Active Citizens Mohamed Kheirba

Hope cancels out the lack of facilities

Written by Fatma Kheir

Eight days back from his journey, 23 year-old Muhammad Saleh Kheriba, who is studying engineering at university, repeatedly mentioned the word ‘hope’ in his talks; strengthening his belief in his initiative. Muhammad, a young man from Sharqeya, took part in the Active Citizens workshop organised by the British Council in Egypt, in cooperation with the NGO Etijah. With his counterparts in the Active Citizens programme, he opted to change his community through a shift in ideas. 

 Since change is not an easy option when dealing with adults, he decided to start with children under eleven years old, and saw that he could change the whole community in his town Abukbeer in Sharqeya governorate. Together with his teammates, he introduced the ‘Million Book’ initiative, aimed at restructuring school libraries in his home town. The idea germinated during a brainstorming session in the Active Citizens workshop.

 At the outset, Muhammad thought that the implementation of that initiative was challenging, but would not overpower their will. 

However when he travelled to Myanmar, where he was fortunate enough to attend the International Citizen workshop in December 2013, he realised that the difficulties, and social, economic and political complications that were bravely addressed by him and his teammates in Egypt, were nothing compared to the absence of any facility provided to those who have the same noble objectives, and dream of changing their community through volunteer work and their role as active citizens. There is a huge difference between lack of facilities and challenging conditions, and the absence of facilities and dire conditions.

This inspired Muhammad and strengthened his belief in giving. It made him see that what he had once hoped for his community, and thought was far from coming true, was in fact very much under his control. He talks enthusiastically about the local activist in Myanmar who spent 18 years in prison, then came out to resume his work at his organisation, which is one the most active civil society organisations in Burma,  with a main mission ‘to encourage people to be fearless’. It works for promoting peace, ending land confiscations, and acknowledging the challenges and complications facing peace activists in the country. 

He also talked about organisations starting their operations with two or three people, building up to two or three thousand members in less than two years. He then added that by no means would he face in Egypt any ostacles similar to what they saw in Myanmar, and that the dream of one million books every year, and ten thousand books in each primary, preparatory and secondary school, is imminently coming true with a great deal of diligence and will.