Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | April 11, 2013

Cairo’s Garbage People

Over the past several years, our missions ministry has provided micro-loans and micro-grants to give the poor a hand up and a way out of poverty. We have assisted women coming out of a life of prostitution in Central America with micro-grants to start small businesses. The majority of these businesses have succeeded and generated enough income to keep these women from having to sell themselves in order to survive. We have also helped Christian nationals in Bangladesh and Jordan to start small businesses as a key step on their journey out of poverty.

Zabbaleen PicThis month we are initiating a new partnership with friends in Egypt to provide micro-loans to the Zabbaleen — the garbage people of Manshiyat Naser, commonly known as Garbage City. Located outside of Cairo, this is the place where most of Cairo’s trash ends up and the side of Cairo no one wants to see. The Zabbaleen bring the tons of waste that they collect door-to-door into this area. And then families sort through the mountains of garbage in order to find items that they can reuse, resell, or repurpose. They feed the organic waste to their pigs. Without the Zabbaleen, Cairo would drown in its own garbage.

Although the work of the Zabbaleen is critical for the city, they are discriminated against and despised because of their work with garbage. As many as 90% of the Zabbaleen are Coptic Christians. They work extremely hard under very difficult conditions in order to eke out a subsistence living of just a few dollars a day. One Zabbaleen man told a news reporter that he and his family can work twenty-four hours a day and yet never make a living. Children work alongside their parents and do not have the opportunity to get an education. They are trapped in a vicious cycle of generational poverty. As a result, the Zabbaleen call themselves “The Nothings.”

I leave today for Cairo where my friends and I will spend a few days among the Zabbaleen. We hope to help many of these desperate people to begin a journey out of the nothingness and despair that has kept them in garbage for the past 70 to 80 years. And then, we will travel on to Jordan to continue our work with Syrian refugees. Please pray for the Zabbaleen and also for the many Syrians who have had to leave their homeland in order to escape the violence that has claimed tens of thousands of lives. May both the Zabbaleen of Egypt and the Syrian refugees who have fled to Jordan come to know that those who consider themselves nothing or who are regarded as nothing in this world are indeed of great value to God.


  1. Praying for you and your team, Omar. Thank you for working with the Zabbaleen. I am praying for soft hearts and open minds among them and that God’s word would transform their world.

    • Thanks, Julie. In Dubai now and then on to Cairo. Looking forward to meeting the Zabbaleen very soon.

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