We find out more about Advance, an Egyptian NGO that works to raise awareness about autism, as well as provide an education for children with the disorder.
Non profit organisation Advance: The Egyptian Advanced Society for Persons with Autism and Other Disabilities, pioneers a real change for autistic children in Egypt.
Swedish Therese Salah Eldin, Executive Board Member and Head of Fundraising at Advance, and Mamma BootCamp Egypt Master Trainer, many years ago fell in love with an Egyptian, got married and had a beautiful baby. At the age of four Therese realised that her son had autism. Looking at the aid provided to autistic children now in Egypt, one can only imagine the care that was available for her son then...nothing. Therese had to take her child and go back to Sweden. She could have stayed there and it would have been an easier option but she didn’t; she came back and it’s a good thing she did. “I never regret, I am very happy with the choice I made, I was so happy I came back," she tells us.
Another strong woman, Maha Helali who saw that Egypt was lacking when it came to care for children with autism, gathered seven other parents and created the Advance Society. Along with Therese and other strong-minded individuals, they have managed to produce an establishment and raise awareness for autism across the country. Working hard, the fruits of their labour could be seen over the years. The Advance Society, established in 1997, offers schooling, facilities and having started ten years ago to foresee an expansion, have opened a building that can take on more children.
But the organisation is so much more - with parents in general refusing to see a problem with their kids, the organisation is now working on acceptance. “It is such a relief to talk to parents who understand. Awareness is not the only important aspect but working on acceptance - for parents to not force their autistic children into normal schools and have them lag behind." Building this community helps parents who wish to ignore that their children are struggling to seek solace in others who are facing the same struggles. “We have a parent support group and we get the parents to talk about their problems and what they face in society. We even made a card that parents can give to curious onlookers if their child is having a tantrum...the card will explain autism and refer the curious passerbys to the centre,” explained Therese.
The community is now thriving and offering a haven for struggling parents to understand and accept the disorder. Putting a smile on your face, they will be having an art gallery show at The Cairo Opera House as well as a musical live performance at Sakia Cultural Wheel Saturday the 25th of April.