In Egypt, a butcher shelters children with cancer

February 15, 2018 - 9:58 AM
Zaza Ogaz, 50, plays with Yehia, 2, and Retaj, 2, who were diagnosed with cancer, at Ogaz's free housing for patients receiving treatment at a nearby hospital, in Cairo, Egypt. (photo by Mohamed Abd El Ghany, Reuters)

CAIRO — Three years ago, Cairo butcher Zaza Ogaz decided to do something to help families bringing their children to a nearby cancer hospital.

He took an empty apartment in his building, fixed it up with beds and furniture and offered it free to families who would otherwise have to rent rooms in the neighborhood while their children were having chemotherapy and other treatments.

“I got the idea because I felt bad after I found people renting apartments or beds to patients for large amounts of money,” Ogaz said.

“So I decided that I would do something for free and I won’t accept donations. Why should people suffer from not only sickness but also high expenses?”

The 50-year-old provides meals, which he pays for from the proceeds of his butcher’s shop.

Families can stay as long as they need. Ogaz refuses to accept donations, saying he is doing his charitable work in honor of his late mother and mother-in-law.

In the entrance hall, children’s scooters are parked next to wheelchairs. In a bedroom decorated with cartoons of Winnie the Pooh and Minnie Mouse, children watch television. Some have traveled with their families from distant parts of Egypt.

“I came here and he welcomed me and I found a place to stay. I told him I am not moving until I am done,” said Om Israa, a mother whose child is being treated at the hospital.

“He treats the children very well. He buys gifts and plays with them.”