Video: Impact of project on local community

20 12 2012

A video we showed in the last week of the project in the public culture festival


Project X: From the participants to Farafra with love

23 02 2011

By Camilla Wetzel, CISV Denmark

IPP Farafra finished a couple of weeks ago. When we left Farafra to go back to Cairo I knew that we had accomplished a lot while being there, but I still needed some time to fully process everything.

I am currently waiting for my connecting flight to Copenhagen and this seems to be a good moment to put words into what happened in Farafra and share my excitement about it.

Before the IPP all participants were told about the idea of Project X that would be an essential part of the IPP. We were told that the idea behind Project X was that participants of the IPP had a chance to offer their own input and give as much as possible to the community of Farafra.

What the actual project was, was a little mysterious and personally made me curious, but at the same time a little confused about what would be possible.

During the integration days we had in Cairo before going to Farafra, Project X became a bit clearer and we understood that the point was for IPP participants to plan and run a project aiming at increasing volunteerism in Farafra. This was still pretty vague, and could be a lot of different things.

During the time spent in Farafra, the participants’-group had a lot of thoughts, ideas and discussions about what Project X could be. A couple of days before leaving Farafra the group reached consensus on what Project X should be. We decided that Project X would be a one-year-plan for CISV Egypt to work and cooperate with the partner organisation in order to develop the partner organization and its projects. On the last day in Farafra two of the staff members Soli and Ali ran the first training on volunteer recruitment, while the rest of the participants and staff took an excursion to the hot springs after a fun mud fight, that you will know about in another post.

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In the coming year, Mosaic and other active volunteers of CISV Egypt will work with the partner organisation on the following 4 focus areas:

  • Recruitment: In order to mobilize the community of Farafra, recruitment is important in order to reach, manage and keep volunteers.
  • Evaluation: To know what type of projects to run in Farafra, a needs assessment of the community and the partner organisation will be carried out, to get a thorough understanding of what types of projects the community needs the partner organisation to take on.
  • Goal setting: Focuses on setting goals for the partner organisation, both strategically but also on a short-term basis.
  • Projects: The point of this focus is to give the partner organisations skills needed to plan projects. Besides that, a big focus of this area will be to develop the partner organisation’s future projects and decide on what will be the organisation’s next big project.

So the connection between CISV Egypt and Farafra continues for at least another year, and I am very happy that Mosaic Egypt has the willingness and interest to continue the cooperation and work with the partner organisation on the next big project. I think the outcome of Project X is super cool, and I hope and think that the one-year-plan will be yet another successful project in Farafra. I can’t wait to see how it goes!


Cultural interaction through workshops

16 01 2011

The staff thought it was very vital that the Farafra community don’t see the participants as the group of foreign experts coming to fix everything, but rather as concerned citizens of the world who came all this way to learn about Farafra and help out.

Farafra giving participants

On the first days of workshops, the IPP Participants split into groups and attended several workshops given by the Farafra community:

– A workshop with Farafra local Mohamed Reda, on the history of Farafra and origin of the people here

– A workshop on carpentry to make a door for the Qasr El Farafra

– A workshop with Hayat the NGO in Farafra that works with local women on preserving the handicrafts of Farafra

– A workshop at local artist, Badr’s Museum where participants learned how to make sand paintings

– A visit to the hospital of Farafra and meeting with the doctors, nurses and hospital management

After everyone returned from the parallel workshops we went as a group with some members of the partner organisation to our lovely host Beshir’s farm. We learned how bread is made, milked cows, took walks around the field and had another fantastic meal prepared by Beshir’s family.

Participants giving Farafra

As a participants group we thought and talked a lot about what we could offer Farafra. We had already had a night at our house with the women of Farafra where we learned how to make bread and taught them how to make different dips from our countries. During one afternoon in our last week in Farafra we decided to go to the local youth center three parallel workshops for the children and youth of Farafra. We started with a few CISV activities.  The kids learned Ulele, Ba NaNa and Look up Look down. Then they had a choice between  a dance work shop for girls, an arts and crafts workshop and a photography workshop.  Each of the workshops was well attended and the children’s work was displayed at our Celebration of Successes Exhibit on the day before we left Farafra.

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The renovation work continues

12 01 2011

It’s a sunny, cooler and breezy day for planting trees, working at the castle and the Partner Organizations office.  At the castle the volunteers continue to smooth the walls, build stairs, and remove unwanted debris.  Dieter from Luneberg, Germany has learned the art of mixing the sand and water in order to make the right mud consistency.  Approximately 25 volunteers are present working.

Working outside the partner organisation's office

Work at the Partner Organisation’s office the goals of the day include:  mud and smooth the walls of the 2 small side rooms of the 2nd main room, knock down the walls of the small room off the first main room.   The owner of the house was present and working with all the volunteers.

The tree planting group worked to plant trees about 25 trees near the entrance of the hot springs.

While we were documenting what was happening during the day we wandered through the city and went to the palm tree forest, found some higher ground and took some pictures of the city from a very high vantage point.  We walked past the only 3 restaurants in Farafra.  One of the signs stated “meet rice.”  We laughed.

We saw two men riding in a donkey driven cart, they had a megaphone and were going through the town calling out the goods they had for sale on their cart.

Katrina from Canada has become quite popular with the children and while we were on our walk 3 girls wanted to know where she was.

Katrina on a donkey

When we retuned from our mini-excursion, we had lunch and after lunch discovered that the city council wanted us to clear a new space that they want to turn into a market.  A group of about 10 of us hopped in the back of a pickup truck and headed to the new market area.  We cleared trash and debris until the end of the day.

The partner organisation’s office goals of the day were met, the castle walls looked smoother, the trees were planted and the market area cleared.

Main projects with the partner organisation

10 01 2011

Planting trees in Farafra

Volunteers from CISV and partner organisation digging to plant trees

One of the three main projects in the IPP is planting trees around Farafra to beautify it.  In the first 3 days, a group of 10 participants alongside with a couple of members from the PO succcesfully planted 63 orange and lemon trees around the cemetary of Farafra with the purpose of providing shade for the prayers for the souls of the dead. It was quite challenging because it is in the middle of the desert with no soil so what had to be done is to even out a trench, connect water in the sand and then put the soil into the trench, tiring but worthwhile. In the next couple of days, more participants and other members from the Partner Organisation contributed to planting trees on both ends of Farafra, the entrance and the exit of the oasis. This process was much harder. The group needed to dig holes in cement-like ground without any tools, and then put huge blocks of imported trees from Cairo into the ground. This time, the trees were mainly olive trees and some flowering trees as well. All in all, we were able to plant approx 200 trees in 3 areas in Farafra. In the three places we had a lot of help from the local children from Farafra and some men as well, the success was as the result of the very diverse group work.

Renovating Qasr El Farafra

Qasr El Farafra first day of work

The castle/fortress/palace of Farafra is the biggest challenge of the project. We are renovating a part of the old castle really well so we can show the people of Farafra and the city council how beautiful the place can be. The palace was build when Egypt was a part of the Roman Empire to protect the people of Farafra from outsider’s attacks. It was built on different phases and it has 161 rooms, a room for each family that resided in Farafra. When we arrrived it was filled with rubbish, medical waste, food waste, dead animals, plastic, etc. The particpants and the Partner organisation started by cleaning up the big mess, that on its own took approximately two full days of work. Later on, we levelled the two sides of the castle, then built mud walls and smoothed all the existing walls. According to Basma Hosny one of the staff members of the IPP, it is important to renovate the castle because it is a part of their heritage that they should feel proud of. We want to make it a meeting point for Farafronis to hang out, to be a nice place for people to gather. It’s a great combination of culture, center focal point of the city and beautiful architecture. Sergio Marques, a particpant from Portugal believes that renovating the fortress is a cornerstone in our project because it is connected how people view their culture. If their ancient architecture is in ruins, then so will their lives. If it is dirty, then dirtiness is going to become a part of them. People absorb beauty and apply it on their lives and this is why it is crucial to work on the fortress.

Renovating the NGO office

Group working on the Partner Organisation's office

The third part of the project is renovating the partner organisation’s office. It is an apartment of one of the members of the organisation’s members who agreed to give his apartment to the Partner Organisation until he gets married. The work basically done was to smooth the mud walls, take down one of the walls and rebuild it and make a open space for a bonfire. The rooms are basically used as office spaces and a small library. The aim is to create a space that is comfortable and creative so that the organisation can use it as a resource to host more volunteers in their meetings and have a positive work environment.

Other projects & cooperation:

One of our aims is also to aid the organisation in cooperating with other entities within Farafra. We were working closely with the city council where volunteers from CISV and the partner prganisation were volunteering to help two city council projects:

–       Building a wall around a mosque

–       Cleaning and building the space for the new town market

IPP Farafra begins…

4 01 2011

Participants and Staff of Project

So IPP Farafra….why Farafra and what can we do with it?  These were the thoughts that we had when we thought of joining this project. I’ve heard of a lot of people thinking of volunteering, they always say, why go to another country to volunteer when we have so many people that need that kind of help here or in your own country.  However, that is not the reason why I decided to join this project. The Farafra project has been happening for 6 years (every 2 years) and hearing about what a great success it has been has pushed me to want to be part of it. This time was the perfect time for me and I finally made it.

So camp starts on the 27th of December, We meet at 8:00 am and we meet with the participants and we go to the campsite. Of course having so many flights on in December with snowstorms in some cities, lead to so many flights being delayed or even cancelled.  5 participants were still missing.

However we start our program, name games and getting to know each other. The staff had a really cool name game: each participant would inhale Helium and we say our names; Of course this was hilarious. Another icebreaker and then we started the formalities. The staff gave us an introduction about Farafra and about the project and what has been done in the past. The next 2 days were basically about us sharing our skills and what we can offer for the people in Farafra. Also a big aspect and the most important thing is cultural sensitivity and how we should act/wear in Farafra. The staff also gave us a space to plan our own activity and the topics were Creativity, the theme and Debriefing.  2 more participants showed up at the end of the first

Next, it was time for us to start heading to Farafra, unluckily for us, it starts to rain and we had to pack all the boxes of food and equipment in the rain.

Basically the next day was going to be an orientation around Farafra and the places that we were going to work at. We also went to the market to get some fruits.


On the 31st of December we prepared for our trip to the White Desert.  We took several cars to haul people and materials and food for our New Year’s Eve overnight.

Our first stop was at the museum of the White Desert where we learned that a group of Italians and Egyptians had worked together to build this two room museum about the flora, fauna and people of the White Desert.  The museum guide gave us each brochures to take with us.

Our next stop was to the entrance of the desert and we stopped to meet, ride and photograph the camels.  One of the camels was pregnant.

Next we went into the desert itself.  There we saw amazing white sand and limestone formations that went on and on and on and on.  We photographed ourselves next to the famous mushroom and the chicken.  We experienced a VERY bumpy ride to our campsite!  We got stuck and unstuck several times.

Once we arrived to the campsite, we all worked together to unload and set up our campsite tents.  We enjoyed a meal of chicken and vegetables roasted over the fire.  No Egyptian meal would be complete with tea “shay” served in tiny glasses with  a teaspoon or two of sugar.

After each of writing a wish for 2011 and dropping it into the fire ,we sang and danced and rung in the New Year under the  stars of Farafra.

Bowling & Camp Set up

24 12 2010

After a successful bowling night where we managed to secure some funds for the IPP as well as do some profile raising about what we are doing in Farafra! It was a very successful night with many CISVers attending, bowling and participating in the amazing Tombola we had.

One of the staff members, Ali, has been in Farafra for almost 10 days now staying in one of the apartments we are renting for the IPP and finishing up some logistics. Soli and Rou joined him a few days ago, and we’ve been transporting things from Cairo, and setting up the houses. As it stands we have three apartments, one will be the main area and the boys’ apartment and the other two will be for the girls to sleep in. We’re just on the edge of the desert, so we have lots of space around to hang out.

Ali, Soli and Rou took an excursion into the desert yesterday, and due to Soli’s excellent driving skills, we got stuck in the desert for three hours. Junior Staff… what can you do! We also went for a bath in one of the hot springs in Farafra, and it was so relaxing. We’ll try to arrange to take you there during our IPP 🙂

Ali telling Soli off

Hana and Basma are back in Cairo, sorting out some logistics for there like hosting, airport pick ups, things for the Cairo campsite and other stuff.

We wanted to remind you once again about your health and legal forms. Also, the apartments we’re staying in are quite empty, so if you can bring things to make it more homey (be it a poster, photos, cushions, etc.) that would be fantastic!

See you in two days!

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