Mama Maggie: The Egyptian Mother Teresa

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1 Mama Maggie: The Egyptian Mother Teresa A Long Journey of Love and Giving Leads to a Nobel Nomination She is a woman whose thin body belies the amount of strength and energy that overflows from it to serve her community. You scarcely can hear her tender voice, yet her words penetrate your heart. Her unadorned appearance holds a spiritual attraction that draws others to her, winning the admiration of all who meet her. She is Mama Maggie, the Mother Teresa of Egypt. She was born in Cairo. She finished her education, earning a bachelor s degree in Business Administration from the American University in Cairo. She is married and the mother of a son who is an engineer and a married daughter who has given her three grandchildren. She began her professional career first as a representative for an advertising agency and marketing manager. She also taught at the American University in Cairo and was a lecturer at other universities and institutes as well as international forums. These were her first successful steps in her business and academic career paths which showed such promise. And yet, she had a nagging sense that there was something more for her. There was an inner call driving her to another direction in which God was nudging her -- a different mission through which God asked her to serve. She left career for calling, not caring for personal glory or high positions. She set aside all that she had achieved, preferring to serve the community. There she found her deepest desire, in the high honor of serving the poor and lonely.

2 Now she is a consultant for many charitable endeavors and (volunteer) coordinator for many charitable foundations. Above all, she is a true mother for many poor people. Mama Maggie s selfless service has qualified her, in the eyes of many, to be the Egyptian Mother Teresa. It also qualified her to be honored with a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize this year, We had a conversation with here about her life and mission, and here are excerpts: Mama Maggie, what is the motivation for your service to the poorest of the poor, when did it start and how did it develop? I grew up in a family of people who love to serve. In my childhood, I used to see my father s sister bring poor people in her house to feed them and take care of them. Also, at my father s clinic which was near our home, I used to see how he examined the needy patients for free and provided them with compassionate medical service. This was extended to all Upper Egypt. This service to humanity role was continued by my older brother, a cardiology consultant, as he provides medical services for needy patients. After my father s sister passed away in 1987, I felt that my role was to fill the gap she had left. My real service has begun. It grew and gradually developed, owing to everyone who felt the true fruit of giving and all the merciful hearts. That is why I feel indebted to all our fathers and mothers who preceded us in giving and taught us the discipline of donating and giving with love. I believe that love changes a sinner into a saint, a poor man into a rich man. Love heals the sick and turns the weak strong. What is your own vision for advancement of the community?

3 My vision is represented in bringing up children well in all aspects -- health, education, morality, as well as cultural literacy, together with delivering professional training and awareness to mothers. Beside implanting values and ideals at an early age -- saying no to cheating, no to lying, no to violence and saying yes to hard work, yes to honesty, yes to mutual respect, yes to cooperation with neighbors, and yes to love of family, neighbors, friends, our community and our homeland. Who receive these services? We serve all neglected categories of the community -- children, youth, mothers and elderly people, with special concentration on children in poor slums, in particular the garbage collectors. Why children in particular? Why do you wash their feet? And how do you feel? It is said that children are the future. If we build a healthy child, then we are laying the foundation stone of building a healthy community. I wash children s feet to show the sincerity of love to those who have been deprived of love. It is important for the child to feel that he is a valuable human being, loved and accepted by others. But washing the feet of another person signifies to me the submission to the Creator and His creation. This also teaches humility. Also, when they permit me to wash their feet I feel I am washing the saints feet and receive their blessing. What are the specific services provided through your organization?

4 We provide many services, like visiting families in slums and helping the children to receive their regular education. We help supply their educational needs, like shoes, school bag, books, as well as helping them in doing their school homework and encouraging good behavior. We also help families in cases of emergency, like rebuilding their ramshackle houses and building toilets. We make small projects for these people to help them earn their living in a respectable way. We do recreational trips and sports trips during school holidays. We also provide medical services, such as medical examination and treatment,especially in the field of dental and ophthalmology. We are supported in this service by a group of the best Egyptian physicians and dentists. There also are programs to raise the awareness and train the volunteers to give their best to their community and develop their skills. We also offer an educational service of a one-class school for kindergarten and primary-stage distinguished education. We help poor families pay their children s school fees. We also arrange regular meetings for mothers in slums to raise their health, psychological, educational awareness and developing good relationship among family members. We work as well to deliver regular quality education and literacy, especially for girls. What are the main achievements of this service? We deal with the most precious being on earth, the human being. That is why every good person with good mental health and balanced thinking we bring to the community is the greatest achievement for our service and a great fruit of the mission we serve. How do you feel when you see one of your children achieve success?

5 I feel I touch the sky, or even live in it. I am living for the sake of those children, they are the fruit of my life. What are the difficulties that face the civil society associations (NGOs) operating in Egypt? Apart from the usual difficulties we all face, I think that the greatest challenge for a person is to face his own self and know the extent of his weakness and overcome it. This is the greatest challenge. I always say that suffering exposes the greatest human potential. How did you reach being known globally although your concern is local? The answer is very simple -- it lies in the in honest, respectable and sincerely serious work. Everyone who provides service without love, well, it s worth nothing, and everyone who provides the simplest action, with love, this has the greatest value. Peace be upon love wherever it is. Happy is he whose heart knows pure, innocent love. How were you nominated to Nobel Peace Prize this year? I had the privilege of speaking in international forums, which attracted the attention to a successful model for charity work, worthy to be followed. What is more important, I believe that whatever a man sows, he reaps. When he sows love, he will reap love. When he sows respect, he gains respect. When he sows forgiveness, he reaps forgiveness. When he works for the sake of honoring people, he reaps honor.

6 This isn t the first time you are nominated for Nobel Prize, but the fifth time. Do you consider this recompense for serving the neglected and a victory for their right to live? This message is a great blessing to humanity because it develops the good, honest feelings and reveals the most beautiful aspect of the human soul. When a person cares for others, he is painting a beautiful painting that brings him back to his first beautiful nature. After Nobel? What does Mama Maggie want to do? I want to go on with my service more and more, until it spreads all over Egypt and the whole world, to make a better future for humanity and especially children. We provide simple work but with great love. We draw a smile in the heart and spirit of every deprived child. I hope this goes on from generation to generation What are Mama Maggie s wishes for the whole world in general and for Egypt in particular? I dream, wish, pray and work to have true honest love and cooperation for the sake of progress and prosperity reach all humanity all over the world and especially in my country, Egypt. Egypt is a great country, the country of civilization, country of the Nile, the pyramids, country of wisdom, country of religions, country of beauty, and country of the revolution. Egypt deserves better and deserves great future. I love my country very much, I love my people and I love the children of this country and I am ready to exert myself to see the fruit of honest love.

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