APE’s activities started in the Mokattam area in
1984 with the establishment of the compost plant. Previously the
manure from the pigs simply piled up on the streets. Today, the
plant is located in Kattamia and the compost is in great demand
throughout Egypt. In 1988 and 1991, rug and paper recycling units
were respectively established. The cottage industry specifically targeted women,
and they became part of a “learn and earn” program which also
taught health, social, educational and economic skills, because APE
wanted to empower the women of the community, not just employ them.
Additional centers were set up to take care of children while their
mothers worked as well as to provide a safe environment for
community children in general (Walker, Wendy, 2005).
In the Torah squatter area, Mrs. Yousriya Loza Sawiris jointly with Dr. Ayman Moharem CEO of Enhancement in 1990, APE decided in 1990 to upgrade the Tora settlement which is also an area inhabited by garbage collectors. Prior to APE’s initiatives, Tora lacked suitable infrastructure (electricity, sewage etc.). The area also had no public services such as a police station, fire brigade, schools, hospitals, telephones, or veterinary units, though the area had over 13,000 animals. This had led to the spread of diseases in both humans and animals. APE decided to follow the same pattern as in Mokattam through developing the area of garbage collectors in Tora and establishing the Developed Center for collection, sorting and recycling of garbage in Kattamia.
Garbage collectors would live now in a housing area allocated especially for them, whereas the garbage is transferred to a remote area away from the urban community (APE’s Kattamia site, 19km away from their housing area). It is the first pilot project that combines raising the health, economic, and environmental levels of the garbage collectors on one hand, and developing solid waste management and protecting the environment from pollution on the other.
A children's club, launched in
1993, is designed to provide pre-school children
with a chance to acquire pre-school skills and
escape from the horror of being close to garbage on the
street, at least for a few hours of each day. Field
trips, celebrations and nutrition are important
aspects of this activity. The club admits 4 to 6 year
olds and prepares them for school. Literacy classes
are offered to school drop-outs, and a
paper-recycling project provides one more option and
an income-generating activity for girls and women.
Day Care and Infant Nursery
This program offers a clean, safe environment for babies and toddlers aged 6 months to 4 years. These are children of mothers working on APE projects and, space-permitting, of mothers of the community at large. Children are offered daily hot meals, a safe outdoor play area, and activities such as puppetry, games, and crafts, through which they are taught basic skills.
An eco-garden was started in
Mokattam in February 2002 after the compost plant
was removed to Kattamia -- leaving a fertile patch
The presence of the eco-garden in the middle of Mokattam adds an element of natural beauty, provides much needed shade, and improves the air quality. Trees and plants in the eco-garden are indigenous to Egypt, some since Pharaonic times, and promote the concept of sustainability by producing edible or otherwise useful fruit.
Literacy Program and Computer Classes
This program allows students to
follow a system taught by Caritas called "learn and
be liberated" that teaches reading phonetically and
not alphabetically as it is still taught in
government programs. This system
is also followed in the pre-school.
After-school classes are implemented to decrease the rate of school dropouts. APE has started a new program for students from the first to sixth grades in primary school. This program helps create a good learning atmosphere by helping students with their homework, providing nutritious meals, creating awareness, and providing a quiet space for study which is often not found at home.
Paper Recycling Unit
This program began after an APE volunteer and two young Mokattam residents attended the YWCA Waste Recycling conference in 1991 in Crete, Greece. The important feature of this project's work is that it is hand-made by women in a field that is usually reserved for men because of its physical difficulties. The paper is environmentally friendly; no glue or chemicals are added. The women use the paper to make cards, envelopes, and gift bags with a lot of artistic inserts like dried flowers, leaves, and embroidery.
Rug-Weaving and Patchwork Unit
This project was launched in 1988
the with support of the composting project, which was
then on its feet and viable. This project targeted
girl dropouts who had had to go out on the garbage
routes as children and who had thus been deprived of
the chance to go to school. The mothers were
recruited into the "learning and
earning" school - a model of how to learn all the
elements of school learning but in a recycling
project revolving around the transformation of
surplus rugs into marketable products. These rugs
are donated by the private textile sector of Egypt.
The project incorporates literacy, personal and
environmental hygiene, and empowerment to deal with
culture-specific matters such as female circumcision
and early marriage.
This project incorporates the vision that a woman in a development project further involves the residents of Mokattam Garbage Village. It receives annually, on average, 100 girls and young women, and a 36-month training period introduces trainees to the art and skill of weaving rugs on a hand loom and sewing patchwork items. Building on the existing skill of sorting garbage, this project creates an alternative educational model in non-formal education for girls and women who never had the chance to go to school. It views the waste and sorting context of recycling as potential for income-generating numeracy while incorporating elements of personal and environmental hygiene. Business skills are developed and computer literacy is added.
Skill acquisition covers the areas of color identification, classification, space relationships, numeracy, literacy, home economics, personal and environmental hygiene, and a host of other learning that build on existing skills within the community's recycling ethos. The approach is holistic and includes recreation and celebration, through field trips and monthly entertainments, which feature health and socio-dramas, primary health care training in nutrition, mother and child health, family planning, negative traditional practices, prevention measures against accidents, as well as discussions revolving around major production and project management concerns.
Literacy classes are offered on the premises of APE, and are scheduled to suit the staggered training schedules of trainees. Based on Freirian methods of literacy instruction, the curriculum is designed around slightly different principles of conscientization based upon sources of hope rather the than the root causes of oppression.
Graduation parties inaugurate the productive families' phase of the project where trainees go on to producing items from their homes. They continue to secure their rugs and work orders from APE, which markets the products both locally and internationally. A 1994 census of participants in this project indicated that a total of 500 girls and women had graduated from the center, of whom 200 continue to be cottage industry workers. Of these, 64% practice family planning and 56% are opposed to female circumcision.