Interns in Cairo.

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Two CISVers have become social entrepreneurs in Egypt.

Not too long ago, a whole bunch of my friends became "fans" of a facebook page called Interns in Cairo. Without looking deeper into it, I simply thought it was a probably a...TV show. I know, you're laughing, but don't you think a bunch if international students doing internships in various companies and organisations would yield in an entertaining daily soap?

It turns out, Interns in Cairo is a company founded by two CISVers, Laura/ITA and Mathilde/FRA, who somehow got stuck in Cairo, after - exactly - doing internships there. The basic idea is to offer a service to both students interested in an internship abroad and to companies in Egypt, who longed for international input. You can get a better idea by visiting their (beautiful!) website.


Now, even if Interns is obviously a service company, there's something genuinely CISVish in there. In fact, to me, it's the true incarnation of what CISV's education should lead to. (Check out the post on Sachi's Bordercrossers for another great CISV spin-off.)

Here at FTB, I've been arguing before that these kind of ideas deserve support, so I hope mentioning their project here will help spread the news.

I was curious to learn more about their ideas, so I did an interview with them. Here it is:

FTB: How did you end up in Cairo?

Laura: I personally moved to Cairo on February 13th 2009. I've been living the year before in Paris, learning French and working with an NGO. After it I  should have gone back home, but it would have been to hard because of the love-hate relationship I have with my mom. After Paris I went staffing a Seminar in BA and there I started looking for an Internship abroad...I confess the Cairo choice was mainly due to love related issue as the boyfirend is a "product" of the Cairo Chapter.

Cairo it's hard to deal with sometimes, so I started begging Mathilde, one of my closest friends, to come over. And surprise-surprise she did it, for reasons she'll explain better but mainly to take a gap year and do an experience abroad.

Few days before Math came me and my flatmates were kicked out of our house as apparently we were having orgies every day. ( in the egyptian culture is not very socially acceptable a girl living alone having guys friends over. It always depend on the landlord, and we haven't been lucky.) But "serendipitly" me and Mathilde ended up living together in a really nice place ( must thank our IJR and friend Rowan El Shimi who totally helped us in this).

Maybe if we weren't living together we wouldn't have spent so much time talking about culture and differences and acceptance,and we would have never came up with this project.

Mathilde: I just graduated from university last December for that to happen I needed to run a 3 months internship over the summer. I was applying to things in France without being convinced, was hard to find something relevant and rewarding for such a short time. I wasn't sure I wanted to take a master right away after my bachelor or taking a gap year and living abroad for a while was something I wanted to experience. I decided to go for the gap year abroad. Egypt had always been a country on my to do list because of all its wonders, CISV friends and Laura. But the choice of Egypt is mainly because at this time I was looking for an eye opening and surprising experience, something new and extremely different from the western culture. There I go, I moved to Cairo beginning of june 2009.

FTB: Do you perceive Interns in Cairo more like an NGO offering an exchange programme or a for-proft company that will pay your salaries?

Laura and Mathilde: Well actually the non profit idea was our starting point: living in such a different environment is really challenging and there is a huge social / cultural gap within egyptians. However the bureaucracy here in egypt is something crazy: said with easy words the government is really protective in general towards its communities so something labled as NGO run by 2 girls foreigners such a conservative place is not easy at all.
So the lawyer (that we would have need anyway for any establishment) told us to go for a LLC (limited liability company....which has no minimum capital as we are "poor" as we are 2 students and we put our own money in this) told us that under this lable in the eyes of the government we are investors in the country and not trying to "corrupt" the society. Still one of the main goals is to give the possibility to western minded young people to experiment such a new and different culture and learn from it (and vice versa of course) as a tool to build bridges towards cultures, taking a step forward other than CISV which is mostly limitated into camps and put it in "the real world". Of course the money we get out of it are also for
- afford our expenses to make this possible and get back all that we invested in this
- for all the time we are spending trying to make it happen for real
As you can see programs that do the same thing (sometimes without providing the flat) are costing between 600  and 1500 USD ...we ask only for 350E a student for everything.

FTB: Sounds like "social entrepreneurs" to me! Great. Now, how has the response been so far?

Mathilde: We are still in the process of developing our companies data base and internship opportunities. But lately companies has started approaching us to get interns.
Concerning application the next past weeks we have been receiving a lot of application. At the moment we are working on 6 applications but we still didn't welcome any interns yet. If things are doing well, we might make the first pick up at the airport beginning of april.

Laura: Yes "inshallah" how we say back here. It' s actually understandable tho (in the sense that it's not upsetting people did not come here yet) as we started being operating Jan, and it's not that people decide to move abroad in a week ...unless they re Mathilde :) The only little problem we have is that our tools to spread the project are kind of limited: we don't have a "marketing" department and it's just the two of us running it and counting mostly on our friends support at the moment.

FTB: Thanks and Good Luck

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This page contains a single entry by Nick published on March 8, 2010 3:42 PM.

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