I cannot express just how grateful I am to have spent the past two months in Egypt. Living and working in such a beautiful setting with such committed people has been deeply enriching.
During my first week in Egypt with MIHI, I attended the Conflict Resolution, Peace and Democracy training course in Siwa Oasis. Although supporting the implementation, I was also able to furthered my knowledge of peace and conflict theory; applying my own understanding and politics to new situations and conflicts, as well as absorbing the experience and knowledge of the incredible facilitators who held workshops. Moreover, the morning mindfulness session of the project taught me breathing exercises and meditation practices that I continue to use now. These allowed me to be more present and grounded in this new place I have been privileged to call home for two months.
As a volunteer, I recorded the feedback from all the other participants, as well as offering my own opinions and observations regarding each session as well as the project overall, providing essential insight into not only what worked but also what could be changed or improved in future projects. I photographed the project in tandem with another colleague, Alessia, a videographer. We documented the remarkable, dynamic and essential opportunity that projects like this offer, honing my photography and editing skills in the process. I was interviewed as part of MIHI’s efforts to document the participant’s experience, offering my own reflections on this project as a first-time participant and as a trainee. I have also produced my own content for MIHI’s social media channels, learning to use Canva to produce content that documents my time here.
I also got to observe the sheer amount of work that goes into planning and executing a project like this, all the logistics and resources required, and the dedication required to be able to offer these experiences. This insight will be essential in continuing my work with MIHI and assisting them with their work.
Since then, many of my mornings have were spent supporting a local school, offering my assistance when and where necessary. I had never supported such young children (3 to 5 years old) but I learnt what it required to keep their attention and focus, as well as communicate as effectively as possible despite their age and English as potentially a third language for these children. I read the students’ stories, using visual aids I had drawn and laminated myself. These stories reflected the current theme or topic of their education, be it colours, numbers, food or animals. These visual aids aided in nonverbal communication and provided inspiration for drawing and art classes later in the day. I would sit with the children, and some would copy my drawings or paintings, and others would create their own images; such activities refined their motor skills as well as allowed them to express themselves creatively. In school, I often learnt and developed as I taught, finding myself having to improvise or overcome the language barrier or disruptive behaviour. I learnt how to be authoritative while being kind and caring in the classroom.
I also supported MIHI’s Turbine project, which is designed to provide young people with employable skills and knowledge through creating, designing, and building a video game centred on Egypt’s cultural heritage. I attended meetings with both partner organisations and the participants, generated ideas, and researched Egypt’s cultural heritage in order to contribute as best as possible to the game. This is especially fascinating and enjoyable, given my heritage studies and anthropology background. Working for MIHI has also furthered my time management skills, planning and documenting my work through the use of the digital platform Asana, which allows me to track and share my work.
And then finally, I also got to work on my own personal project, designing and implementing a community-sourced digital archive that will document intangible heritage in Alexandria. This is an ongoing process and one that serves as a means through which I can record and preserve what it is I have lived through in this remarkable place.