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Catherine’s Place (World Faith National Director of Egypt): Cairo, My Home 31 January , 2011

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World Faith National Director of Egypt, Catherine Manfre, blogs about her experiences in Egypt during the protests:

For the first time in all my years as a news junkie, I know what it feels like to watch the news about my home.

Last Tuesday, the Egyptian people, without leadership or organization, protested on mass around the country. In many countries of the world, the number of people that gathered would not have been significant. However, for Egypt, a gathering of more than 50 people is abnormal – not to mention illegal.

But this was the start of something new – this was Egyptians finding their voice among the noise and pollution and making a very clear statement that calling democracy in name is not experiencing democracy in reality. READ MORE


Cairo, I’ll be Back 18 August , 2008

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So I have left Cairo for the last time on this trip, spending an additional week there after returning from Sudan.  Like Sudan, I am considering writing a short analysis of the country from my experiences, but I am still not sure if I should, and if I do, if I should post it.  The reason for my uncertainty lies both in the fact that while running a non-profit that is explicitly non-political, if there is a viable way for me to comment on these countries without making political statements.  I mean I do have political opinions personally, but I wonder if my own expression could create false assumptions about World Faith, whose leadership are as politically diverse as they are religiously.  Also, certain countries I am openly critical of, but it seems potentially problematic if I criticize a nation’s government that we as an organization are working in, especially in a place like Egypt where civil liberties are diminishing if existent.  More to come as I decide.


However, World Faith Cairo is born, and interesting is growing much faster there than we ever had in New York the first month.  We did we get a group of young people legitimately interesting in leading the chapter, with the awesome assistance of Catherine Manfre, an NYU alumnus, who is World Faith’s Regional Director of Egypt.  But even better is we got connected to some of the movers and shakers of Cairo.  Including that of Dr. Barbara Harrell-Bond.


“Dr. Harrell-Bond is an institution,” her future replacement said, referring to her clout in the international refugee aid world.  Michael Hellen-Chu, a friend of mine who works at the UN on the Darfur political solutions team, informed me of her intense behavour and her immense knowledge in the field.  Catherine set up some meetings, of which I wasn’t prepped for before. All the sudden I was sitting face to face with Dr. Harrell-Bond.  She is about to retire in two weeks, and for some reason she dug our approach, and essentially dragged me to all her meetings and introduced us to several organizations in Cairo. 


After meeting with her and everyone else, Catherine and those working with her decided that the best way to kick off World Faith Cairo was through a language exchange between English speaking study-abroad students and Iraqi refugees, who are over 100,000 numbers in Cairo.  So our chapter will likely not just be based on Coptic-Muslim division, but also be able to challenge West-Arab relations, and Egyptian-Iraqi relations.  I am stoked to see what comes of it.


 Now I am in Amman,  where I originally intended on relaxing.  However, after meeting several people in interfaith, I sort of slipped into World Faith mode and now we are exploring to see if a chapter is a possibility here.  Someone wants to introduce me to Prince Hassan, who is very active in the interfaith works here, so we will see what comes of it.  Until then, pray that we find some funding so that I can actually continue this fulltime!


The Next Chapter: Cairo 20 July , 2008

After an enjoyable weekend in Amman while basically living out of Book@Cafe, I took a bus to Aqaba and ended up waiting 10 hours for a ferry across to Noueba, which left at 4am, and unloaded at 1pm.  That was the worse experience of the trip so far, and if wasn’t for the fact that a friendly Syrian (who also happened to be a Druze from Souada, go figure) helped me out, I may have just totally gone nuts.

Cairo has been an enjoyable experience, as after spending some time here each summer I am finally mentally prepared for the insanity that is Cairo before arriving.  Cairo is essentially the same size as New York, only you take away the infrastructure and add heat.  

My host last week was the morning DJ for Nile FM, the largest english radio station in the Arab world.  After a few days, she invited me into the studio to talk about the hospitality club we are in for such hosting (, and I also got to talk a bit about the chapter we are working to start in Cairo for World Faith.  It was funny to do an interview on the radio that wasn’t focused on World Faith, but rather talking about someone else’s project.  The interview will be posted on the World Faith website soon.

So after getting settled here, I met with Mustafa Abdullah, the leader of the World Faith chapter in Winston-Salem, and with Catherine Manfre, who is going to be our new Regional Director for Egypt.  After some meetings we came up with our plan of attack, and are hosting an interest meeting for the chapter this Tuesday at Pottery Cafe, across from American University of Cairo (Where Catherine had studied).  We already have quite a few interested people, and I think it will be a very interesting meeting… these sort of things get me re-inspired and remind me why I even do this in the first place.  More to report as afterwards.

Finally, after going to the Sudanese Embassy, I found out that my application for Sudan has to be personally signed by President Bashir, who was indicted by the ICC the same day I applied… I have no idea if I am going to get this visa or not.  Furthermore I have spent most the money I set aside for this trip already, so I am digging a little deeper than I feel comfortable with, but c’est la vie.  STILL reaching out to funders and seeing if we can get some real funding behind World Faith, as we still have done all that we have on less than $20,000 in the past two years.  I apologize that most of my blogs right now are commentary, but I hope to expand into more exploratory discussions when I am not traveling… Right now I am using the blog to keep people updated that I haven’t been able to single out and update.  More to come, as usual… 🙂