My Social Apostolate Ministry is mostly carried out at the Gad-el-Sid Social Center. This is one of two satellite centers run by the "Jesuits' and Brothers' Association for Development" in other parts of Minia City. Our Social Center lies in the area of Gad-el-Sid, in the southern part of the city of Minia (240 km. South of Cairo). This Center is the property of the Jesuit Community and about a 20-minute walk from the Jesuits' Residence. The Jesuit Community Residence itself lies to the south of the older, central portion of the City.
in Gad-el-Sid area
The population in Minia has increased considerably during the past 50 to 60 years. While richer families tended to settle to the North, those with lower incomes scrambled for cheaper, and much smaller, land plots to the south of the city. Gad-el-Sid is the kind of place where one finds all the usual social, moral and psychological problems typical of such areas. It is difficult to determine with certainty how many people live in this area, but it is upwards of 60,000 persons.
Houses in this part of town are built on plots of an average ground area of about 40m2, but there are many houses with even less. They are very badly ventilated and often very congested, with new families either settling in a room, or building another storey on top of, their parents' flat if they can afford it. Some houses have up to five storeys, and none have good foundations. It is indeed surprising that inspite of an alarming lack of hygenic conditions, there are no epidemic outbreaks. Nevertheless when people do get ill, many have to go without adequate medical help, or they resort to traditional remedies which are quite often insufficient, ineffectual or outright harmful.
Many bread-earners manage to earn enough to be able to make an unpretentious but decent living, usually by having a second job, with sometimes even the women helping in the family budget. It is not uncomon for the children to do some 'bread-earning' as well. But that does not mean that jobs are plentiful. El Minia City itself, the Capital of the Minia Governorate, is probably the city with the highest unemployment rate in Upper (i.e. Southern) Egypt. Although there are no reports of actual cases of people dying of hunger, a good number of families barely make it, and still others live well below the poverty line. A number of families have fallen heavily in debt, and this is a cause of great concern as it has led many people into very serious trouble. If everyone, somehow, manages to eat, no matter how little, yet when it comes to various services, many have to do without.
Though probably all the children in the area attend the Government public schools, the level of education is rather low. Many will never go beyond the Preparatory level, the majority of them because they remain literally illiterate. Many parents are too occupied earning a living, or are simply too ignorant, to look after their children's education properly. There is the equally serious problem of children coming from broken families, of which there are quite a number. Of course, there are no recreational or cultural facilities available in the area. If such facilities exist to the north of the city, it is very unlikely that children in Gad-el-Sid will benefit from them.
The Center was started by Br.Selim Elias Chamaoun s.j. in the early 1970's. The original purpose of providing catechism classes to local Christian children in the area soon gave way to a wider involvement in charitable and social development work offered to all deserving cases irrespective of creed. With the help of local volunteers, Br. Chamaoun was soon running a large variety of social, educational and recreational activities. The place was constantly jammed with different groups, each trying to pursue its own activity in the confined space available.
In the mid-1990's, as Br. Chamaoun was advancing in age, the Jesuit community in Minia agreed to transfer the management of the Center into the care of the "Jesuits' and Brothers' Association for Development".
We constantly try to improve, update and adapt our services for better quality and greater efficiency in serving the beneficiaries of the Center's various projects. We are often confronted with the need to start a new activity or to enlarge an existing one. However, due to chronic lack of space, we are forced to reduce some services rather than develop them.
Activities at present offered by the Center include a 'Mother and Child' program, Kindergarten, Evening Studies, Scouts, Summer Club, a small Lending library, Catechism and various 'charitable' activities. Except for purely religious activities like Catechism, all our programs are open to Christians of all denominations as well as to Moslems . We have no place for reintroducing Litteracy classes, Women Promotion Training, and Workrooms. These activities were previously available at the Center but had tobe abandoned to make way for more urgent ones. There is not even enough room for a Social Office necessary for co-ordinating our Social Work. Furniture items are limited to the strict minimum.
The present premises are old, hastily and badly built, and rotting with high ground humidity, which has reached a dangerously high level along the walls, especially as the floor of the premises now lies below street level. We have reason to be worried about the safety of the buildings. This calls for new and more spacious premises. The Center at present is simply a one-storey arrangement (ground-floor only) on a ground area of about 160m2! Two years ago we added a temporary big room on the 'roof', using light building materials; this has somewhat increased space but so have our security worries. We have already acquired an adjacent plot of land, increasing the original ground area by about 60%, on which we hope, one day, to be able to build a new Center.
Activities at the Center
Government schools do not usually include a kindergarten. As most of the children in our area will most probably enter directly into First Primary in the local Government Primary schools, our Kindergarten service will give them the opportunity of a good start. More fortunate children, whose parents can afford to send them to private schools, normally start off their education in kindergartens available at these schools. Kindergarten is available at the center in the mornings for 6 days per week.
We offer students between the ages of 8 and 14 yrs. the possibility of enhancing their scholarly performance by providing them with evening 'study-halls', where supervisors help them do their homework and revise their lessons. For the most part children in this category attend over-populated classes in Government schools. Normally their performance is very poor and a high percentage actually finishes primary school literally not knowing how to 'draw' their name. Our efforts have pulled most of the children who attend our study halls out of certain illiteracy, consequently offering them a competitive chance for their future. About 110 students at present benefit from this scheme. This service runs 5 days a week, for 4½ hrs. per day, in the evenings, and only during school months, and attendance is very regular.
We recently started a 'Lending Library Service', in order to improve reading habits and help students widen their General Knowledge. The response was very positive and we keep adding new books periodically.
The Summer Club attracts about 400 children, but they are never all present together. This club runs during the 3 Summer months only, for 6 days a week, and has an average daily attendace of about 100 children. However we also have club activity on Sundays throughout the year for children attending Catechism. The center also organizes a number of outings for children of the area.
Scouting is being earnestly encouraged. Conceived as a "Game", this activity is known to be a very effective Personality Development Program. It provides the ideal comprehensive training framework suitable for the age-groups that mostly come to our Center.
We have over 700 names listed in our 'Social Office' files, collected over the past 4 yrs., of people young and old who in some way benefit from the Center's services. About 15% of these are Moslems, the rest are Christians of all denominations. Of course they are never all there at the same time. Most of these are children and adolescents, but there are also about 70 adults who benefit from services intended for them.
For more details on the Social Options at the Center go to:
You can find out more about the Jesuits' presence in Minia in the following pages:
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