Housing is the biggest problem facing the Sudanese. Overcrowded apartments often cause domestic disputes among family and friends. And even though apartments are shared by a number of people, it is hard for most to pay the rent.
In Alexandria, 80 Sudanese in a space meant for 60 live in an old school behind St. Catherines Cathedral. Bishop Egidio, with CNEWA assistance, converted two floors of the unoccupied building into apartments for the students.
Those who graduate from university confront yet another dilemma: return home to live in a war zone or try to eke out a living in Egypt. Most stay. So the Latin Vicariate has made some preparations to provide additional training. In Alexandria, it has an arrangement with the Don Bosco Institute (also supported by CNEWA), which trains the Sudanese in welding, electrical engineering, hydraulics, electronics and computers. In 1992, there were 10 graduates of the program. In 1995, 70 will graduate. Because of the program, some have found jobs in other countries.
Similarly, in the Abbassiya district of Cairo, Sacred Heart parish is providing job training and employment: 10 Sudanese are supporting themselves at a tailoring and knitting center, stated the Rev. Cosimo Spadavecchia, M.C.CJ., Episcopal Vicar for Africans. About 75 women meet at the church every week for spiritual direction and dialogue. They also make a variety of handicrafts, embroidery and silk-screened T-shirts. They share their successes and failures, discuss ways to sell their items and promote exhibitions.
We carry the weight of their losing experience of the war, Father Spadavecchia said. They need to come together and start thinking about their future.
In Alexandria, the women who make the colorful table linens and purses also create V neck and crew neck sweaters. They have tried to market their items by selling them to retail stores, or presenting them at bazaars, but they cannot compete with the larger and more established Egyptian textile industries. They are out-marketed and pushed aside.
The atmosphere in their meeting room at St. Catherines Cathedral in Alexandria is remarkably positive. Part of a wall is covered with pictures of students graduating from universities. Many smile and look proud. Other pictures show some Sudanese performing various tasks. Small signs next to the pictures say: We enjoy working. How about you? No problem. We are working. Pray and do something.
It is in the Sudanese peoples nature to be happy, to smile, these Alexandria women explained. They know they have difficulties, but they still smile, No matter what you are doing, you cannot go around gloomy every day, said Angela Todo.
Yet last October, the women staged a three-day hunger strike, demanding refugee status and asylum in another country. But the hunger strike failed and some Sudanese lost hope. One man was so despondent he jumped from a fifth-story window. He barely survived. Father ORourke visited him at the hospital. The man, although broken and bruised, apologized to the Irish priest for not being able to sit up and shake his hand.
Post a Comment |
Tags: Egypt Refugees Socioreligious programs Sudan