Written by Fatma Kheir
humanity has no religion
Aya was extremely sad when she knew she was selected by those in charge of Active Citizen project at the British Council, as a member of the group travelling to Colombo, Capital of Sri Lanka, to visit places for handicapped children. Aya objected to this trip as she saw it not fit to her. Despite her love of children and her study in education, she wanted a different experience in her visit to Sri Lanka.
The 23 year-old Aya Sayed Abu Shahba, who comes from Elbeheira in the Delta of Egypt, did not know that this trip will change her life for ever.
From Tree-planting to Helping hearing impaired children
In March 2012, Aya joined the Active Citizen workshops of the British Council and has been since active in it until the end of 2013. She carried out the tree-planting initiative in Elmagd village located in El-rahmaneya city, in Elbeheira governorate, where more than thousand trees were planted and are now being nursed by community members. Meanwhile, Aya participated in an initiative to enhance the youth centre library in the village with a wide collection of books, and in another cleaning project by local volunteer efforts. She is preparing for a new initiative called "A Drop of Water" to raise the awareness in six governorates of the need for the efficient use of water and its preservation from pollution.
During her trip to Sri Lanka, Aya carried her dreams and as soon as she land in the airport she left behind her expectations. After taking part in the programme events, she found out that the trip had offered her a lot of different ideas that changed her.
From Tahira to Colombo
After two days in Tahira where all members were introduced to each other, and had some interactions and exchange of experiences, Aya moved with a small group to the Capital Colombo. She spent a day in the Islamic Centre for the Physically Handicapped, where children with different physical and mental disabilities, until the age of sixteen, receive care and rehabilitation for a better life. Aya was astonished when she saw what could be offered to those children after the rehab, she saw handicrafts designed by children who lost their eye sight, and met trainers who have been rehabilitated in the centre that offers its services to Muslims and non-Muslims. After the age of sixteen, those children are rehabilitated to initiate their own projects.
Aya did know that this trip will change her life forever. She established a strong communication with the deaf and dumb children, and learned from them that there is a human language that connects people and does not rely on merely utterances. The children who loved her so much that they did not want to see her going, especially one child who offered her one his drawings, were the reason behind her decision to learn the international sign language. She will develop a similar project particularly for the deaf and dumb children.
A Heart and a Hand of Humanity
After her experience in the Islamic Centre for the Physically Handicapped, the group of Aya visited H3 Foundation, which symbolises "the Heart and Hand of Humanity", and the Budhist Centre that offers services to all religions and cares for children who lost their parents either by death, prison, or illness. They also visited a centre of old-age people who are being cared for, whilst they look after children. She tells us about that old man who lives in the centre so that he can accompany his cancer-patient wife, as a token of his faithful love to her. She recorded her notes about old ladies who, despite their old age, keep themselves fit with good health routines.
Aya says that the most significant effect of this trip was that it changed her outlook to life; she has learned to contemplate and reflect, and that co-existence is possible and necessary at the same time. She has also learned that humanity has no religion, and that the real language that opens doors in this world is the language of smile.