Personal Perspective on Springboard Schools

17 May, 2012

Personal Perspective on Springboard Schools

As of January, I have been in Cairo for a year. I have always enjoyed working as a Social Worker so I was in need of a project to keep me busy. Then I meet Angie Joyce! She introduced me to her world of the girl's schools that Apache sponsors, and the wonderful team of project directors, Salma Zaky, Haytham Gamal and Youssef Youssef that have been a pleasure to work with and I have been hooked ever since. Looking back, I remember entering my first school and the beautiful faces were looking so eagerly at us. We grown women were all lined up stiffly (for most of us it was our first experience) in front of the classroom and the first question asked was "Why are we visiting?" We all stood in silence like a deer in headlights until Angie spoke up and helped us fit in. The young girls seemed much wiser and reserved than us in many ways. The girl who asked the question couldn't have been more than 10 years old. So while in the beginning I may have felt like an alien from another planet, I left feeling like a rock star! Even with the language barriers, many of the girls were so gregarious and they found ways to show us their world through their school projects and what they have learned. After having some experience, I no longer feel like an alien but march in with my broken Arabic greetings and enjoy getting right in the middle of the girls and giggling with them just like any girls you would find in our world.


As you look around the schools, they are covered with art and the aesthetics are cheerful and welcoming. The girls are gifted in so many ways. During the Fall of 2010, I wanted to experiment with different art projects to show case what the girls are capable of. In the process we learned much about these girls without having to speak the same language. In the beginning, the girls were apprehensive about cutting into the paper and creating their own designs. This is only my observation but in the beginning they were so reserved and almost stifled over their concerns about making a mistake; that it took them a while to realize there are no mistakes and to just go for it! As we sat down and started cutting, they soon mimicked us, and it didn't take long for them to surpass our attempts at creating amazing art. What was wonderful was that all the girls could participate no matter what the age and they were able to create their own perspectives of how they see their world regardless of the theme of the collage that day.


We also found that some students have never used scissors because they have none in their schools. Teachers were asking if we could leave them glue and scissors and they were so grateful for the paper we left after the art projects that we considered scrap and probably would have thrown away. These girls are artistic and busting to shine and one medium is through art. But with their limited resources, it is difficult. That's where we come in.


Spring of 2011 we plan to have a local fundraiser to not only to make money for supplies but to bring awareness to the local expat community that there are positive ways to get involved and at their own comfort level. One of our volunteers is creating a cook book to raise funds while another volunteer is creating a calendar with all the proceeds going to the girls’ schools. Our first project was creating collages and each child contributed a piece of the collage to create beautiful art. But just going out and interacting and playing games with the girls makes their day. I don't know who gets more out of these experiences, the volunteers or the girls. Regardless, I take for granted the things we have in our lives and it is wonderful to give back. It doesn't take much. As guests in their country, it is a privileg to enjoy their company, show case their creativity to others and watch them sparkle and shine as they express themselves in a safe and welcoming environment thanks to the creation of these schools.

Shelly Heinrichs

Springboard Cookbook
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