Rocked by the 2011 revolution, Mohamed Garhey’s hometown was in desperate need of a local healthcare facility. We investigate how the tenacious Egyptian is using social media to fund the project, brick by brick.
Mohamed Garhey never meant to stand out from the crowd. He tried to follow the status quo and live a normal life, but his failure to do so is ultimately what led to his success. The Egyptian saw the potential of social media as a vehicle for social change and refused to turn his back on it. Commandeering Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, Garhey is using the platforms to raise money for 25 January Hospital, a community healthcare facility. “The dream of the hospital did not happen overnight. Immediately after the revolution we were full of enthusiasm and energy; we wanted to do the impossible for the community. We thought of changing things on a small scale.”
El Shabraween is Garhey’s hometown, a village in Egypt’s delta about 110 kilometres east of Cairo. He wanted to help his people. “The aim was to establish a medical centre and association in memory of those who died in the January 25 revolution,” explains Garhey, a TV producer on a major Egyptian news show. “My son, Ahmed, died on October 25th 2011. Losing him made me realise how desperately El Shabraween needed proper healthcare. Two weeks after he died, we rented an apartment and equipped the center with physicians to create a simple hospital.” It was a crude set up, and some members of the community were initially suspicious of Garhey. Named ‘January 25 Hospital’, the project naturally attracted a lot of controversy. “People weren’t sure what to make of it and if we were criticising the government,” the entrepreneur explains. “We told people this hospital is for everyone, those who supported 25 January or are completely against it. It’s for every Egyptian”, he enthuses. “If it wasn’t for the revolution, we wouldn’t be even building this hospital”.
Putting his plan into action, Garhey tried to buy an affordable patch of land belonging to the Agricultural Society. But the social activist was thwarted; the licence didn’t support commercial activities. The only alternative was to try and buy a different plot of land to build the hospital on. But the alternative plot cost US $70,000, money Mohamed didn’t have. “The solution was social media. We adopted several means to raise awareness, including what we called a ‘goodness taxi’,” Garhey recalls. The social media campaign began in earnest in early 2012 when he posted on Twitter telling Cairo residents he was accepting donations. “I had a receipt book with me and I wrote on Twitter that if anyone wants to help out I’ll come to them. I raised US $450 in two hours,” he smiles. Aside from donating in person, there are now 11 different ways to contribute online via the hospital’s website at www.25hospital.com/donations. The smallest donations are as low as 50 cents and the biggest range up to US $50,000. With the first flurry of fundraising activity underway, the #25JanuaryHospital campaign came to the attention of a number of celebrities. “A lot of famous personalities joined us in promoting the project online, turning my dream of building the hospital into the dream of many. The celebrity endorsement was a huge help and by the end of 2012 we were able to move the medical centre to fully-fledged high quality hospital,” Garhey recalls. Although he admits there is still a way to go.
In the past four years he has raised over US $636,000, a huge accomplishment. But with an estimated price tag of US $1.9 million to complete the furnishing and fit-out, Garhey cannot afford to rest on his laurels just yet. “We are determined to complete the project. You can track its progress via the website and platforms that have been so instrumental to its success: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube,” Garhey smiles. The entrepreneur points out that the hospital is not just a building. As well as offering medical care (for an average of about US $1 per consultation) it also provides subsidies for dozens of local families to help equip them with basic provisions. Newlyweds are also catered for; the hospital helps new brides furnish their homes with essentials for married life and starting a family. Though the hospital is not yet complete and the hunt for fresh funds is ongoing, Garhey should be congratulated on the progress made thus far.
25 January is a pivotal date in Egypt’s history and Garhey’s own entrepreneurial journey. It is fitting that he aims to officially open the hospital by 25 January 2017, to mark the sixth anniversary of the Egyptian revolution. But it does not do to talk of Garhey’s success without paying equal tribute to the social networking sites used. We can learn a lot from his story. By commandeering the instruments of online the entrepreneur has used the internet to build a charitable hospital. The future of social media for social enterprise looks promising. Could Garhey and his team have built their hospital of dreams without the support of social media? Or celebrity endorsement? Perhaps not. Media has made Garhey’s mission possible; how will you harness it to make your healthcare ambitions a reality?
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Rushika Bhatia Editor
Rushika Bhatia is one of the region’s leading commentators on business and current affairs issues. She is the Editor of SME Advisor magazine - the flagship title of CPI Business. She is passionate about infographics – with special emphasis on data, research and statistics. Rushika has a Bachelor’s Degree from Indiana University, USA and is also CIMA qualified.