Lady Didi (C) teaches children Arabic at her Nile River School in Ayyat district on the outskirts of Giza Province, about 100 km south of Cairo, capital of Egypt, on March 26, 2017. Diana Sandor, known as Didi, an old Hungarian-born German-raised woman, covered the long distance from West to East six years ago to open her Nile River School as a charitable kindergarten and educational center at the heart of remote, impoverished Baharwa village of Ayyat district on the outskirts of Giza Province, about 100 km south of the Egyptian capital Cairo. Didi said she started building the center "brick by brick," through little donations from friends and volunteers around the world and that she is concerned with "teaching children life," not just languages and skills. (Xinhua/Zhao Dingzhe)
by Mahmoud Fouly
GIZA, Egypt, March 26 (Xinhua) -- Behind a colorful hand-made wooden gate painted with drawings of a river with running boats surrounded by flowers and flying birds, there opens the way to achieve the dreams of the children of a small Egyptian village for learning their ABCs as well as the value of life.
Diana Sandor, known as Didi, an old Hungarian-born German-raised woman, covered the long distance from West to East six years ago to open her Nile River School as a charitable kindergarten and educational center at the heart of remote, impoverished Baharwa village of Ayyat district on the outskirts of Giza Province, about 100 km south of the Egyptian capital Cairo.
Didi said she started building the center "brick by brick," through little donations from friends and volunteers around the world and that she is concerned with "teaching children life," not just languages and skills.
She explained that a British female friend who lived in Egypt helped her find this place in the village.
"In the village, we just wanted to find out what the problems and the needs of the people are. They said they need a school and they don't have one. Because I am into the education world, I thought of starting a school here like I did in other places around the world," the woman told Xinhua with a peaceful smile on her face.
Surrounded by greenery and flowers and overlooking the Nile River bank at a village with high illiteracy and limited services and educational opportunities, Didi's center has indoor and outdoor spaces for activities like learning Arabic and English alphabets, painting, singing, playing the piano, doing clay formation, knitting, cooking and carpentry.
"I learned here English and I knew how to perform some songs in English. All I learned here helped me at my regular school. A lot of parents come here to thank Didi for teaching their children and for coloring the fronts of their homes," said 12-year-old girl Menna Mahmoud.
Another girl, Farha Moussa, 11, was shaping the clay in her hands into a bird. She said she learned at Didi's how to draw, sing and make paper roses besides reading and writing in both Arabic and English.
Coming to this small village in Egypt is not a whim of Didi, who left her normal social life in Germany when she was 22 to travel to India and learn meditation and yoga. She also spent 16 years living in Asian countries providing similar charitable services. Didi said Egypt for her was "a new culture and a new challenge."
"I wanted to find myself, to realize myself. I questioned my purpose and mission in life. Through that, I devoted my whole life to development. I have lived in different countries in the world, so I feel everywhere at home. I consider the whole world my family," she said.
Opened a year after Didi's arrival in Egypt in 2011, the center attracts from 60 to 120 children every year. Some of the kids at the school have grown up to become teachers for younger children and assist Didi with her educational activities and caretaking of the place.
"I studied with Didi here for four years and I am now a senior student at a regular preparatory school. I feel it is my duty to come here and assist Didi as she helped me with education," said 16-year-old girl Ahlam Ghanem, a resident of Baharwa village.
Didi's assistant teachers do not have to be teens or grownups. They still can be children who teach fellow children, as long as they are smart, diligent and hardworking, like this little boy who teaches his peers the Arabic alphabet.
"I teach the children the Arabic alphabet to be good and nice. I also know how to sing and many other things," shy eight-year-old boy Zeyad Mohamed said.
In the beginning, Didi considered carrying out her charitable project in Cairo. But when she saw the peaceful scenery of Baharwa village she thought it would be more attractive for volunteers and young students.
Yasmine Refaat, a volunteer from Cairo in her late 20s, has been spending the past two days reading for the children from storybooks and helping them with the rehearsal of a kids' play they are supposed to perform once they are ready.
"I believe volunteers make a difference for the children who are so curious when they see a new visitor. It's important for them to see some new people who come from outside their village to help and teach them," the young woman said.