Reports put the number of injured during the revolution at 5,000. A figure that is much debated; nonetheless, what is least debated is the number of eye injuries. It is fairly impossible to erase that scene from the memory: thugs on camel- and horseback cutting through waves of demonstrators in Tahrir Square, which was soon followed by volleys of stone-throwing that lasted for hours. The battle of the camel, as Feb. 2nd became widely known, resulted in a substantial number of eye injuries.
“The following day I went with a friend of mine to visit his in-law, who almost lost his eyesight. From there I started visiting other injury cases. Soon we became a big group of friends and acquaintance joined to relief the victims of the revolution” commented Yasmina Abou Youssef. Yasmina is one of the founding members of Revolution Aid, a local initiative that attempts to give a helping hand to those who got injured, especially the ones with eye injuries. To aid them Revolution Aid coordinated with specialized hospitals to perform urgent eye surgeries either free of charge or at cost. Revolution Aid took care of the bill. The provided aid also extended to cover medications supply as well as providing a small stipend to help in covering the day-to-day expenses. In many cases, the injured person is the family’s bread earner.
The need for immediate medical relief can’t be denied. Nonetheless, if the sustained injuries result in impairing one’s physical ability, the need for a different type of help can’t be overlooked altogether.
Take the case of Mohamed Abdel Salam, a 37-old daily wager who sustained an eye injury and temporarily lost his eyesight. Miraculously, a retina implant managed to restore his eyesight, though partly. “I used to work in a warehouse but now I can’t go back [to my job]; who is going to hire a labour who can’t see beyond four or five meters” Mohamed perfectly pictured the problem with his words.
“We needed to move from medical relief mood to creating work opportunities mood” said Yasmina. Involved in social work since college heydays, back in the 1990s, Yasmina is a strong advocate of development, but not just any kind of development; rather sustainable one. Collaborating with other NGOs as well, Yasmina was involved, and still is, in sustainable development work led by Tawasol. An NGO that believes in making a difference in people’s lives via sustainable development, Tawasol had launched several projects in Misr El Qadima, where it primarily operates, since 2008 and up until today. One of their success stories is the handicraft project where local women learn carpet making, basket weaving, or beading. Tawasol provides the classes, an initial lot of material, and connects the women with several venues where they can market their products. “By giving them another cash donation, we are keeping hunger away from the doorsteps, but just for another night. Developing them to generate an income, keeps hunger away...for good” Yasmina believes.
There was no need to re-invent the wheel, what Tawasol did with local women in Misr El Kadima, more specifically Ezbet Khaierallah, was reapplied by Revolution Aid when it came to the injured. Revolution Aid went on and formed three committees from within its members. One committee is responsible for finding jobs and trying to employee the injured who lost their jobs but have a good chance of finding another. Another committee is responsible for creating projects suitable to employee those who are, to a certain extent, permanently disabled, or at least physically constrained. Finally, the third committee’s responsibility is to find sponsorship for such projects. So far Revolution Aid has a couple of kiosks and sandwich carts (the ones typically used to sell sausage and liver sandwiches) rolled out. Yasmina, and the whole team in Revolution Aid, are hopeful that the portfolio of projects would soon expand to include new ones, like a photocopying machine, a bakery or perhaps a small textile factory.
All of Revolution Aid 37 members have other day jobs to attend to. They manage Revolution Aid on volunteer basis and after working hours. They can be reached at [email protected]