By: Salwa Samir
The “Cairo Cycling Geckos” are using the gecko as a symbol for their team, because of their skill at negotiating narrow alleyways, dodging zig-zagging tok-toks, piles of garbage and herds of sheep as they ride here and there on their colourful bicycles, doing their charity work.
The Cairo Cycling Geckos (CCG) is an initiative that started in Ramadan, 2016, with the aim of providing Iftar (a sunset meal that breaks the fast) for those in need and for refugees living in the country. The food is delivered by young Egyptian women on their bikes.
Noran Salah, the founder of the initiative, said that the story began when she was encouraged to take up cycling as a hobby.
“I noticed some people were astonished to see me riding a bike and there was some verbal harassment. This made me determined to encourage other girls to go cycling and that is how I started my initiative,” Salah told the Egyptian Mail.
Her initiative is special because, not only does it encourage women to ride bikes, it encourages them to do charity work. On different occasions throughout the year, the cycling team roams the alleyways of poor neighbourhoods in Cairo, to help the people living in the area.
In Ramadan, for example, the women cyclists provide Iftar meals to those in need. On mothers’ day, they give presents to mothers, at feast-time they give toys to children and in winter they distribute blankets.
Salah needed to provide the volunteer women with several bikes, so they could carry out the charity work. In the beginning, she looked for people who had bikes she could borrow, but she could not find any.
She asked for help on her Facebook page.
“A young woman introduced me to Bescletta, a company that sells the most prestigious brands of bikes. I sent them a formal proposal, and they quickly replied that they were ready to support me when they knew that I would use the bikes for charity,” she said.
From the first day of Ramadan, Salah has been asking for donations in her posts on her Facebook page. She keeps the page followers updated as to where the team will go and where they will meet before setting out, so anyone who wants to, can join them.
Salah has other charitable ideas that she has implemented. At suhour time, she prepares sandwiches with various fillings such as cheese, egg, foul and other delicious ingredients and sells each sandwich for LE10 in classy areas. She tells people that the proceeds will go to charity.
"Some people pay LE100 for a sandwich just to support us,” Salah, who works as an interior designer, said happily.
Salah uses the proceeds and the donations she collects through her Facebook page to buy food boxes from Syrian, Sudanese and Eritrean women refugees.
“We then distribute these boxes as Iftar meals to poor people,” she said.
Noha Hesham joined the initiative as a volunteer. Before hearing of the bike team, she had never ridden a bike, but she wanted to learn, in order to join in the charity work.
She joined the initiative last year.
“When we go to a shanty town, we find out where the old people and the neediest people live. Sometimes we go to the area more than once, if that is what is needed,” she told the Mail.
She does not face any harassment by the people in these poor areas, so she assures girls that it is safe to join the team.
«When people know that we are coming to distribute food and other essentials, they help us find the neediest people in their neighbourhood and even pray for us,” Hesham said.
“I believe that when people see you doing something good, they will do their best to support you,” she said.