Turning Stones ~ Sonoma Valley Sun


Why should we care about Aswan, Egypt?

Posted on January 31, 2013 by Sonoma Valley Sun

This week, Egyptian General Sissi (a name that wouldn’t bode well for military personnel in America) stated that if politicians don’t put an end to the clashes seen across the country over the past five days, there may be “grave repercussions…conflict between political forces and their differences concerning the management of the country could lead to a collapse of the state.”

As some readers recall, I am the Chair of the Sonoma-Aswan Sister City committee.  During the past three years, I have made visits to Aswan, Egypt, promoting the Sister-Cities International mission statement: “Promoting peace through mutual understanding and cooperation, one individual, one community at a time.” Three locals, Sherri Ferris, Farrel Beddome and myself, are the key players in the development of projects carried out in Aswan.

The El Nasriya Sanitation Project was developed as part of the Africa Urban Poverty Alleviation Project (AUPAP), administered by Sister Cities International. One goal of the AUPAP was to perform collaborative projects in the areas of health, water, and sanitation through sister city programs in growing urban areas of Africa. The projects aimed to reduce poverty by addressing issues related to these areas, which hamper economic development and undermine sustainable development. Funding for the AUPAP program was generously provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Households in the El Nasriya community are located on small winding streets, making garbage pick-up by city collectors virtually impossible. The goal of the project is to improve the neighborhood of El Nasriya by acquiring equipment and materials for cleanup and to promote the consistent collection of trash by community members. To accomplish this, the project purchased two small dumper tricycles and one medium sized truck, trash cans, gloves and garbage bags, which will be used for trash collection in the narrow neighborhood streets of El Nasriya.  In addition, the project was designed to interact with the local community and engage households to participate in the project.

We are now very close to accomplishing these goals. As such, we are preparing for another visit to wrap up the project in El Nasriya and participate in a clean-up day in which residents of the neighborhood will gather together to make a difference in their community.  I know that some in Sonoma don’t care about what is happening in Egypt or our other meaningful sister-city relationships.  Understanding the historical development of Sister-Cities-International made me appreciate the vision of our 34th President, Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Eisenhower was a five-star general in the US Army during World War II, serving as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe.  He planned and supervised the invasion of North Africa and was successful in the invasion of France and Germany in 1944-45.  In 1951, he became the first Supreme Commander of NATO.

Because of the atrocities of the war, there was a strong American push to create peace in a chaotic world. Eisenhower envisioned a group that would engage in citizen diplomacy throughout the planet. The sister city program was founded, and continued to grow during the 1950s and 60s.  In the 1970s, it was recognized that sister city relationships formed out of post WWII aid programs in Western Europe, endured because of lasting friendships developed as a result of the aid programs.

I believe Eisenhower understood the consequences of war and maybe one of his greatest achievements was promoting peace.

In the words of Abbie Hoffman, “Revolution is not something fixed in ideology, nor is it something fashioned to a particular decade.  It is a perpetual process embedded in the human spirit.”  I do hope Egypt can find it’s way and I know I will do my part to forge friendships in the southern Egyptian city of Aswan.

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