Marhaba: Volunteers in the Middle East

Rating: 4.8 stars   5 reviews

Issues:

Location: 502 Washington Ave., Ste 810 Towson MD 21204 USA

Mission: Marhaba offers service-learning summer programs for university students and recent graduates. Our mission is to encourage cross-cultural understanding between the North America, Europe, and the Arab world while providing meaningful service to communities in the Middle East. Our goals are to (1) create leaders in international development with greater understanding of Arab cultures and language; (2) build bridges of friendship and understanding between young foreigners and their Arab hosts; and (3) contribute to development in the education, health, and economic sections in the region.
Direct beneficiaries per year: 10-12 American volunteers

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Community Reviews

Rating: 4 stars  

15 people found this review helpful

A fantastic introduction to the Middle East. While it was a bit daunting to take on the biggest, most bustling city the Arab world has to offer-- the Marhaba staff gave volunteers a great foundation and several advice-filled group meetings to ease us into the process of living in a completely new place.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

My Arabic comprehension increased ten-fold. Having been a student of Modern Standard Arabic, the applicability of my studies was always lacking in the States. Being immersed in an Arabic-speaking environment forced me to pay extra attention and work extra hard at communicating-- my survival at times depended on it!

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

being in EGYPT! What a beautiful, cultrally rich and vibrant country. Marhaba planned several outings for its volunteers around Cairo, and with the free weekends, fellow group members and I would plan our own trips around the country. Almost every part of Egypt is very accessible and tourable with limited Arabic skills-- all you need is a Lonely Planet.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

Marhaba did a splendid job of choosing its volunteers. People were brought in from all over the country and from all walks of life. I made great friends and am incredibly greatful for the 24/7 helpfulness of its staff members.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

truly be a cross-cultural organization; bringing Egyptians to the States and possibly bring down the hefty cost of the program for American volunteers.

Ways to make it better...

Program II had been planned out a bit more thoroughly and ahead of time. The description on the website was lacking, but even then, it was not what I was expecting.

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

One thing I'd also say is that...

the Arabic classes should have been more focused on survival Arabic and followed a better textbook.

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2009-1-01

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Rating: 5 stars  

15 people found this review helpful

When I arrived in Cairo I was seriously hoping there would be someone there with my name on a sheet of paper. I had no real way of knowing whether this organization was legit or not before I got on that plane outside of it's website and contacts from the program the year before. Despite this lack of cross-referenced sources and the minor growing pains of an organization in its infancy, a second year program, Marhaba provided me with just about everything that I was looking for in a volunteer opportunity. We were able to network with people from all aspects of Egyptian society and to form real relationships with our students, who were fellow volunteers at Resala. With lectures, Egyptian Colloquial classes, volunteering, cultural outings, and travel throughout Egypt, becoming immersed in the Middle East was fairly easy.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

it's promotion of a more realistic view of the Middle East and Egypt for Western culture, while conversely offering Egyptians a chance to interact with Americans who wish to make a difference. Students constantly asked me, "Why do Americans hate the people in the Middle East?" Towards the end I was able to promote an awareness for why there is a negative connotation and where it is coming from.

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

the opportunity to experience just about everything I could have possibly wanted to experience in Egypt. We had time to do the touristy things on the weekends and our group experienced the culture of Cairo by going on group trips frequently. Also, befriending Egyptians was easy through connections of other volunteers and through the students in our classes. Not only this, but the location of the flats put us right in the thick of real Egyptians. Forcing interaction with the real residents of Cairo and not just other foreigners. Thus, Marhaba offers a full-fledged Cairo and Egypt experience.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

...always willing to offer a helping hand. Which was extra important to a person that has never traveled overseas and had no prior Arabic Experience. Whenever any problem arouse one of the staff was always there to help.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

... progress on to extending this cultural exchange beyond just Americans being sent to Egypt, but Egyptians being sent to a bustling city in the States. Marhaba would also most likely expand out of Egypt into other parts of the Middle East offering these same exchange programs.

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2008-8-01

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Rating: 5 stars  

16 people found this review helpful

Marhaba is a great organization for those who want to volunteer in the Middle East. This organization gives volunteers the opportunity to learn about the Egyptian culture and spoken Arabic language. Marhaba's director and coordinators are very well organized and dedicated to making sure volunteers are supported and have great experiences. I volunteered in an Egyptian organization by teaching English classes to Egyptian volunteers. Even though six weeks is a very short time to teach English, I feel like I made a great impact by creating a space for everyone to converse about cultural differences between Egypt and the United States. I learned so much from my new Egyptian friends and I am so thankful for the time I was able to spend talking and learning with them. I also greatly enjoyed taking Arabic class and learning the colloquial Egyptian language. Surprisingly, I learned much more Arabic than I ever expected. Overall, my summer participating with Marhaba was an amazing experience. I recommend this program for anyone who is interested in Egypt and looking to learn more about the culture and language.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

I greatly enjoyed meeting other volunteers who were also interested in the Middle East. We all loved spending time together and we made great lifelong friendships. I also enjoyed making new friendships with Egyptians. The people in Egypt welcomed us with open arms and great kindness.

Ways to make it better...

It would have been helpful if the organization provided us with more training and advice on teaching English classes. It was difficult to just be put into a classroom and expected to teach English without having any past experience. We talked about this problem during the final retreat this year so I know this is something the organization will work on for next year.

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

One thing I'd also say is that...

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2008-8-01

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Rating: 5 stars  

14 people found this review helpful

I absolutely loved the six weeks that I spent volunteering in Egypt through Marhaba. What makes this program unique is that it provides a multifaceted approach to understanding the Egyptian lifestyle and culture. Instead of the typical study-abroad experience, volunteers have the opportunity to study colloquial Arabic and then put it into practice: volunteering in the community, living in Cairo and traveling throughout Egypt. I recommend this program to all of those who are interested in learning what it is truly like to live in the Middle East.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

The time I spent in the classroom at St. Andrews. It seemed that all of the students took something from class - and we learned so much about the refugee situation in Egypt and as a whole.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

Provide more materials for volunteers that are considering Marhaba but not quite sure what to make of the program. The pre-departure information was lacking, but this will problem will probably be solved in the future.

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

That I saw Egypt from so many different perspectives. I met people all over Egypt, from various socioeconomic backgrounds, ethnicities, providing an entirely new lens into Eyptian culture.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

Very friendly and supportive. Everyone seemed to be there for a different reason and wanted to make the most of their experience in Egypt.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

Not only bring young adults from the US to Egypt, but Marhaba could bring young Egyptians to the US who could not normally afford to do so. Talk about a cross-cultural experience!

Ways to make it better...

I had learned a bit about the refugee situation from the start so I could better understand the difficulties many of the children faced outside of the classroom.

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

Meeting the goals of the organization and those of the participants. The program is very structured, so there is not a lot of free time to travel outside of Cairo. Independent time from the program is limited, but the program coordinators are always open to discussing which group events are mandatory and optional.

One thing I'd also say is that...

I'd hoped to learn more Arabic during the six weeks. I learned during the program that I didn't really have enough time with volunteering and traveling to study as much as I could have...but I also wanted to see as much of Cairo and Egypt as possible. It's a difficult to balance all of the above.

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2008-8-01

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Rating: 5 stars  

13 people found this review helpful

I had a great experience working with Marhaba this summer. My work at St. Andrew's refugee school was not only rewarding, but it also taught me more about refugee law and the specific issues that refugees in Cairo are forced to deal with. As a student interested in intl human rights law, I think Marhaba is a great program to be a part of. The volunteers also studied Arabic with a private instructor and organized a bunch of weekend trips. The people that I met were awesome, and I'm sure I'll return at some point in my life.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

being immersed in Egyptian culture. Having to learn the language and use it in everyday life.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

extremely helpful and nice!

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

create an exchange program where Egyptian students come to the states.

Ways to make it better...

I had more time there.

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

It's still a fairly new organization trying to work in a developing country. So there are some kinks, but overall it's great.

One thing I'd also say is that...

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2008-8-01

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