Twelve years have passed since Alashanek Ya Balady (AYB-SD)’s inception as a campaign across various universities in Egypt, and eight years since its registration as an NGO. I am proud to have been part of this organization since it came to exist. I have seen it growing from four individuals to thousands of volunteers across Egypt, and from working in one governorate to sixteen governorates. To all of us, AYB-SD is a long story of passion, persistence, and success to serve and develop our beloved country.
The year 2013 marked a special time in the history of AYB-SD, where we have consolidated our economic development model, not only to reach various governorates, but also to be replicated through various NGOs in Egypt. A three-year strategic plan was also developed to reach more beneficiaries in the coming years, and ensure the organization’s sustainability. This year is also special because we have adopted a new slogan “developing the human being to develop society”, which further helped in structuring our programs in the coming years.
Beyond this slogan, there is a philosophy. While most of us know the Chinese proverb “give a man a fish, you feed him for a day… teach a man how to fish, you feed him for a life time”, AYB-SD takes this proverb even further. You can train a man to fish, and this man can feed himself and his family, but the fishing industry might have structural problems that hinder the ability of this fisherman to sell his fish. Maybe there is a monopoly that keeps prices down. Maybe he does not know how to access the fishing market or set the right price. Or maybe fishing itself is not safe and fishermen do not have rights as workers. Along this line of thought, we came to understand that teaching children Arabic and math will not put an end to child labor, and providing soft skills training to poor youth will not necessarily guarantee them a decent job in Egypt, both due to stereotyping and labor issues. If we want to solve the problem of unemployment, we realized, we would have to address the structural problems in the market.
In line with this, the innovative model of AYB-SD came to be, which integrates advocacy, coaching, vocational training, education, and employment. AYB-SD believes that it is very important to work with the private sector to ensure labor rights and minimum wage level to make certain that the poor receive fair employment opportunities. At the same time, AYB-SD guarantees that labor supplied to the private sector are of high caliber, who received intensive coaching and training to meet specific market demands. Even beneficiaries who wish to establish their own businesses are coached and trained before receiving their funding from AYB-SD. This way, AYB-SD is empowering the poor to find decent jobs that secure a sustainable and decent source of income, which would help them graduate from the circle of poverty.
It is worth noting that AYB-SD’s main concern is for our development model to become widely replicated wherever applicable and deemed in need, not for the sake of credit, but for the sake of benefitting as many people in need as possible. The name of the model does not matter, the creator of it does not matter, what matters is that it works, and people’s lives improve because of it.