An exploration of long-term volunteering in Egypt

Hey, my name is Esther and some time ago I returned from a European Solidarity Corps project in Cairo. The project took place at the Have a Dream organization in Egypt and was organized together with the Fundacja Rozwoju Społeczeństwa Przedsiębiorczego. I would like to tell you about my experience and encourage you to participate in similar projects!  

So, from the beginning. Why did I decide to take part in the ESC project?

One of my passions is social activities and helping others. The feeling that my presence and activity has an impact on other people’s lives, that I can be part of projects that make it possible to improve the lives of people in need always gives me satisfaction and makes me feel needed. I often think about the fact that not everyone, due to their place of birth, social status, financial situation and other factors, has the same opportunities as me in many aspects. The realization that with smaller and larger actions I can have a real impact on improving the situation is why I have been involved in community activities since my teenage years.

I have been asked a lot of times, why do you want to go to Egypt? It’s a third world country, poverty, may it not be a brothel…. Such comments I have heard more than once. The thing is that I was not looking for what is easier. I’ve traveled a lot around the world and I realize that Egypt requires going outside my comfort zone and probably, will test my limits. Like my previous projects, nowhere is perfect, but in helping others, I want to get to where help is needed most, not where it is easy and “European.” For me, that’s not the purpose of volunteering. I also believe that such places shape the mentality and perspective the most.

So what’s on this project?

My project at Have a Dream mainly focused on managing international projects such as the European Solidarity Corps and Erasmus+. As part of the Project Management team, I was in charge of preparing infopacks about upcoming projects, application forms, newsletters and social media materials. My other tasks included screening candidates, conducting interviews and coordinating visa processes. I was also responsible for feedback sessions with volunteers. There were times when Gaja and I worked on larger projects such as EMSA and EYES, these are also Erasmus+ program projects. When our organization was involved in various workshops or fairs, we also participated in them. In Egypt, the work week starts on Sunday and ends on Thursday, and the weekend is Friday and Saturday. Every Monday there were meetings of the whole team. Gaja and I also went to Arabic language classes every Tuesday

And free time?

In my free time I went to the gym and did some sightseeing. We managed to see a lot of things in Cairo: museums, galleries, mosques, local markets and cafes, the pyramids of course, the Nile or traditional dance shows. I also managed to attend an Egyptian wedding and the Tutankhamen exhibition. In addition to Cairo, we went to Port Said and Alexandria. These are two coastal towns that differ from Cairo in their atmosphere and sense of peace and freedom. Cairo may seem monotonous at first glance, but it is full of beautiful hidden places, cozy cafes, and historical sites. People spend a great deal of time together, family, care for the elderly, and act collectively.


6 months in Cairo is something that cannot be experienced by being here on vacation or a week-long tourist stay. It’s an opportunity to experience the realities, hardships, beauty and differences. It teaches patience and adjustment, and appreciation, of what one has. It requires changing habits, learning the rules of a completely new and different culture as well as switching off the European way of thinking. If you are someone who seeks more than peace of mind and a bubble of your own comfort, this will be one of the most rich and mindset-shaping adventures of your life.