Helm: Helping Persons with Disabilities One Click at a Time

Highlighting an overlooked 14 million-person community.

You might remember an advertisement that featured Menna Shalaby and Ahmed Malek. Directed by Amr Salama, the Ad went viral a little while back, gaining over 4 million views in just two days. And was certainly, the centre of attention of many talks because of its informing and highly emotional message.

With a simple and clear message to convey, it was able to successfully shed light on a daily problem faced by persons with disabilities; a lack of accessible facilities. The ad is part of a campaign adopted by “Helm Foundation”: a non-profit organisation, with the aim to create a more accessible environment for the students of Cairo University which -according to their statistics- has around 1,000 special needs students enrolled, in partnership  with Drosos Foundation. The campaign is based on collecting as many number of donations as possible through facebook likes, shares and comments. With Attijariwafa Bank, Allianz, AFD, and Vodafone Egypt Foundation as Major Funders for the donations, aiming to support the foundation’s main goal, and hopefully set a good example for others to follow.

Consequently, the campaign also gained the support of several governmental authorities  including: the National Authority for Tunnels (Metro), Cairo Transport Authority and the Governorate of Giza, with a proposed plan of adjusting the nearby metro stations, to ensure the students a safer commute to and from the university, making it more accessible.

Helm originally started as an idea for a student activity program at the AUC a few years back, with the target to help persons with disabilities.
Focusing mainly on job-hunting for persons with disabilities and assisting them, since the law requires that all facilities would have at least 5% of their employees in all fields, to be persons with disabilities.

However, despite this, a lot weren’t able to efficiently keep their jobs due to a severe lack of several accessible facilities. Which, according to Helm, proved to be their biggest problem faced. And this stems from the fact that the schools and roads being unequipped, has eventually caused the citizen with a disability to lose a sense of equal competition in many life aspects.

Therefore, Helm used this phenomena as a fuel to broaden up their vision and expand their impact by launching several awareness campaigns.

Not only did the foundation solidify and strengthen their stand to the cause; by winning different prizes that include the first prize in Negma Social Entrepreneurship Competition from MIT in 2013 and the Rise Egypt Fellowship from Harvard University 2014-2016, but it also gained even more supporters and major contributing companies along their side, such as L’Oreal and Barclays to help with their multiple projects.

One project was introduced at the Community day, a yearly event that started before the founding of helm; aimed to involve the employees (of said companies) and persons with disabilities interact together through a series of activities. One of each involved the participants to sit in a dark room for an hour and explain what emotions have they experienced during.

A picture from L’Oreal’s community day

A picture from L’Oreal’s community day

One of the more effective projects of that kind was initiated by Vodafone Egypt Foundation: a mobile application and website that highlights whether or not a place is suitable according to one’s needs. It is available in several governorates including Cairo and Giza and has reviews for over 900 different locations. You can find the application here.

To raise even more awareness, Helm ran several online campaigns on social media. #ازاي_اتعامل (How do I cope), for example, offers advice on how to deal with another person’s disability. #متنساش_حد (Leave no one behind) is all about experiencing life as a person with a disability to be able to realize just how much they struggle on a day-to-day basis.

In the end, Helm’s main goal was always to benefit persons with disabilities as efficiently as possible in the form of awareness campaigns, increasing accessible facilities and of course their first-ever objective, preparing persons with disabilities for the job market.