Written by Alaa (aka Lols)
Hey peeps! I’m back with another exclusive, not just for you but for the Cairo Contra team as well. We’re into our third month as Cairo’s voice and we couldn’t have reached this far without you dedicated, awesome, amazing (did I mention awesome?) readers and fans pushing us forward to give you the best. So I dedicate this paragraph (I wish I could dedicate an entire article to you guys!) to thanking you for your continuous support of Cairo Contra as a space for those in between to pop up and relate to the community around us.
Now to the exclusivity part of this article! It’s a special month for the Cairo Contra team because we’ve just partnered up with the IG Club (loud applause and partay time). Some of you readers are, I assume, IG students or ex-IGians so I believe this just hit close to home for you. Anyway, I got the chance to sit down with the IG Club founder and President, Mr. Nour El Mahallawi to talk more about the IG Club, its message and what Mr. Nour hopes to achieve through his organization.
Welcome Nour to Cairo Contra and I thank you for taking some time off your schedule to sit with us.
My pleasure. Thank you for having me.
First of all as always, I like our readers to get familiar with my interviewee so could you tell them more about yourself?
My name is Noor El Mahallawi. I’m 23 years old. I’m in the Engineering Faculty at Cairo University in the Construction Management program. I’ve been working for 7 years now ever since I was 14-15 years old at the British Council especially for the Flying Colors team. We were helping IG students from the UK and all over the Middle East with everything from communicating with them to helping them in their education. I’m currently working at the teaching center of the British Council.
I’ll start by asking you about the Flying Colors team since you seem to be very much attached to it, from what your note on Facebook states. What is the Flying Colors team and how did it contribute to your experience?
I owe a lot to the Flying Colors team actually. I wouldn’t have made it this far without the experience I got working with them. Well, the Flying Colors team started in 2004 by the exams’ unit at the British Council. It was managed back then by an IT examination officer. The whole idea of the Flying Colors team existed way before Facebook and Twitter were even “born”. It was a discussion forum between IG students, a space for them to connect and help each other out in terms of exams, university applications and all the services related to students basically. It was really engaging and helpful to students actually. For example, the British Council would send them text messages with their exams’ grades 5 days or so before their schools would post them.
And how did you fit in the team exactly?
I became a member in 2007 as an editor and writer. I used to write articles on the important events happening in the IG community, parties, graduation ceremonies, reports on what students thought of this year’s examinations. It was basically student oriented which was a very interesting goal and direction at that time.
How did the Flying Color team evolve through the years? Because I read in your note “Why the IG club?” on Facebook that you shifted from an online to an offline sort of interaction.
Well, I have to mention that we started the team with 9 editors and by 2008, when Facebook started to hit the ground running, we saw a heavy decrease in the usage of our discussion forum by the students. So we decided to reach out to the IGians via this new technology and reach out to them through events and gatherings. So those 9 became rapidly 80-90 team members. It was actually a beautiful interaction between the Flying Colors team and the IG community.
What happened after that?
By 2012, the British Council –through difficulties of funding- decided to shut down the Flying Colors team and instead of students handling all of other students’ matters and affairs, the website and all the interaction became handled by adults instead. You can imagine the gap of communication between the two groups. There was no student to student interaction anymore, no more “for the student, by the student” kind of policy. The Flying Colors team became just an administrative option offered by the British Council.
What happened after that? What did you decide to do?
In February 2012, the idea of the IG club was born. I wanted to keep the legacy and image of the Flying Colors team in terms of communicating with the IG community and interconnecting the members of that community as well. The Club is all about sharing information useful to the IG students and study material, projecting a community based on helping one another. We organize events and parties that would interest them. It’s like our motto says “Bridging IGians together”.
Could you tell us more about the IG Club?
Like I mentioned before, the IG Club is to bridge the IGian community together. It’s a for-profit organization for IGians and by IGians. The Club has values it follows, a mission to fulfill and an integrity that it needs to uphold and abide by.
If you don’t mind my asking, some people might see “for-profit” and “values” in the same sentence and just shake their heads. How can you relate these two notions together?
Well, as an organization, we’re trying to build the Egyptian community in the right way possible and we do have ethics that bind us to our mission and our goals that we want to achieve. We want people to see our society through a different angle such as relating profit with values. Having money as a part of our system doesn’t make us the bad guys. In fact, one of the IG Club’s main missions is to preserve the environment. We use printed material to the least degree possible when advertising for an event. We tend to focus more on technological advertising and marketing to help the environment for example. In short, we’re looking to plant social values and social responsibility in our Egyptian society.
Did you encounter difficulties while setting up your Club?
Yes, yes…like everything, you’ll always find difficulties. Since Feb 2012 up until 4 months ago, we had some communication problems within the team and decided to freeze our work till we work on bettering ourselves so we can deliver our message and vision more clearly and rebrand it. This process of rebuilding ourselves took about two months to adjust.
You mentioned that the IG Club is all about reaching the IG community. How do you plan on doing that?
We actually took a strategic planning course to enhance our club’s performance and better reach the people out there. We established connection with around 10 IG schools in terms of helping them set up their proms, trips, graduation ceremonies, and senior trip; basically everything related to the students. As of today, we have 15-16 IG students helping us out in the Club and they get paid for their work. 7-8 students are current IG students and the rest are graduate students. They’re actually working at their age and getting paid and gaining experience.
What kind of services do you offer through the IG Club?
Like I said we organize trips, football tournaments. We go as far as making T-shirts for senior students. We’re involved very much with academic advising through an IGCSE Student Room group on Facebook. We help seniors in their applications for university (tansik) through a guide for how to apply for universities. We had 5000 grads download that guide and 80% who applied for universities actually used it. We also set up a hotline for “tansik” services and got as much as 200 calls. It was pretty amazing.
That sounds like hard work and dedication on your part. Bravo really! Well now to the part I personally have been waiting for to ask. Your organization decided to partner up with Cairo Contra the up and coming blog. Why did you agree to partner up with us?
The IG Club has, is and will always support IG students, current or graduated, in their projects and endeavors. The Editor-in-Chief and founder of Cairo Contra, is an ex-IGian so, she fits the description. The blog as a whole is an amazing new approach to show a new side of Cairo and we’re actually very enthusiastic about it. We know that Cairo Contra is targeting youth in particular and this seems very convenient since on the 1st of November, the IG Club will be launching its Prom Guide which will be fashion related. We want the students to get as much info as they need when it comes to making their special night, the prom as magical and amazing as it is. The guide will feature articles from the Cairo Contra fashion pieces on what the best dresses and suits are to wear for the occasion.
Do you have an advice to give to the youth since you’re all about cooperating with them and helping them out?
The most important advice I can give them is to not waste their time; do something special and useful, participate in your community through projects, charities, and any kind of activity that will help you expand your learning horizon and develop your skills. You will definitely need them in your future.
And on this note, my interview with Mr. Noor El Mahallawi ended. I have to say I couldn’t be more thrilled and excited for this partnership. Youth is the most important asset for any society and I believe that we’re the proper voice and power of Cairo no matter what the circumstances are.
Be sure to read Noor El Mahallawi’s “Why the IG Club?” and check out the IG Club’s Facebook page if you want to know more about what the Club stands for and what its mission and values are. Also, be sure to check out the IG Club’s Prom Guide to be launched by the 1st of November 2013.
What do you think of the IG Club?
Give us your thoughts and opinion in the comment section below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until the next exclusive!