EFG Hermes Foundation and the Sawiris Foundation for Social Development (SFSD) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to launch an integrated sustainable development project in Naga’ El-Fawal and Esna areas of Luxor. Daily News Egypt spoke with Hanaa Helmy, CEO of EFG Hermes Foundation, to find out more about the project.
Brief us about EFG Hermes Foundation’s story with sustainable development projects and where the idea originated.
EFG Hermes Foundation was launched in 2006 as part of EFG Hermes’ corporate social responsibility. It is a non-governmental organisation financed by EFG Hermes.
During its first year, the foundation worked in several areas with the aim of assisting people and institutions focusing on education, health-related challenges in the region, housing, water, and sanitation.
By the end of the first year, 2007, we came to a conclusion to focus on integrated sustainable development to make sure that the impact on the community with which we work is positive in all aspects.
Following that, we started several projects including, and not limited to, a project of housing and sanitation in Minya, in which 3,000 families were helped by installing water supplies and sanitation systems for their homes.
Even though clean water and proper sanitation are very important issues, they do not deliver the development impact that you want to see as they do not provide access to economic development. This was taken into consideration when monitoring and evaluating the project to see and ensure that we benefit the community by enhancing the social fabric, local economy, and generally improving the living conditions of the communities we address.
We also worked on an integrated development project in Ezbet Yacoub in Beni Suef.
This project focused on economic development in parallel with infrastructure. We started it in early 2008 and completed it in December 2010 with a budget of EGP 28m.
In parallel, we did not stop working on other areas of focus, we worked on combatting Hepatitis C virus (HCV), and raising awareness around it, followed by a vaccination campaign for college students against Hepatitis B.
Also, we worked on supporting children with cerebral palsy and education initiatives in collaboration with KidZania.
What are the key areas that the foundation focuses on in its development projects?
The foundation’s programme focuses on underserved communities, directing grants to and managing projects that are operating in one of three focal areas, which are: poverty alleviation, disease prevention, and youth development.
What is the strategy of EFG Hermes Foundation?
Basically, we have a winning formula which is doing or implementing sustainable development in the community to deliver short-, medium-, and long-term results. The empowerment of the local workforce, developing the local economy, and improving living standards all have a combined long-term positive impact. We do not focus on short-term improvements with no sustainable results.
To date, what is the total number of beneficiaries from EFG Hermes projects?
Our efforts have impacted more than 400,000 people in total.
We have successfully benefitted 15,000 citizens at AlMakhzan Village in Qena, 10,000 in Ezbet Yacoub in Beni Suef, and 3,000 in Minya.
Meanwhile, our youth programme benefits more than 150,000 citizens, including 20,000 young students through our partnership with KidZania, more than 1,000 university students through our literacy programmes, and close to 100,000 persons through our Hepatitis C awareness campaigns.
So far, how much have the foundation’s total investments in sustainable development projects reached?
To date, our total investments have reached more than EGP 120m.
Does EFG Hermes depend on funding from local NGOs or governmental support?
Throughout all our projects, we mainly rely on funding from EFG Hermes.
However, we also believe in the power of partnerships to augment the potential of our projects for underserved communities. This is reflected in our partnership with the Kuwaiti Initiative to Support the Egyptian People in 2014, where they partnered with EFG Hermes to develop underserved villages in Upper Egypt. This collaboration started with El Makhzan Village in Qena.
Moreover, we work through partnerships with local organisations to ensure the sustainability and ownership of our projects. Through our partnerships with local NGOs and capital development authorities (CDAs), we help build their capacities and empower local communities.
From your point of view, how can you evaluate the success of these projects, can you specify a percentage of success?
The changes or the successes that we achieve are not measured quantitatively. When you see the dramatic change in people’s lives, you cannot put a percentage on this.
At first, we see a community that is not looking forward to anything except death, then suddenly they start to look forward to life, have demands, and are ambitious in looking for a way to improve their life. We feel the success when we see these improvements, when we see the life of women has changed, that they are in control of their lives, that families are more productive, and how villages now have good infrastructure. That’s why we do not measure the success of our projects in numbers.
What are the challenges or obstacles that you face while implementing these projects? And how do you overcome them?
The first challenge is gaining the trust of the community that you work with, as we need to build trust with people before getting into their life and digging deep to see their problems in order to solve them.
Another challenge, but a positive challenge, is to get people to rethink their needs, making them think the way you are thinking in order to be on the same page and start the development project.
Finally, the last challenge is to gain the trust of the government that you are a serious organisation working to benefit the community in your country. However, our track-record and on-ground achievements are strong factors that help overcome this challenge. Furthermore, the Egyptian government has been increasing its focus and level of collaboration with private sector foundations out of their belief in the positive impact we can achieve together.
In depth, can you tell us more about the recent project in Naga’ El-Fawal and El Deir; its goal, investments, and beneficiaries?
The EFG Hermes Foundation and the Sawiris Foundation for Social Development joined forces in a dynamic partnership to realise integrated sustainable development.
Moreover, the EGP 53m project targets improving the lives of 60,000 underprivileged citizens through investments in infrastructure development, educational opportunities and economic empowerment in El Deir village in Luxor governorate.
What was the reason behind choosing Naga’ El-Fawal and El Deir villages out of all impoverished areas?
El Deir village in Esna city suffers poverty, high rates of unemployment, limited access to healthcare, and poor housing conditions attributed to rapid population growth, inadequate infrastructure, and the lack of opportunities for economic independence. The partnership targets Naga’ El-Fawal to become a hub for development for El Deir village, with its 60,000 residents.
Like many other villages in Egypt, we have to start somewhere.
According to the plan or the schedule, when will you finish this project?
The project’s duration is two years. However, if we can have the necessary approvals and licenses, we can then finish the project in less than a year.
In your opinion, how will people benefit from this partnership?
People will benefit a lot more from a partnership compared to individual efforts from each entity working on its own. The SFSD has a core mission which is to contribute to Egypt’s development, create sustainable job opportunities, and empower citizens to lead productive lives that realise their full potential.
EFG Hermes Foundation aims to assist people and institutions to overcome the financial, educational, and health-related challenges facing our society by supporting innovative and sustainable programmes that increase opportunities for those most in need to make a positive change in our local communities.
However, the Kuwaiti Initiative to Support the Egyptian People is a strong proponent and a passionate financial backer of such projects, bearing in mind that to deliver a truly successful sustainable development project, you really need a strong budget.
Therefore, joining forces with such big entities will definitely be an advantage for the beneficiaries.
What are the goals of the foundation for 2018? And what are the foundation’s future plans?
I think the goal is to accomplish our ongoing projects in a very short time and to move on to the next projects.
Moreover, we are currently working on the development of El-Fawal and El Deir projects. Our objective is to deliver upgraded housing, improve sanitation conditions, renovate a local school, in addition to establishing a bakery, a nursery for early learning, and a community service centre.
Furthermore, literacy programmes are offered, in conjunction with economic empowerment projects, for women and youth.