Rescuing Youth in Crisis
By Claire Evans
01/22/2021 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Last year was supposed to bring new opportunities for Jana, an eight-year-old participant in ICC’s child sponsorship program. Her family moved into their own home, which meant that they no longer had to share a small house under cramped quarters with another family. Her father, a day laborer, moved to Cairo for work, but was able to regularly commute back and forth. Life was looking up.
Then, the pandemic struck and everything changed as Egypt locked down. The tumultuous situation thrust Jana into new roles and responsibilities as her family struggled to adapt. Suddenly, eight-year-old Jana did not have the luxury of being a child anymore.
The immediate result of the lockdown was that her father was stranded in Cairo. Normally, he would work various jobs depending on the day, but no one was hiring. He finally returned home once travel restrictions were lifted, but the family’s brief reunion was bittersweet as they struggled to make ends meet.
As the oldest child, Jana took on the role of a stand-in parent. Throughout the pandemic, the stress of the situation was visible in Jana’s life. Jana had always been a willful child, and her parents found it challenging to manage at times. But this year, Jana took on heftier responsibilities within the family. With her father’s presence being unpredictable and her mother pregnant, Jana spent a lot of time tending to her five-year-old sister and her pregnant mother.
The birth of Jana’s baby brother was supposed to be exciting, adding hope and activity against the dull backdrop of the mundane lockdown. But instead, it brought new challenges. He was born sick and Jana was called on to provide extra care for him along with her mother. Sadly, her baby brother lived only a few months.
Jana tried to remain hopeful after the tragic death of her baby brother. She said, “My brother, if he were still alive, then he would not stop crying, and he would be sick. But now, he is in Heaven with Jesus. Papa Jesus will bring us another baby. Papa Jesus is keeping my brother happy.”
Jana and her younger sister were also sick and anemic, as they were struggling with parasites. The family was completely overstretched and medical help was not an option, due to the economic strain of the pandemic.
If you draw back and look at the whole of Egyptian Christianity, much of this story makes sense. Christians are denied a quality education, decent jobs, promotions, and access to finances to start businesses. Therefore, generation after generation, Christian families remain stuck where they are supposed to be: at the bottom rung of society. Jana’s father and many of Egypt’s Christians work as day laborers, living hand to mouth.
This is the backdrop of ICC’s Hope House program. Through it, we provide small businesses for Christian families, as recommended by the local church. We provide literacy and skills classes for adults.
The education system is so bad for Christians in Egypt that parents pull their children out of school at an early age to start working and making money. This is a rational decision given the poor quality of education they would receive and the discrimination they would face in the workforce.
That’s why the core of our Hope House program provides the children with supplemental education. Our after-school program focuses primarily on math, Arabic, and English. We also provide the families involved with supplemental food packages and other benefits, incentivizing them to stay in the program.
Although her family had no income for many months this year, Jana did not go hungry thanks to her involvement in Hope House. When she began suffering from parasites, our team brought her to a doctor.
Persecution has brought extremely difficult circumstances to Egypt’s Christian children, forcing them to mature faster than their age. But through Hope House, your support has given them breathing space to simply exist as children.
To read more stories like this, sign up for ICC’s free monthly magazine.