by Mushira Sabry
Heba El-Sewedy is a philanthropist, humanitarian and artist who has saved thousands when others have stood by to watch. “Mama Heba,” as her followers call her, dedicates her effort, time and funds to assist the scarred – psychologically and physically – to rehabilitate them back into society, without asking for any publicity or recognition in return. Growing up between Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and in a family that is synonymous with light, she associated the El-Sewedy name with generosity and hope.
Heba attended King Abdul Aziz University and graduated with a B.A. in English Literature in 1994. After adjourning her studies, she began her journey with entrepreneurship, as she innovated the Arabian French Textiles Company, which she spearheaded for six years. Partaking in the family business, Heba is a major shareholder in Helal Elsewedy-Energya group, which is a conglomerate industrial group specializing in manufacturing, retail, food and beverage, and education in both Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Even though Heba thrives on her business and entrepreneurship activities, she is an artist at heart, and nurtures her artistic juices in Laila Jewelry, where she is both the owner and CEO.
As the Arab Spring spread through the Middle East, Heba spread her wings as she compassionately cared for the young that fell during the tumultuous events of the revolution. She dedicated herself to the cause by delivering medical provisions to the injured, providing them with necessary medical care, and transporting some of the injured abroad, many at her own expense. Helping four thousands victims and their families in total. However, her altruistic endeavors did not stop at Egypt’s borders; she cared for forty injured victims from the Libyan revolution, and alleviated the pain of the families of martyrs, in both Libya and Egypt.
In 2013, Heba successfully founded the Ahl Masr Foundation, a non-governmental organization specifically concerned with caring for burn victims. The organization’s vision is to instill a system and culture of care in Egyptian society for burn victims. This program would passionately strive towards the betterment of their lives and their successful rehabilitation into society, free of ostracization.
Ahl Masr Foundation’s programs include preventative activities, such as the “Better Life” medical convoys which travel to different locations in Egypt, particularly underprivileged areas in Cairo and governorates that often go unvisited. The convoys are active, visiting these excluded areas twice a month all year round. They offer more than just burn prevention and hazards of burns awareness, they also provide standard Opthalmic exams and surgeries, hemoglobin blood sampling to diagnose anemia, general pediatric examinations, and nutritional and hygiene awareness. To ensure their patients’ recovery, the “Better Life” program sends a post convoy medical service to monitor their patients and to continue their treatment.
More importantly, the foundation reaches out to victims of burns, their families and communities. Their target is the sufferers who have been treated by establishments that focused on quickly binding the open wounds, without considering the long-term effects of the burns on the skin.
Heba’s efforts did not cease there, as she innovated Abnaa Masr, the first non-profit hospital to treat burn victims in the Middle East. The hospital is a state-of the-art facility that houses 150 patients, and attends to 100 outpatients per day. Their services include a psychological, and physical rehabilitation clinic that serves up to 100 patients per day. There are also skin grafting procedures that serve the hospital’s patients and other hospitals in Egypt.
Her relentless philanthropy, selfless humanitarian effort to care for the injured, and determination to further medical research and outreach in Egypt and the Middle East makes Heba El-Sewedy a role model, not just for women, but for all Egyptians to follow.