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Review for Marhaba: Volunteers in the Middle East, Towson, MD, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

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.

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Role:  Volunteer & Taught Conversational English, Learned Extremely Basic Arabic.