We are a group of laypeople, members of the Cave church of St Simon the Tanner in Mokattam, Cairo.
The ministry initially started in 1995 in the garbage village of Mokattam in East Cairo, as a ministry of the church of St. Simon the Tanner. In those days, it was extremely shameful to show that one had a handicapped child, so much that some parents wouldn't allow their children to leave the house. We prayed together and asked one of our priests about the possibility of establishing a ministry for the people with special needs here, and then discussed when and how to begin.
The founder of the Ministry of Love is Mahrous Fakhry, along with his sister Julia Fakhry, Adham Mounir and his sister Hanaa Mounir. The ministry to the disabled and those with special needs was called the Family of Love Ministry. Later, a few other church members joined this family. We started with a team of only four volunteers from the church and served three children with special needs. We kicked off by visiting the houses of families we knew had such children. A difficult barrier to this ministry was that most of the parents were in denial of their children's handicaps because of the shame they felt it brought to their family. During that time, it was extremely difficult to start a ministry of this kind among the garbage collectors, due to their lack of knowledge about children with special needs. However, the conditions gradually became better as the ministry educated families and elevated the status of the children with these needs.
After a full year of training and education, the volunteers were able to provide services for the special needs children and their families. With more education and support from our volunteers, the parents began to take a step in the right direction by allowing their children to go to church and participate in other outside activities, all without feeling scared and ashamed. By that time, we had succeeded in overcoming the community's false belief that a 'disability' is something to be ashamed of.
In 1996, just a year later, we added a ministry for the deaf and mute. Some of the team members were urged to go to a special center in Cairo to learn sign language, which really enriched the ministry for the lay people and those we serve.
Furthermore, in 1997, we began our ministry for the chronically ill. We assisted people who suffered from many kinds of diseases, such as hepatitis C, diabetes and cancer. We also started serving young adults, with a large range of different kinds of disabilities. These ministries are still going strong today and continue to serve the community.
In 1998, our ministry made some changes - with the guidance of Rebecca Atallah, we started having camps for those participating in our ministry. These times away with the disabled children and young adults give a break to their families and provide the campers with a time of recreation and entertainment. Both the disabled and the chronically ill enjoy this time of fun and learning away from the Garbage Village.
This ministry, the “Family of Love”, has shown the community in the Garbage Village that we should cherish and interact with those who have special needs just like we do with anyone else. As of today, we have more than 120 mentally and physically disabled cases in our community, 20 deaf and mute, and 150 with chronic diseases. There are 55 volunteers, 27 full-time staff members, and 5 part-time workers now heading up the ministry to these people.