Sunday, May 17, 2009

Going Beyond

When the hysteria surrounding swine flu hit, the Egyptian government ordered that all pigs in the country be killed. It was actually pretty sad, because the people who were raising the pigs were very poor themselves. The government made the farmers pay the costs of the slaughter, and they didn't reimburse them for the loss of their animals. You can read the in-depth story here.

Someone else read that same story and decided to do something about it. Yay!

Americans make difference for poor Egyptian family
By Charlene Gubash, NBC News Producer
CAIRO – The aisles were empty in Country Homes Furniture in Wilbraham, Mass., and owners Hazel and Nazih Zebian were sitting in their office doing what they described as the "usual whining and complaining" about how bad business had become and questioning how much longer they could last.

"Like so many people in these economic conditions, furniture has been hit hard," Hazel said. "It’s the last thing people want to buy."

Out of boredom, she began to surf the Internet and came across a story on about another man half a world away facing hard times: Abu Sayed in Cairo.

We reported on how Sayed had just lost his small herd of pigs, the only source of income for his extended family of 14. The Egyptian government began culling all pigs in a misguided attempt to prevent swine flu. But pig farmers, most of them living below the poverty line, lost everything when police seized their swine herds without any compensation.

Sayed was no exception. He was beaten by police when he asked what would happen to his herd. He had no idea how he could continue to feed his own children or help provide for his brothers and sister.

But after reading Sayed’s story, Hazel silently calculated how much it would cost to replace the 25 pigs.

"I read it to my husband and as I started reading it, multiplied in my head and all it amounted to was $1,125. I said, ‘I wish we could give that to him ourselves.’ And he said, ‘If that's what you want to do, just go ahead and do it.’"

Soon after, I received the following email from the Zebians: "I would like to know if there is any way possible I can make a financial contribution to this man and his family… I want someone to physically hand him the money on behalf of myself and my family so that he does not go without the income his pigs would have brought in for him."

A few days later, after a flurry of e-mails and a trip to Western Union, the grateful Egyptian family was given a fresh start.

"I was astounded when I found out there are people who care and are still good," Sayed said. "They are good people. Human beings should support one another and they are a good example of that."

Sayed plans to buy a flock of sheep with the money to replace his herd of pigs. "God willing, this will replace what I have lost."

He and Nazih, a Lebanese-American, spoke briefly by phone. "I thanked him and expressed my appreciation," Sayed said. "Nazih is a respectable person and he wished me luck." Nazih said he hopes to come to Egypt and meet him in person.

By giving Sayed a second chance, the Zebians gained a fresh outlook on their own struggling business.

"After reading the article, we just thought, ‘What are we complaining about?’ and felt really good after doing it," said Hazel. "We will never forget."

1 comment:

  1. This is a beautiful story. Puts our own issues in perspective. Thank-you for repeating it here.