Ahmes Ghabrial, a member of the Rotary Club of Heliopolis, Egypt
Fifteen years ago, Ahmes Ghabrial traveled to Bangkok to receive training in the concentrated language encounter method, an immersion approach to literacy education that inspired the first large-scale Rotary literacy project, carried out in Thailand in 1987-92.
For practice, Ghabrial taught some local children Arabic, and within one day, they were speaking and reading two dozen words.
“A deputy minister of education came to me and asked if I could teach Arabic there,” he recalls. “I said, ‘What? I’m training so I can go teach the people in my country.’”
Since he introduced the method in his homeland, it has helped thousands of Egyptians learn to read and write. Now more than 70 Rotary clubs work with the Egyptian government to provide literacy and vocational education to about 1,000 people a year. After completing the classes, participants – the majority of them women – receive official certificates from the government to show future employers.
Ghabrial, a Rotary Foundation Major Donor and a physician, is also chair of the Egypt PolioPlus Committee. “In Egypt, if you go to the countryside, you find people who are really in need,” he says. “They don’t have a smile on their faces. When you do something for them and they smile at you, that matters more than anything.”