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Jacksonville Visitor Gives Hope In Sinai

Fady Mcshut has taken advantage of learning opportunities in Jacksonville.

He came here as part of a delegation of Egyptian visitors sponsored locally by GlobalJax through the International Visitor Leadership Program.  

Mcshut chose to intern with the Jacksonville Community Council Inc. (JCCI) to learn how to build a better community in his home country of Egypt.

Egypt, specifically the Sinai region, is riddled with problems including poverty, isolation, illiteracy, violence, and disease. Covered largely by desert, the region serves as a buffer zone between Egypt and Israel.

Since Egypt's 2011 revolution, heightened tensions in Sinai have resulted in increased militant activity and radicalism.
Advocacy organizations, with technical and financial assistance from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, are working hard to empower people living in the region and ultimately improve their quality of life.

Mcshut dedicates a lot of his time to working for non-governmental organizations to help the Egyptian people. His internship at JCCI is just one of the many ways he is trying to help his country.

Mcshut is a member of Life Makers, an organization founded by the Egyptian activist, Dr. Amr Khaled.

The organization's goal is to encourage young people to get involved in developing and improving the socio-economic state of their countries. This movement began in Egypt and has now spread throughout the Middle East.

One initiative of Life Makers is “El Elm Qowah” or “Knowledge is Power.” The illiteracy rate in Egypt is currently 30 percent. The goal is to ultimately diminish illiteracy in Egypt in the next five years. As of 2012, this initiative has helped about 120,000 people in Sinai.

This is no easy task. Mcshut explains that people will have to learn in makeshift classrooms fashioned out of plastic pipes and wooden sheets.
Mcshut believes that learning should be the top priority, “Any society cannot start its awakening with ignorant people,” he said. “All the nations started with education and fighting ignorance. When you start with education, you can solve other problems.”

Ignorance is not only an issue in terms of literacy, but also in leadership.

The movement is trying to teach 1,000 young people between the ages of 15 and 35 to become leaders. The goal is to teach them to solve their own problems in Sinai and become self-sufficient.

“If we strengthen these people and contact these people, we can figure out solutions. We can direct them to the government and to other NGOs and help them get a better quality of life,” said Mcshut. “We can change the situation in Sinai.”

NGOs are also targeting radicalism at a young age. One project teaches young adults how to spread the moderate message of Islam through the use of communication tools including cameras and social media. This is how the NGOs fight terrorism, through moderate teachings.

“This movement is trying to orient the efforts of youth and young people to build their country, not to get involved with terrorism and radical ideas. Youth are currently suffering from unemployment and depression,” said Mcshut.

He says that they are trying to channel all this energy into positive development.

Mcshut has hope for the future of Sinai, but not necessarily with a military solution. He says that you must engage people to fix their own problems and that military intervention is not a long term solution.  

Other projects that work to improve conditions in Sinai include campaigns for awareness against drug abuse and disease.