‘Sister Emmanuelle- Her Life of Accomplishments’
A: Summary of Sister Emmanuelle’s Life
Sister Emmanuelle was Christened Madeleine Cinquin and was born in Brussels on the 16th of November 1908. She was one of three children to Berthe Lenssens and Jules Cinquin.
Madeliene’s father tragically drowned when she was six during a beach side holiday. She grew up in Belgium, yet during the First World War, her mother moved them to Paris for a year, and then returned to Belgium one year later. She was taught English by a British Governess and excelled in her schoolwork.
By the age of twelve, Madeleine wanted to be a nun. She was inspired by Father Damien, a Catholic Priest who helped Leprosy sufferers in Hawaii. After reading about acts of charity, Madeleine Cinquin decided to use all her efforts to helping those who were not as fortunate as she was. She joined the ‘Order of Our Lady of Sion’ and changed her name to Sister Emmanuelle when she took her vows in 1923. Emmanuelle means ‘God is with us’.
She taught in convent schools for ‘well off’ children, but Sister Emmanuelle felt that she should use her teaching skills to educate those less fortunate children, so she discontinued teaching in Turkey and Tunisia and seeked in helping those in Egypt. A Pope’s representative heard of Sister Emmanuelle wishes and suggested she helped the thousands of refuse collectors known as the ‘zabaleen’ in Egypt. The zabaleen, which means ‘filth or rubbish’, lived on the outskirts of Egypt at a rubbish dump called Ezbet El Nakhl.
Ezbet El Nakhl was a dirty place inhabited by refuse collectors who collected the rubbish of Egypt for very little pay and lived in a poor, dirty and unhygienic place where the rubbish of Egypt was stored and sorted. The children were uneducated and had no way of entertaining themselves so they got into trouble.
Sister Emmanuelle moved into Ezbet El Nakhl in 1971 and lived in a small one roomed hut with very few possessions. She was 60 years old at the time. She decided to give up her luxuries and live like the many zabaleen friends that she had made. She traveled into the city everyday at 5 o’clock in the morning for mass at the city convent. Sister Emmanuelle lived with very little food and had to put up with the many problems that the zabaleen lived with, like white worms in food supplies and housing, fleas and disease.
Sister Emmanuelle had not been at Ezbet El Nakhl long when she decided to open a school in her spare room. She accepted any child of any religion who was willing to learn. Sister Emmanuelle took her small class on many field trips to Egypt and for many, it was their first time into Egypt apart from collecting rubbish. She opened a school for men and many showed up to learn the Arabic alphabet.
Sister Emmanuelle was desperate for a youth club and center to help the Zabaleen. She set about collecting 15 000 from the local charities and help funds around Europe. She finally achieved this two years later. A kitchen, club, pool, football field and lounge was set up for the youth of the Ezbet El Nakhl. She called it the ‘Salam Center,’ which is Arabic for peace. It was opened on the 29th of March in 1979 and the center also provides social, medical, cultural and educational help.
When Sister Emmanuelle was satisfied with her work at Ezbet El Nakhl, she moved on to Mokkatam; a refuse collector’s dump which was in worse condition than Ezbet El Nakhl. Sister Emmanuelle started the work of collecting money from charities to build a factory for composting material, which she finally achieved.
Sister Emmanuelle’s work in the rubbish slums contributed greatly to the progress and living conditions in the refuse collector’s lives. Even at 77 years of age, she was still collecting money for the refuse collectors.
B. Sister Emmanuelle’s Christian Motivation
In Sister Emanuelle’s early life, she was heavily influenced by Christian faith and many Christians were her motivation. Through influential beings, Sister Emmanuelle became a person who was willing to help others and devote her skills for the needs of others.
When Sister Emmanuelle was eleven, she read about missionaries in Africa and the many who served and contributed their time to helping the less fortunate.
A Christian priest, Albert Mahthay traveled to Africa and raised money to hire doctors and teachers. He counseled and educated many of the people of Africa and helped promote equality between religions and cultures. Albert Mahthay influenced Sister Emmanuelle to help others and serve the community.
When Sister Emmanuelle was twelve years old, she read a book about Father Damien, a Catholic priest who went to work among Leprosy sufferers of the coast of Hawaii. Father Damien was also an influential figure in Sister Emanuelle’s missionary work.
When Sister Emmanuelle was collecting money for the Salem Center at Ezbet El Nakhl, she contacted the Vatican, who was a resident of the Pope in Vatican City and she asked for some advice. The Vatican, named Monsignor ‘B’, encouraged Sister Emmanuelle to keep striving to meet her goals, and to stay on track with raising money for the center. The Vatican taught Sister Emmanuelle a successful approach to fundraising and motivated her in her missionary work.
Sister Emmanuelle had strong faith in Christ and her vows that she took in 1923. She felt devoted to helping others and to serve in Christ in her work. Sister Emmanuelle had a strong outlook on life as being unselfish and kind to those in need. Her Christian faith truly was her biggest inspiration and she was encouraged by many Christian figures to pursue her dreams.
C. Analysis of Sister Emmanuelle’s Achievements-
Sister Emmanuelle achieved many important deeds in her lifetime. She was remarkably persistent in her workings in the rubbish slums. Her hard work and persistence led to the improvement of the living standards for the zabaleen in the rubbish dumps, particularly Ezbet El Nakhl and Mokkatam and helped promote more respect for the communities living in the slums.
In 1971, she moved into Ezbet El Nakhl, a slum just outside of Alexandria in Egypt. After seeing the hard lifestyle and horrible living conditions, Sister Emmanuelle decided to put all her efforts into helping the people of the rubbish slums.
She started teaching children and men basic Arabic, in the spare room of her hut. Her classes were very successful, and many passed Arabic reading and writing exams; including herself.
After meeting the people and pursuing their lifestyle, she decided to help them set up a center for educational, medical and religion purposes. She set out on her first fund raising trip in 1974 and 1976. She met Monsignor ‘B’, who helped her fund raise and after two long trips, she raised 15, 000 which was enough to open and build the Salem Center.
The Salam center was unofficially opened on 29th of March in 1980 and Salam means the Arabic for peace, and is also an everyday saying. After being proudly satisfied by her efforts at Ezbet El Nakhl, she next began working in another Refuse workers slum, called Mokkatam.
In Mokkatam, the situation was even worse than Ezbet El Nakhl. There were thousand of families living on a gravesite and the conditions were terrible.
In 1985, she prepared to set up a composting factory, which was aimed at turning rubbish into fertiliser. In 1985, when Sister Emmanuelle was 77, she was still, traveling abroad, to raise money for the both Mokkatam and Ezbet El Nakhl. Sister Emmanuelle’s work in the slums and with the zabaleen assured a better life for the refuse collectors and the quality of their life was improved and even now improvements are still being made.
‘Religious Figures’, AM Milner, 1997 ManMcmillan