January ‘13
Insight Interview

January ‘13
Educate Me: Yasmin Helal
Educate Me: Yasmin Helal


    


In the midst of the harsh circumstances that the Egyptians have been living with in the past few years, few Egyptian youth have found their way in initiating a new NGO that gave hope for coming generations. Educate Me is a platform for the underprivileged children that aims at developing an educational approach that empowers children to pursue happiness. Insight is proud to shed light on an organisation with the prosperous future with the founder of Educate Me, Yasmin Helal.

How did the idea of initiating an education service for the poor first come about?

It all started a few years ago when three street children asked me for money in a rural area and I happened to have three bags, so I gave one for each. An old man saw me giving them bags, so he approached and asked me if I have any for his daughters, sadly I didn't. I returned the following day and met the old man at the same place; he told me in a sad voice that his children had to drop out of school due to uprising expenses. I decided to sponsor this man's children and send them back to school. But I also wondered of the endless number of similar cases who can't fund their education. Two friends of mine, Amr El Sanalekly and Mohammad Fawzy, decided to help me start an initiative with underprivileged kids living in the slum area of El Orouba, near the Ring Road, by financially supporting their school education, providing all their school supplies and necessities and working on building their character and skills through creative activities and leadership programmes.


What are the goals of Educate Me?

Educate Me aims at developing productive citizens capable of shaping their own future and sustaining economical development. We develop educational approaches, which enlightens children to pursue happiness and success, by enabling financial support to cover children's school fees and school gadgets. Furthermore, we seek to develop the kids' cognitive abilities and lateral thinking through creative arts such as drawing, photography, music and origami. We also care about children's behaviour and ethics, by teaching them how to express themselves through books, theatre and field trips.


Tell us more about the Educate Me programme.

The programme is basically composed of PLAY, ASK, KNOW, COG and NURTURE. PLAY is availability of physical and mental activities that engage the child in various kill-developing programmes that helps the find their passion and interests. ASK is a patented group-learning facilitation that encourages children to ask about topics they are interested to learn, evaluate the resources needed to learn what they want, plan to obtain these resources then work in progress to fulfil this need. KNOW is a profiling system that aims to monitor and assess children's characteristics in pre-defined areas. This is done through indulging the children in engaging activities that are designed to promote freedom of expression, deliver fundamental curricula and introducing children to a variety of activities and skills to choose what they want to learn. COGNITIVE is a regular curriculum-based module that aims at understanding the infrastructure of the cognitive abilities and the child's eventual developmental needs, like recognising the imperative learning objectives at each developmental stage, figuring out how different educational systems reach developmental ends and finally enabling children to pay their school tuition and necessities. NURTURE is a support system that creates a healthy environment for children to learn. We inform their parents of the learning curriculum and ask them not to use violence for any reason with children.


How did you manage to fund this programme?

We mainly received donations from individuals to start this initiative, in addition to the many schools that supported our educational programme, and joined a big event designed in an international school to raise funds for our programme. Few non-profitable organisations helped and Itisal Company subsidised 2012-2013 education expenses for 200 children.


Do children help funding their dream?

We encourage them to come up ideas to achieve their goals. First, we identify the need, and then seek adequate ways to bring money for these needs, and lastly work on them. For example, if one of the children wants to take a karate course, we think of possible options that would bring money needed like sewing, making accessories, pillows'¦etc. Then we take the children and buy the resources needed to start their project. Usually, we never interfere or guide their choices. When they finish their goods, we plan an exhibition to display these goods and the kids earn money to register for the course needed.


With the uprising phenomena of street children and employed children, how do you convince them to receive education?

We deal with families who are poor but not under the poverty line. They usually have enough money to pay for their education, but not for anything else like tutorials, stationary, transportation and other expenses. We try to widen children's horizons beyond the systematic Egyptian education, by providing them with extra curricular activities and workshops. More importantly, we give them space to dream.


In what way is this programme different than what is offered by schools and organisational institutes?

There is no educational system. We choose to have an open education, learning and developing one's self as much as possible with no boundaries. Our goal is to satisfy their needs and only their needs, unlike Egyptian education, that focuses primarily on getting a certificate and high grades are bonus.


What sort of activities does this programme offer for unprivileged children?

Fieldtrips, workshops, sports, and arts. We expose them to a variety of activities to explore their interests, talents and develop them.


It is heard that your programme obtained rights to the book 'The 7 Habits of Happy Kids' by Sean Covey.

Yes, but this was only at the very beginning of our journey. We thought that this programme would be extremely useful for children, so we received trainings. Later on, we realised it was not our calling.


How far did Educate Me achieve its goals?

Not so far. We are still working on our research through observation and assessment, and hopefully will finish by next year.


How can people donate?

Simply visit our Facebook page and send us a message or an email.