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“I was born in Alexandria during the monarchy era. The city was beautiful and clean.” After the revolution, she says, the city began to deteriorate. Over the course of a decade, spurred in part by nationalizations and the Suez Crisis, Europeans and others departed en masse, taking a great deal of wealth with them.

“When I returned back in 2008 it was even worse,” she continues. “I feel that there is all the more need for our service, because poverty here is greater.”

Yet, she says, even as the city has changed, her feelings about it have not.

“In my eye, Alexandria remains beautiful because it is my home, where I was born and grew up. I prefer it more than any other place.” Sister Therese entered the community 20 years ago. She moved to Alexandria seven years back to serve as a nurse in the dispensary. Prior to her service in Alexandria, she served in Qusiya and Port Said.

“In Upper Egypt, poverty is more obvious,” Sister Therese says. “I lived with the poor; my convent was as their house and their street was as my house.”

The sisters in Qusiya serve the poor through many programs and initiatives — such as teaching craft skills to women.

“Women from all villages around us in Qusiya were coming to learn knitting and sewing,” Sister Therese says. “We helped them to buy sewing machines, so they have a profession to help them earn a living.”

Most of these students, she adds, were Muslim. “The families feel safe to send their daughters to us.”

In the Saba Banat dispensary, Sister Therese provides whatever nursing assistance is needed, but mostly works at the clinic with ear, nose and throat patients.

Sister Eman has worked in education since committing to religious life 22 years ago. She moved among the various schools of the Daughters of Charity until she settled, six years ago, into St. Vincent de Paul School in Alexandria.

Her day at the school begins at 7:45 with the morning queue of students, but does not end with the school day at 2:30. Most days, she works late — inspecting classrooms, meeting with parents and solving various other problems that surface.

“The profession of education is not easy, but God gives us grace,” Sister Eman said.

“What distinguishes our service is a love for the poor.”

The Daughters of Charity have four schools in Egypt. The oldest of these is Alexandria’s St. Vincent de Paul School, founded in 1906 — a coeducational facility ranging from kindergarten to high school.

With the deterioration of Egypt’s system of public education, many families wish to send their children to private schools. However, private schools vary wildly in cost, highlighting significant class distinctions.

St. Vincent de Paul School serves middle- and working-class families, who suffer from inflation and the erosion of incomes, the result of the severe economic crises Egypt has faced in recent years. Nevertheless, the school guarantees a high-quality education steeped in the Christian tradition at an affordable cost.

“I invest in my sons and the school here makes my investment successful,” says Muhammad al Sayyed Gharabawy, 40, owner of a print house and father of three students.

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