When I first visited in 2006 the children were all living and schooling in a building in the middle of Luxor. It was fine for their purposes but didn’t feel like a home for the kids. There I met the children and spent a lovely afternoon playing with them. When I got back home I decided to sponsor one of the children, and Hussain was chosen for me. The next year I went to visit him- at the time he was 4 years old, lovable and happy. I gave them a puzzle and Hussain and the other children loved it.
I learned about what the children were there for. Most of them are not orphans- they have been abandoned. The sad situation usually is that the mother conceives out of wedlock- for various reasons- and her family shuns her. In extreme cases the family can decide to punish the mother by taking her life. The mother feels that she has no choice but to leave her new born baby to its own fate. One story tells of a baby left on a train, and then later, as the children’s home became more well known, children would be left on the doorstep.
The project was started by Pearl Smith and an Egyptian colleague Dr Amr Taha in 1996. She had visited a clinic and seen the plight of abandoned children first hand. She got the Egyptian courts to name the children and hand them over to the care of Sunshine- not an easy task for a Western Woman in Egypt. She also set up a registered charity in the UK to fund the project. Now Sunshine has 84 children under its care, and a new baby will arrive on average once a month. Some are eventually fostered into local families.
I returned in 2010 to find the Project grown, and a brand new location built especially for them. So much more spacious and homely, a large outdoor play area, a clinic, and a separate school building for the younger children. The older children have been incorporated into a local school. This was one of the challenges the project faced- people with no fathers have no surnames; people without surnames are shunned from society. But the Sunshine children mingle with other children, and the barriers are broken down.
The best news I heard from the project was about the oldest boy- whom I had met the first time I visited. He had amazed me- his English was better than mine, spoken with a perfect English accent. I met him when the project had arranged for him to come to our hotel and have a swim in the pool! In 2010 he was 18 years old, finished school and had just got himself a job in the local hotel. Such a fantastic story! I saw Hussain again too, now a young lad of 8 years old. He didn’t recognise me but I hugged him anyway!
Myself and my friend lived in Luxor for a month and went to the project every weekday morning to teach the 3 and 4 year olds. It was a pre-school so we did a lot of singing songs, arts and crafts, and playing games- teaching them English while we were at it. I will never forget their favourite thing- stickers!! The project can always use arts and crafts supplies for this class, so if you are ever in Luxor any donation is welcome. If you don’t have much room in your suitcase- just take some stickers and the children will love you forever!
We would occasionally play outside with the children too, and after class would sometimes go into the main building and sit with the really small children- the age 1s and 2s who would climb all over us. On our last day working for the project we had a party, they all made party hats and we got sweets and balloons. We had a great time dancing and singing and playing with balloons!
More recently the project has suffered a bit because of the political climate in Egypt. Sunshine relies on people bringing donations over from the UK of clothes and toys, but since travel in Egypt has been banned/ restricted, supplies are not coming as frequently. My heart stopped one day when I heard that there had been a fire in a petrol station just down the road from them- but the school wasn’t too affected by that. I just keep thinking about the children and what their future will be like. How was the oldest boy managing in a hotel job once the tourists stopped coming? What will all the others do?
The great thing about Sunshine is that they are like a family, the children are directly under care until they are 21 or they get married. So no matter how the children grow up, they will always have their family there to support them.
If you would like to help the Sunshine Project Luxor please go to their website:
If you visit Luxor- please take a look at their wish list and take them a little something.