Rag pickers of Cairo


Quick recap: Aeroflot. NYC to Moscow. Uncomfortable seat. Churlish airhostess. Endearing girl in ‘emergency row.’ Switch seats. Respite. Start talking.

Sometimes you meet someone who so profoundly impacts how you think about the world that you can never be the same person again. For me, it was this girl.

She was an Egyptian Christian. Her parents had moved to New York when she was little. After completing her undergrad, she moved to Egypt to work with an NGO providing education to children of rag pickers near Cairo. There was something particular about these rag pickers. They were all Christians living in a predominantly Muslim society. Their daily job was to collect the waste from in and around the city, sort organic from inorganic, and then sell the inorganic waste for their daily wage. This community had another interesting facet. Their best friends were pigs. Pigs ate the organic waste that couldn’t be sold. And the rag pickers guys ate bacon.

In 2009, the Egyptian government ordered a mass slaughter of pigs to prevent swine flu. More than 300,000 pigs were killed. This wrecked havoc in the lives of the community she was supporting. Not only did the community lose a source of food and income, all the unattended organic waste led to severe health issues. Her NGO started offering sanitation and health support as well and reached out to international development funds to support their initiative. She was going to Russia to raise awareness and funds for the issue.

He was moved. Could he find the courage to leave everything to be part of this movement? May be not. He wished her the best.

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