Cairn University seeks to create opportunities for its students that nurture a broad perspective on the world that is engaging and purposeful. Study abroad programs, international internships, and mission trips are just a few examples of opportunities Cairn offers that change Cairn students’ lives and lead them in directions that will make a difference in this world and the lives of those around them. In May, twenty-five Cairn students and staff traveled to Egypt to work for three weeks alongside one of Cairn’s new international partners, WellSpring Egypt.
WellSpring Egypt was launched in 2009 with a vision to help the young generation of Egyptians transform their values and build character through experiential learning in sports camps. In just seven years, WellSpring has grown to serve over 80,000 Egyptian kids annually, operates in 14 countries, and runs specialized programs targeting needs of Syrian refugee children and families.
Cairn University established a partnership with WellSpring in November 2016 to deliver advanced degree opportunities to WellSpring’s staff. Beyond this initial focus, Cairn and WellSpring are exploring several other areas of partnership, including how Cairn can support WellSpring in light of the growing demand for camps in Egypt and abroad. This summer, to support WellSpring as they grow their programs, Cairn University formed a team of student-athletes, health and physical education majors, social work majors, and students passionate about working with children to serve as additional camp counselors and coaches during May overnight camps. During the three weeks at WellSpring, the Cairn team served at six overnight camps, investing in nearly 650 Egyptian children.
As might be expected, our team went with a mindset to serve and walked away feeling it had been equally blessed by the experience. For some of team members, the WellSpring camps were their first cross-cultural endeavor. All team members were traveling to Egypt for the first time, as well as working with WellSpring for the first time. As students processed their experience together at the end of the trip, each team member expressed how rich this experience was.
The Egyptian culture is known for its warmth and hospitality, and the team was inspired by the contagious passion and energy that defines WellSpring’s staff. This passionate care and presence is what sets WellSpring apart and enables them to connect with Egyptian children in a way that transform their hearts and character from the inside out. The Cairn volunteers experienced the fun and power of learning from each other that can forge connections across cultures and spark lasting relationships, and spent many evenings playing pickup games and learning bits of Arabic. Campers were just as eager to help the Americans learn Arabic words and phrases, and many a meal was spent sharing stories about the families and dreams of individuals from both Egypt and the US.
The team had the unique privilege of seeing ancient artifacts and sites with great religious, historical, and cultural significance. It visited the St. Macarius Monastery, founded in 360 AD and still in operation today. They caravanned on camels alongside the pyramids, snapped selfies next to the sphinx, and took in the many curated displays of Egyptian artifacts across the ages in the Egyptian Museum and the renowned Library of Alexandria. These unforgettable experiences and others, like enjoying a walk with new WellSpring friends along the shoreline of the Mediterranean Sea, made the rich culture and history of Egypt come alive in ways that cannot be replicated in books or documentaries.