We have returned to Hope Village, an NGO in Cairo where Aya was seeking refuge. Although Aya is no longer here, we were able to visit with many of the children we met during our first trip such as Badr and his siblings. ‘ Hope Village’ seems to be the perfect name for this loving community of several homes for women and children. Badr accompanied us as we visited two of these homes, one housing teenage girls, most of whom have experienced gender-based violence and/or rape. However, the girls were the warmest, most jovial, giggly, and open I have seen so far in Egypt.
Although Badr, and his friend Ahmed, could have stayed in the children’s home, they have chosen to live with the teenage girls instead. The boys are little men. They are polite, loving, proud, and protective of these girls they now consider to be older sisters. They grew up fast, and whether or not they live with the girls because they are treated like princes, or whether it’s because they long for a matriarchal figure in their lives, none of it really matters. The love that this little family shares with one another was beyond anything I have ever experienced.
It is hard to imagine Badr has had little to no contact with his biological family. Like some of the other boys and girls at the children’s home of Hope Village, Badr, Ahmed, and his sisters were brought to the shelter to be cared for and kept off the streets of Cairo.
Still, this is not a sad place. In fact, it could be one of the most positive environments I have set foot in. Immediately you see children caring for one another and making a family with what they have been given. The three-year-olds rock the two-month-old babies to sleep. The five-year-olds wipe the noses and play with the newborns. The older ten-year-olds tell the seven-year-olds they love them.
Having noticed Ahmed’s interest in cameras on our first visit, we made sure to bring some disposable cameras along this time. Instantly, the boys tore through all the shots on the cameras. So we gave them our iPhones, a quick tutorial, and let them go. We were quite impressed with his photos! Badr and the other children had impromptu photo shoots as we continued our tour of the Hope Village girls home, which has a vocational training area allowing the girls to learn basket-weaving, rug-weaving, hairdressing, and candle-making.
After touring the facility, we spent our day dancing, playing, and talking with the children. After playing airplane with almost every child, it was time to say goodbye. None of the children cried when we left. I think that’s because they’re used to people leaving them. They are strong and have enough love in their self-made family to know there was nothing to be sad about. I however, got into the car and had a different reaction.
Enjoy some of Badr’s images below and check back soon to hear more about our time in Cairo!