Thanksgiving 2018

Sent On: 
Sun, 2018-11-25
Newsletter Number: 

Our American friends celebrated Thanksgiving on November 22nd. It is also celebrated in many other countries but the dates vary. Thanksgiving is a moment to pause and to look at the blessings God has provided in one’s life. It is also celebrated by many secular people since it is good to look back on the previous year with gratitude.

Following this day, the Maadi Community Church (interdenominational and with members of tens of different countries) organized a ‘sharing Friday’. People were enabled to share what God has done in their life(s). Much of the sharing was very personal: a healing, a difficult delivery of a baby. I shared about what God has done through the CAWU Learning Center. I had never done this in any church before.


I first mentioned the youth ministry of Pastor Amy Widener. My own children have been blessed by this ministry. Children not only learn about God but also how to be responsible and caring for one’s neighbor.


In December 2017 Hulda Fahmy [Hūldā Fahmī], a long-time member of the youth group, introduced me to Diana, a member of her group. Hulda had approached me as she is a friend of my daughter Petra. Both have now left Egypt to continue their studies. Hulda knew that Diana had never had the opportunity to receive a proper education, but at the time I did not. I simply advised her to do an internship and socialize with other interns in our office. Only then I gradually came to understand how huge her learning gaps were.


Diana had gone from school to school with large periods of time in between without education since her mother could not afford to pay school fees. All these schools had placed Diana in levels that were too high for her. This was because of her age. No school places a kid who is many years older in a class with substantially younger kids. Diana did not understand the material taught and developed skills to hide her lack of knowledge. In classrooms she would be silent, but in oral interactions with youth of her age and with teachers she was fine. Through this behavior people who met with her did not easily discover that she has such huge learning gaps.


The Maadi Community Church (MCC) is organized in small groups called Life Groups. Through this, members pray together and give each other practical support. Our Lifegroup started praying for this girl. Members provided support. We helped her to join Stars refugee school but because of her age they placed her in grade 8 since it is impossible for schools to have an older student in with the lower grades. At the same time professional teacher Eileen Werner was looking for an opportunity to continue working with disadvantaged children and youth with and without substantial learning gaps. She had no way to do this alone and with our NGO’s collaboration was able to start up in September. The Center for Arab-West Understanding, is a center already hosting student interns of all nationalities. We formed a Learning Center council with Lori Lawson of the African Teacher Training Network (ATTN!) and Mostafa el-Sayed [Muṣṭafā al-Sayyīd].  


We had based the learning center budget and calculation for the student fee on having 20 students so that all costs could be covered. We did not have these 20 students and still don’t, however, we started on September 2nd with one student only.  We had no funding for this. God blessed this initiative and gave us members in church who were willing to sponsor her. An Indian lady and an Eritrean intern of ours are volunteering with mathematics support. Martin Orbidans a musician and teacher, who played the piano several times at the MCC, is ready to open a music studio at our learning center so that this girl and others can also have music lessons. The many talks and sales at the Christmas bazaar at St. John’s were a blessing.


Diana is very hard working and Eileen Werner estimates that she could obtain an internationally recognized high school diploma in about 5 or 6 years, if she continues to work diligently. That would be truly amazing for a girl who until now had little to no education. She is certainly not the only youth who had never had a chance to obtain full-time school education. All youth, regardless of their national or religious background, have a right to education. Youth that have acquired large learning gaps are a neglected category, therefore, that is why we feel called to serve them with an education. Later this will help them find a decent job instead of being forced to survive in shady and criminal environments that youth might turn to if they see no way out.


Six months ago, our NGO had no plans for hosting a Learning Center. But through all these wonderful contacts in the Maadi Community Church something has developed that we could not have dreamt of only six months ago. God works through people who have compassion, through many contacts which made the start of this Learning Center possible and through this our eyes were opened for needs in the society that we initially did not see.


Compassion is not limited to Christians. One finds this among Muslims as Dr. Nagia Abdelmoghney Said [Nājiyya ʿAbd al-Mughnī Saʿīd] showed in our last newsletter and in other religious traditions and among non-believers. We need to support those who are less fortunate than us and when that is blessed that is reason for thanksgiving.


We are organizing an Open Day in our learning center on December 1st, between 2 and 5pm. 90 Street 14b, Maadi, Cairo. Come and see what is actually happening.


For questions about CAWU Learning Center and how you could help sponsor a student, please contact: Eileen Werner at[email protected] or Tel.: +201100424582



Cairo, November 25, 2018


Cornelis Hulsman,
Editor-in-Chief Arab-West Report