Posted by on April 07, 2011 in Blog

Every year, Mira Riad’s Egyptian American parents would take her on summer vacation to Cairo. The contrast between the abject poverty of Cairo’s streets and the manicured polish of her New York city suburb served as a constant reminder of her good fortune, and her responsibility to help those in need. Now, at the age of 32, the Egytian American attorney is doing her part by founding a new orphanage in Cairo to serve the city’s most underprivileged.

The Consortium for Street Children estimates that up to one million children in Egypt live on the streets, the vast majority of which are concentrated in the slums of Alexandria and Cairo. Almost none have completed a primary education, and substance abuse is rampant. Riad hopes that her orphanage will provide new opportunities to children who currently have none, and will help erase the stigma of orphans that currently permeates Egyptian society.

As for her own future, Riad hopes to remain closely tied to the orphanage after its completion, balancing her commitment to the project with her domestic New York roots.

A former social worker, Mira is currently practicing law at her father’s legal-trusts firm in New York, but has been working on her project since 2007: The Littlest Lamb Orphanage, an 8.6-acre compound nestled in the suburbs of Cairo, will house approximately 200 orphans, providing them with the shelter, nutrition, education, and support they will need to succeed in modern Egyptian society. Mira hopes that the project will afford each of the children a university education, and will continue to house and support them as long as they require.

Progress has been slow since a government-mandated work stoppage was enforced last year, and the Egypt’s transitional state has only made matters worse. “Since the revolution it’s been hard to know where to go,” she confessed, as her team struggles to attain the proper licensing. Nevertheless, Riad is optimistic that circumstances in Egypt have changed for the benefit of both the completion of her orphanage and for the fate of the Egyptian people as a whole. “I continue to be hopeful that what was envisioned before the revolution turns into reality.”

In the meantime, she continues to work on her project, raising money and building support. The orphanage has already raised half of its funding goal of $5 million, and has been supported by the likes of Pope Shenouda III, head of the Orthodox Coptic Christian Church, and sports legends Pelé and Walt Frazier.

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