November ‘16
Helping Every Burn Victim In Egypt

November ‘16
Heba Elsewedy
Heba Elsewedy


    


Known as Egypt’s own Mother Teresa, Heba Elsewedy has been widely known for saving thousands of civilians during the January 25 revolution after which time she founded Egypt’s first-ever NGO dedicated to burn victims, Ahl Masr. We asked Heba everything we were curious about, here’s what she told us.

What opened your eyes to helping burn victims specifically?

During the January 25 revolution, I was exposed to all kinds of injuries and victims. Regardless of the injured political affiliations or nationality, I was trying to help as much as I can. Then I was faced by the fact that Egyptian hospitals are not equipped to treat the number of burn victims in the country. I discovered the huge gap between the number of causalities and service providers. The prevalent lack of awareness causes more fatal incidents and the lack of specialized facilities and qualified hospital staff exacerbates this problem. I have always felt that I have an obligation to exert all needed efforts to help ease the pain and suffering of the wounded burn victims and their families.


How and when did you found your non-profit organization, Ahl Masr?

After the establishment of the organization for revolution-injured victims by the government, we decided to establish a non-profit organization to help ameliorate the life of Egyptians and two years after the revolution, Ahl Masr was founded. With a main goal of creating a new perception of charity and development in Egypt, the foundation works in the field of health with emphasis on burn prevention and treatment through an institutionalized development framework that is capable of providing social support with high quality and professionalism. Our main aim is to reach a “Humanity Burn Free” world. Ahl Masr Foundation does not stop there but we are also embarking on a mega project to build the first non-profit burns hospital in the Middle East. The Hospital will be built on 12,000 square meters in New Cairo and has the capacity to accommodate, treat and care for patients and their families. Phase one is expected to be completed in three years.


Did you meet any major obstacles in founding your NGO?

Although we felt the support and encouragement of many individuals, corporates and governmental institutions especially from the Ministry of Social Solidarity, which is greatly appreciated, the road to realize our goals is still long and the challenges ahead are severe. However, we are confident and committed to our cause and with continued support and collaborations we will realize our dream for Egyptian children and families.


How has your family helped you pursue your humanitarian activism?

I was brought up in a family where helping people and giving is the main motto. Giving is an addicting pleasure that fulfills a person’s heart and becomes one of the most satisfactory feelings in one’s life.


What psychological traumas do burn victims have to face?

Burn victims suffer different degrees of disfigurements, physical disabilities and psychological trauma. In addition, their treatment takes years, in many cases not less than 3 to 4 years. A majority of the victims and their parents say that dealing with people especially strangers and seeing and feeling the shock and fear in the people’s reaction is the worst. Raghda, a 13-year-old burn victim from Minya, was not allowed out of the house and dropped out of school after her accident for fear of social rejection. Ahl Masr had been treating and caring for Raghda, her family and many other young and old victims. Providing them with medical and psycho-social support and rehabilitation to help them re-integrate in society including the education system and the community.


Are there any precautions we need to take when associating with burn victims to avoid making them feel different?

Ensuring physical greeting contact like a sincere hand shake, hug and a kiss with a friendly attitude is key to breaking the ice with a burn victim. The advice is always “burn victims are human beings and are no different than any other, treat them normally, don’t fear them or stigmatize them, show them you care and they will embrace you.”


Can you tell us some of your favourite inspiring stories that your organization has dealt with?

Where do I start? Children’s stories to me are always the most touching and rewarding at the same time. Helping them have a second chance for a decent life and for them to realize their full potential makes me feel on top of this world. I cannot choose one favorite.