Since the beginning of the spring semester on February 13, students, staff and faculty at The American University in Cairo (AUC), have joined together to consider new and important initiatives to increase civil and social participation within and beyond the university. Spurred on - in part - by resurgent ideals of activism in the days following the recent momentous events in Egypt, these efforts seek to expand what is already a widespread tradition of volunteerism at the university.
The desire to organize was evident among the many community service and community outreach clubs and organizations within the university community who saw the need to capitalize on the sense of unity and patriotism generated by the social reform movement. Eight campus-based student groups organized Community Service Day titled “For a Better Egypt” on campus last Wednesday to appeal to peers and colleagues at AUC who want to commit themselves to service. They have four main focuses that are clean, invest, donate and educate.
Abdullah Mohsen, a senior majoring in electronics engineering and president of Resala student club, described the fair as an awareness raising event. “This semester we are looking for ways to invest in Egypt to help the economy; we are creating food packs to give to people in the community who have not had enough money to pay for food in the past weeks. While the situation in Egypt is still unstable, we will visit underprivileged areas to conduct neighborhood clean-ups and to teach ideas of civic awareness and sustainability.”
“Egypt has changed in the past weeks. Now there is a sense that Egypt belongs to us, and everyone has an individual sense of ownership. Before, that sense was not there. People were scared to start new things,” Mohsen continued. “What’s more,” he adds, “many people do not know how easy it is to help. I was truly inspired by what people did in Tahrir Square. I saw a relatively small group of people clean, pave and paint a whole street in three hours.”
Ahmed Mohsen, logistics head of the Anti-Cancer Team (ACT) and a member of Volunteers in Action club, said that the clubs will stick to the areas they develop but now they have a bigger cause that needs more activities. “Our plan is to clean and plant those areas, donate food packs for the people who were most affected by the protests, and raise awareness about the political reform taking place in Egypt.” He added, “We are also trying to help students invest in the stock market in order to help their economy; this is a win-win situation.”
Faculty, staff and students also gathered at the AUC Zamalek Hostel on Wednesday to discuss other ways in which the university could reach out to the greater community. Ideas ranged from creating research projects to commemorate the revolution, to increasing efforts to promote literacy in Egypt, to creating new partnerships with other Egyptian universities to ‘sustain the spirit of the revolution.’
Khaled Fahmy, chair of the history department, is the newly appointed chairman of a committee within the Egyptian National Archives that is charged with the documentation of the Egyptian revolution. He asked those present at the meeting to contribute their own stories of the revolution. “As members of the AUC community, we have special perspective on this and we ask that those with specific ideas on how to highlight this connection make them known,” said Fahmy.