Egypt's Mother Teresa: from marketing maven to Nobel nominee
Andrea Janus, CTVNews.ca
Published Monday, March 9, 2015 9:10AM EDT
An Egyptian woman raised in an upper-middle-class family, who went on to become a top marketing executive and professor, is gaining worldwide renown for giving up her comfortable life to help the poorest residents of Cairo's slums.
More than 20 years, ago, Maggie Gobran was a computer science professor at the American University in Cairo, wanted for nothing, and "was welcomed every morning by a lot of people that I love.
"It was the peak of my life," Gobran told CTV's Canada AM on Monday.
But one Easter, she joined an outreach program that delivered food and clothing to poor families in Cairo's so-called "garbage slums," where the city's trash pickers and their children live.
That’s where she found her true calling.
"All of sudden I saw these poor children looking at me saying, 'Please don't leave us.' And it was a special call in my heart," Gobran said.
Gobran, a Coptic Christian, founded the ministry "Stephen's Children," and has since helped tens of thousands of poor families and their children.
She has since become known as "Mama Maggie," a figure clad all in white who visits directly with the children because, as she puts it, there is a "hero" inside every child that sometimes needs help getting out.
"It's actually at the core of every human being. You'll find a hero in every baby born, waiting for someone to give him a chance," Gobran said. "And we want this hero to come out and to become so loving and a real hero and successful."
When she first started the ministry, Gobran had yet to give up wearing the nice clothes and jewelry that she had acquired.
"The first people who invited me to go and meet them outside the country, they were impressed by the mission. But at that time I didn't take off my jewelry. Their comment (was), 'Why all this jewelry?'" she told AM.
"It was a clear message to me that I either give all to these children, or do something else."
Gobran has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize numerous times, including in 2012 by a group of lawmakers from the United States and again this year.
And a new book, "Mama Maggie," tells Gobran's story to a worldwide audience that may not know of her work.
Asked about her life before she gave up her worldly goods for her ministry, Gobran says "it's like history for me. "
But, she says, "you have one life, and there is a point where you think if you don't get the most out of it, what can you do?"