Those who believe they can change the world are the ones who actually do, and Reham Ahmed, an avid believer in community service is determined to bring change to her poor neighborhood of Al Marg in Cairo. Together with a team of volunteers, the 24 years-old business administration graduate, is conducting a survey among young people in the neighborhood and analyzing the social ailments that are hindering their progress. Based on the findings, Ahmed founded “Dekka,” the first neighborhood cultural center that serves free of charge young people in her community, between the ages of 15 and 30. Ahmed is confident that culture and art are a big part of the cure for their social ailments.
Dekka, was initially founded as a library and book club in October 2015, in a small rented room, to spread awareness and restore hope in the hearts and minds of young people and help them rediscover themselves through reading and knowledge. As the idea evolved to include more activities like music, arts and handicrafts, Ahmed rented an apartment earlier this year to accommodate the increasing number of visitors. However, a bigger place translated in more investments beyond her means. Focused on her dream to develop Dekka as a cultural beacon in her neighborhood, the persistent young woman didn’t give up. Her mother who stood beside her daughter and encouraged her to proceed with the project since it was just an idea in her head, stepped in to help her with the finances available to her.
Reham also invited Rahma Mohsen, her long life friend, to join the project. A true believer in the power of books and knowledge herself, Rahma became a big supporter of the project, both financially and emotionally. A full time college student, Rahma helps as much as her time and schedule allow, which leaves managing the place to fall on the shoulders of Reham, the oldest and more experienced member of the team. Reham organizes the cultural and musical events, brainstorms with the team of volunteers that assist her for the upcoming events, communicates with the speakers, prepares for their presentations and currently she is developing the program for the children’s summer activities.
While many are elated with the new project and view it as a beam of hope, others are cautiously watching with cynicism. Reham admits that marketing Dekka to young people, which depends heavily on the word of mouth, is not as easy as they had anticipated.
“Young people in our neighborhood are not used to be provided with such activities and services within close proximity from where they live, and that makes them skeptical about our standards in comparison to other places that offer similar services, which they have to travel long distances to reach. But once they come to Dekka, they appreciate what we offer and they return back. The growth is taking place gradually and organically. And that’s what makes Dekka an interesting adventure.” Reham said.
But with the diversity of activities offered, the founders are confident that its growth is imminent. And in spite of the difficulties and challenges Reham faces, she urges young women to never let go of their dreams. “To let your dream die in front of your eyes is a crime you commit against yourself. Keep your dreams alive and work hard to achieve them.”
And when asked about her dreams, she answered, “I want Dekka to become a big library and beacon for enlightenment and knowledge in my neighborhood and the areas around it. By benefiting the community, I am also benefiting myself. Through the activities offered at Dekka, I am learning about arts, culture, and music and most important I get the opportunity to read more books and meet inspiring people. Spreading awareness and hope, and sharing one’s knowledge to enrich others is what I truly believe in, and what I aspire to do.”
Reham also hopes that as Dekka grows, so would its library, which so far includes a limited number of books for the use within the premises. The library depends heavily on donations of new and used books. As the library expands, young people will be allowed to borrow books. Other than donating books, Dekka invites people with success stories to share their experiences and knowledge with its young visitors, to inspire and motivate them.
*Dekka is an independent entity with no political affiliation
To donate books call: 011- 4191-3922, and a representative will come and pick them.