In Cairo there are often members of the community who slip through the cracks, and inevitably they seem to be the most vulnerable. That is where Banati Foundation has stepped in. Situated in charming surroundings off the Wahat Road in Giza, Banati helps children who have been battling life on the streets, children whose parents are in prison and generally speaking, those who have been deprived of parental care.
Established in 2010, Banati focuses on children at risk and works through four main pillars:
- The first pillar is the mobile unit that drives around Cairo and offers social services to girls who live on the street.
- The second pillar is the Reception Center. It is a daily center, where girls and young mothers can come to spend the day. It is a phase between the street and the shelters. Within the Reception Center there are various services offered to the girls. These include legal services, which are important for providing help in processing documents such as ID cards, birth certificates and even marriage certificates. Support is provided as well through the available psychologists and social workers. There are also educational services offered to the girls as well as productive workshops such as sewing.
Most importantly, the center is a place where the girls can have a rest from what they go through on the street. It allows them to sleep and relax in a safe environment without fear of physical or sexual abuse. As soon as they arrive at the center, they take a shower and change their clothes, so their own clothes can be washed. This provides essential basic hygiene that they may not otherwise have access to.
- The third pillar is the Temporary Shelter, which forms a stepping-stone between the Reception Center and a Permanent Shelter. With a maximum capacity of 12, it serves the girls who are at a very high risk. Some girls have been trying to survive on the streets for a very long time; others may be in need of intense and direct services or preparation to go the Permanent Shelters. Usually if a girl decides to leave, she will drag four or five other girls with her, so in order to protect the more vulnerable girls who are not very stable there is this temporary shelter.
- The fourth pillar is the Permanent Shelter. Currently housing 227 children, of whom 37 are boys, although there is a capacity for 250. Most of the boys who live at Banati are direct relatives of the girls, usually a brother or a cousin, so a family can stay intact.
The Permanent Shelter also has different departments. There is a legal department and an education department with a Montessori nursery and a parity system to the school system where children can find educational support if they are lagging behind at school. Most of the children are enrolled in public schools, or community or experimental schools. The social-psycho unit is staffed with psychologists and consulting psychiatrists and offers educational, rehabilitative and productive workshops.
There are currently 12 different workshops where the girls can acquire useful skills: pottery, art, crafts, cookery, story-telling, sports, yoga, gardening, music, jewelry making, sewing and crochet.
In essence, the overall objective of Banati Foundation is to re-integrate the children back into society, and ideally, back into their families. Banati conducts meetings with the families, and they are encouraged to come and visit the girls at the shelter so the team can carry out social work with them. It can be hard to work with the families; most of the children who come to the shelter have been through a lot of abuse, whether physical or sexual, or have experienced a lot of neglect. In many cases they can be a second generation of street girls.
Banati Success Stories
One of the many success stories is that of a girl who was committed to bettering herself. She attended school and also started attending the cookery workshop. She had incredible drive and really wanted to succeed in life. Banati contacted Novotel who were offering more intensive culinary training, although they were not looking to hire anyone at that point.
However, the girl attended the course and really impressed them. Some six months later Novotel contacted Banati and said they would like to hire her. Now she holds the position of Assistant Chef with Novotel and Banati feels justifiably proud of her success.
Another success story involves a girl who was re-homed to Banati. At Banati she started reading about children’s psychology, and at the age of around 21 started training as an Assistant Supervisor. She now holds that position and is working both on her diploma and a certificate covering child supervisory related topics. It is hoped that she will go on to become a certified supervisor, for which there is a great need in Egypt and at Banati. She could then go on to work in a similar centre to gain outside exposure before maybe returning to Banati to contribute to the foundation that set her on a path to her new life.
What people seldom understand is the amount of courage these young girls display, and the effort the girls make to overcome their disadvantaged beginning to become part of the greater community.
How can you contribute or help?
As a big institution, Banati always welcomes financial donations to support the work being carried out. These can be general donations, or directed towards a specific department or activity. It is also possible to sponsor a specific child. The community can contribute by volunteering. All candidates are welcomed, but Banati would particularly benefit through help from people or organizations willing to work long-term by offering assistance with social media, website development, and database management. Banati would also benefit from security and building maintenance. Any and all help is appreciated to support this vital organization.
Get in touch today:
Call: 0120 003 1800