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Egypt: Street Smart

Written by Tearfund | 04 Apr 2019

Teacher at whiteboard leading literacy class

Meet Noreen*, she’s learned a thing or two. You won’t get much past her these days...

Over the past seven months, 18 women have been meeting together in Alexandria for two hours, four times a week, learning to read and write. Noreen is one of the class and it’s been a game changer.

‘‘Before, I would get onto the wrong bus because I couldn’t read the sign, now I can read the final destination on the bus and know what bus to take.’’

Spelling success
The project, and several others like it, is run by EpiscoCare, one of Tearfund’s partner organisations in Egypt. The women taking part are already reaping the rewards of their literary progress. ‘In the beginning I could not write my own name,’ says one. ‘Now we can read road signs and therefore we know where we are going,’ adds another.

The literacy classes also benefit entire households, because the women transfer their skills and knowledge to their children: ‘We can now study together with our children and help them with their schoolwork.’

As well as literacy classes, EpiscoCare offers small business loans. Noreen has taken this opportunity to start a small business. She took a loan of 1,000 Egyptian pounds (around £43) and bought wholesale clothes to sell on to the local community.


Noreen’s basic literacy and numeracy skills have helped her run the business. ‘I can do the calculations, and I’ve learned how to sell and buy,’ says Noreen. ‘But most importantly, now no one can trick or fool me as I can read the documents myself.’

Teacher at board instructing literacy class of women seated on floor.

The literacy class in full flow.

As well as help with their homework, Noreen’s children have also benefited from the work of EpsicoCare. Her youngest daughter is part of their ‘My Dear Daughter’ mentoring programme, which encourages girls to continue past primary school and get a full education. 

Meanwhile, EpiscoCare’s financial support allowed her oldest son to receive medical care when his tonsils needed removing.

A successful business has improved Noreen’s social and economic status too, which is good news for the whole family. ‘For sure,’ she told us, ‘in the future this will bring us more successful lives and my children will know more as they are continuing in their schools.’

And as for Noreen, nobody pulls the wool over her eyes any more...

Tearfund is due to end its 25-year presence in Egypt this month. To mark this we are sharing stories of amazing work our partner organisations are doing – and will continue to do, after we have departed.


  • Pray for EpiscoCare in your prayers as they continue to empower women and girls in Egypt, through literacy work and mentoring. 

  • Also remember in your prayers, the other organisations that Tearfund has been partnering with: Refuge Egypt (working with refugees), The Council for Services and Development (lending schemes for young people), Think and Do (supporting the most vulnerable) and Freedom Ministries (accessing healthcare for marginalised people).

* Name has been changed to protect identity

Written by

Written by  Tearfund

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