29 January 2017
Kindness is an everlasting virtue. Being charitable must come from your heart and be within your capabilities. Travelling + charity = heaven + therapy. What else could make travelling more memorable and enriching? My intentions are simple: I want to know what happiness is. I want to gain a bit of inner beauty since when I have insecurities and display unattractive features, charity keeps me in check. Above all, seeing someone smile even for a second makes me complete. I’m not here to save anyone or change anything. I can’t.
While education and women’s rights have often made its mark in such involvements, I welcome and would like to vary the form of charity. Thus, I was happy that back in 2015, I was able to spend time with refugees in Nepal and now, I can add “medical supplies” onto the list. Egypt is not only about fulfilling childhood dreams of kneeling in front of the pyramids and being surrounded by hieroglyphics. It is also about giving something back to a host country.
Surreal was how I felt meeting Master Ayub in Pakistan. I’d use the same word to describe Dr Alaziz. The great thing is, for both men, I first noticed their work from Al Jazeera reports.
I’ve spent time trying to track them down and with great support from my gorgeous friends, I had the absolute honour in meeting them in person. Ali, a friend in Shanghai, kindly reminded me that although most Egyptian doctors speak English, having a local contact will not only ease any communication difficulties but also help to dispel suspicion and ensure that my intentions are clear. Just like Aziz, Shoaib and Qamar who helped with Master Ayub, Ali’s friend Yara was by my side during my day in Cairo and my arrangements with Dr Alaziz.
Egypt spends around 3-5 percent of its GDP on health. I’m not sure about the current figure but 8 years ago, there were only 16 doctors and 33 nurses per 10,000 people (both urban and rural areas). When people are in dying need of medical staff and hospitals, inadequate funding and training does little to alleviate the lingering challenge. After 6 years of study and 1 more year of residency, many young doctors find themselves in a stressful workforce where there is a lack of proper resources and support.Ali’s brother who showed me around Alexandria told me that doctors earn about 300 USD per month. Many work extra shifts with no payment and for a family, this is clearly not enough. I find this to be unfair since doctors are humanitarians and if you dehumanise them then how can they improve patient care? Thus, many are either not going into the profession or are leaving Egypt.
Dr Alaziz stays though….in Cairo and has remained at his clinic for 20+ years.
When people are denied access to education and healthcare because they cannot afford it, that is tragic for the development of any nation. For Dr Alaziz, the idea behind his clinic is to ensure that everyone can have access to medical checkups. He charges 5.5 LE (Egyptian pound) / 0.30USD or 1.8RMB per check up regardless of the patients’ gender, age, religious belief and the severity of the illness. Such check up along with prescriptions is a lifeline for the poor in Cairo. On average, doctors in Cairo charge 300-500 LE (15-17 USD) per check up. 5.5 LE is cheaper than the transportation that one needs to see him.
Located on the left side of busy Mohamed Farid Street and a stone throw away from Mohamed Naguib Metro Station, Dr Alaziz’s clinic is on the first floor of a grey building.
9am and his waiting hall is already filled with a dozen patients.
His office door opened and there he was examining a young patient. Adorned in humble clothing and always with a stethoscope around his neck, Dr Alaziz is an approachable and kind individual as reflected in his mannerism and speech.
I was half nervous and half excited. Just like meeting Master Ayub, I was delighted to finally see this inspirational hero in person. From first finding out his work then to months of confirming his details, I find it most satisfying that I’m able to stand in his office, stare at the wall charts and have a face-to-face conversation with the great Doctor.
I told him that although I wish to give him a hospital complete with medical equipments and trained staff, a bag of medical supplies is all that I could provide.
He smiled and said in English: ” It is more than enough. Thank you for seeing me.”
Dr Alaziz has been practising medicine for 45 years and the time spent in rural health clinics gave him access to those who are most in need of immediate medical attention. 30% of Egyptians live below the poverty line so such early exposure to the poor prompted Dr Alaziz to open a clinic in the Capital (population: more than 20 million ppl).
“My main aim is to help the poor. I’m like a volunteer. This is a non-profit clinic aimed to help people and to show them that I am here for them.”
“So does the government help you at all?” I asked.
“No, only god,” he replied.
Not wanting to disturb his work and make patients wait, my visit had to be quick. Before we left, we took a group photo along with his patients. I could see from their faces that they respect the Doctor and appreciate his selfless act. I can’t think of anything more meaningful and soothing than to gain love and respect from others through one’s genuine deeds.
It was another inspirational day. I sense that I will meet more people like him who will encourage me to be a better person. I’m so happy that Egypt Chapter was a success.
Thank you Ali and Yara for your time and your support.
Thank you world for being both cruel and beautiful.
For anyone who is interested in making donations, here are the details:
Dr Alaziz 92 Mohamed Farid Street Abdeen, Cairo (002-023956640) or 100 5365849