International Samaritan (I.S.), a nonprofit headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, started a housing program for the Coptic Christians living in the garbage dump community of Cairo in 2008. Taiseer Ahmed, a highly educated young woman who speaks four languages, was a natural choice to head up their programs in Egypt. Ahmed has been missing since the start of the protests more than two weeks ago.

“We have tried and tried, but we have been unable to get in contact with Taiseer,” said I.S. Executive Director Oscar Dussan. “She’s more than an employee; she is our friend. We are praying for her safety and for the safety of all the peaceful protesters in Egypt.”

Dussan witnessed the extreme poverty that helped fuel the protests on his trips to Egypt over the past few years. I.S. develops housing, education, medical, microloan, adult training and food programs in garbage dump communities across the globe. Cairo has the largest garbage dump community in the world, with approximately 40,000 people living in squalor.

“In many of the garbage dump communities, the people live in shacks on the periphery of the dumps,” said Dussan. “In Cairo, they’re forced to build their make-shift shelters right in the garbage dump. It’s truly awful.”

International Samaritan’s goal now is to increase its services to the ‘Zabaleen,’ or ‘people of the garbage.’ Among the greatest needs Dussan saw during his trips was the condition of the nursery. “It’s just a piece of land; there is no roof and there were flies everywhere,” said Dussan. “It really disturbed me to see the children trying to learn with flies all over them, crawling in their mouths. It’s no place for little ones.”
One of the programs Ahmed helped facilitate was International Samaritan’s housing program. She is also the liaison for International Samaritan’s volunteer service trips to Egypt. There is one scheduled for this summer. In the meantime, I.S. is watching the situation in Egypt carefully and waiting to hear from Ahmed.

“Taiseer is a very bright, friendly young woman. We’ve talked about how hopeless the young people in Egypt have felt the past few years,” said Dussan. “We hope the protests in Egypt will result in positive change. So many people are desperate and struggling. We know that the garbage dump community in Cairo will need our help, now more than ever, and we are determined to continue our aid to them.”

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