave at a young age to help bring in an income for their family. Thanks largely to BioMAP Egypt (www.biomapegypt.org) we were able to provide books, DVDs and drawing and writing materials so that one of the rangers in the St Katherine Protectorate - himself a Bedouin - could run out-of-school sessions encouraging boys and girls to learn, draw and write about their environment.
School Equipment and Exam Fees
Schools in South Sinai need many resources. The local primary school in St Katherine made an appeal for teaching materials, and the mo'assessa made grants to them to equip their classrooms. In addition we paid the exam fees for 25 of the children in 2009 and the school fees for 40 children in 2010.
Community Drinking Water
A resident of Wadi Sa'ab had dug a well and made a pool to provide drinking water for about 300 families in the area who had no access to a clean water supply; he had even made a pool for their animals to drink from. He needed a pump and covered tank to store the water hygienically, and we provided him with a grant in two stages to enable him to complete the work.
Numerous residents of two local communities complained that they were severely affected by mosquitoes breeding in the nearby water treatment plant. We successfully lobbied for the Protectorate authority to tackle the problem, and will ensure the community has an ongoing voice in keeping the issue alive and the mosquitoes dead.
Conservation of Environment and Heritage
The Jebeliya Camel Race
Traditionally every year, each tribe holds a camel race. The tradition had lapsed over recent years among the Jebeliya, but has been revived with our help. The race is an important focus of Jebeliya culture. We provided the running costs and the prizes in 2007 and twice in 2008/9, also using the events to launch the mo'assessa and report on progress to the community. All the events have been successful, the most recent attracting over 500 people from seven tribes. From 2010 the event has been self-funding, a source of local pride.
Support for Bedouin Musicians
Bedouin music and poetry risk becoming dying arts, but there are a few
practitioners of both skills still around. Two excellent musicians
found their ability to perform was hampered by the large hole in their
shared oud, a traditional instrument resembling a lute. We were
delighted to get them a new one. In the future we hope to organize a
festival of Bedouin music and poetry to help celebrate and perpetuate
Community Capacity-Building and Social Welfare
Since our registration, our trustees have provided support for numerous cases of hardship. Many families here live in very difficult circumstances; fluctuations in climate and the tourist trade can make it difficult for them either to cope in the present or to invest in their future. We have been able to make significant donations for items such as medical expenses, food or transport to help struggling individuals cope with unexpected costs. There are always many cases of need for such grants, and they can make a real difference.
A Fine New Camel
We were asked to help a 12-year old boy who, since the death of his father, has been the main breadwinner for his large family. Working as a camel guide - a demanding job for such a young man - he had saved enough money to buy his own camel. However, in 2008 an unknown disease wiped out over 80 camels in this area, among them his hard-earned animal. There is no insurance against this kind of problem here, and in this case it meant that half of his small income was again diverted away from his family towards renting a camel. Helped by staff and students from Nottingham University, we were able to replace his animal.
Islam places great emphasis on generosity to the poor, especially during Ramadan. Since its inception, the mo'assessa has distributed packages of food at Ramadan, and during other times of hardship, most recently during the 'Arab spring' revolution when supplies to St Katherine faltered. Regular donors have included Toshiba Al-Araby Co., as well as mo'assessa trustees, staff, Egyptian and Bedouin supporters. Many hundreds of families have benefitted every year in this way from nourishing food items, including rice, fava beans, corn oil, butter, dried apricots, dates and sugar. The food is distributed widely including remote wadis, to members of most South Sinai tribes.
Egypt is officially the driest country in the world, yet in South Sinai people can suffer not only drought but also flooding. In early 2010 many residents of Ras Sidr (on the Gulf of Suez) were made homeless by huge flash floods following heavy rains (see this YouTube video from the North Sinai coast at the same time). Working with local sheikhs, and thanks to the generosity of the Toshiba Al-Araby Co., we were able to bring emergency packs of bedding and food to Egyptian and Bedouin families in the worst-affected areas.
Helping Children have Fun
Many Bedouin children have few or no toys. In addition to food parcels to help their parents celebrate Ramadan, we distributed small packages of toys to scores of Bedouin children. Both had been generously donated by Egyptian donors as part of their Ramadan giving. We also had the broken swings fixed in the village of el Marw, giving local children back their playground.