Friday December 8th, 2023
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Mashrou' El Saada: How a Little Paint Can Go A Long Way

Egyptian NGO Mashrou' El Saada is positively impacting communities across the country by injecting a little dose of colour into their lives. We find out how a simple coat of paint can improve people's lives...

Staff Writer

Deteriorating colourless homes coated in layers of dust fill the Egyptian landscape, leaving many of the downtrodden uninspired and disgruntled. By-products of their surroundings, these Egyptian often feel they are forgotten as the government looks to build new cities and settlements instead of refurbishing the existing. Looking to prove that a little colour can vastly improve the lives of many and restore pride and positivity to Egyptians who need it the most is none other than Mashrou' El Saada.

Egypt sadly has roughly 1221 slums boasting a population that exceeds 12 million impoverished citizens. Unsurprisingly, these conditions have a negative psychological effect on those living in them and are often credited for the alarming state of depression found among Egyptian society. Believing in the positive power behind the science of colour therapy is a non-governmental organisation called Mashrou' El Saada. Started in 2013, as the brainchild of Hashem Rafaat, Mashrou' El Saada is on a mission to make Egypt a happier, more colourful place by generously painting the homes of those struggling to make ends meet. Beginning as a modest team of 10 compassionate volunteers made up of students from different faculties and universities across Egypt, Mashrou' El Saada continues to grow with as many 35 volunteers currently participating in this worthwhile initiative. By carefully selecting colours that best suit the area, Mashrou' El Saada have been proving that a new coat of paint can positively change both the behaviour and attitude of the community.

By renovating and adding colour to the slums of Egypt, Mashrou' El Saada is transforming ghettos into an environment full of art, that on a psychological level help people elevate their self-esteem. To date, Mashrou' El Saada has brightened up surroundings - and lives - on five occasions; once working with Cairo Runners, one project in Fayoum and three events in old Egypt’s Darb Saada. It was in Darb Saada that Mashrou' El Saada noticed the impact that they had made when they attempted to return to the area to continue their makeover. “When we returned we noticed that there were many people angry that we didn’t choose their homes to paint. Instead of waiting for our return, members of the community started painting their homes themselves,” explains Nourhan Hatem, one of Mashrou' El Saada's organisers. This community exemplifies the effectiveness of the Mashrou' El Saada initiative as it directly inspired a colourful change while restoring pride to those living there.

Looking to continue spreading happiness Mashrou' El Saada's next planned landscape makeover will tackle colouring Jaziret Heissa, El Nouba on April 8th. This island is sadly devoid of colour and is the only one left un-sunk from The Old Nouba (El Nouba El Adeema) after building The High Dam. Directly facing the Nile this poor community has the potential of becoming a tourist destination with the help of a little imagination and colour. This will officially mark the initiative's sixth event, and arguably their most ambitious. The first phase of this project aims to renovate and paint 15 houses as well as a market that includes 7 bazaars. Aside from painting and renovating, Mashrou' El Saada is also hoping to get bands like Atlas, Irtejal and Weshoosh to create a Nubian song and music video for the project, and will also be establishing a website for the area that will promote the island and hopefully add tourism jobs.

As an NGO, Mashrou' El Saada needs two things to continue on their mission; volunteers and fundraising. Currently the majority of money needed is generated by hosting events with a myriad of local live music, small colouring workshops geared towards children, caricaturists and even opening exhibits showcasing kids’ art.

As it stands, Egypt ranks a 130th in the UN’s 2014 world happiness report, however with the continued efforts of Mashrou' El Saada, the most depressed areas are being given a reason to be happier. If the government is serious about helping Egypt climb the happiness ranks, then it should identify the NGOs that are making a positive impact and help them on their mission or at least follow their example. It is no secret that Egypt has plenty of problems, but as Mashrou' El Saada has proven, there is nothing more psychologically impactful and cost effective to the state as a simple coat of paint. 

For more information on fundraising events and how you can help volunteer please visit Mashrou ElSaada page by clicking here. 
All photo courtesy of Mashrou ElSaada