Egyptian Down syndrome team bakes, sells fresh homemade cookies with love

|     Mahmoud Fouly     |

CAIRO (Xinhua) – “We use flour, sugar, butter and eggs to make delicious cookies and pack them in plastic bags and jars for sale. I am very happy with my teammates,” Heidi, a 21-year-old girl with Down syndrome, said with a smile on her face.

Heidi is one of the ‘Four Biscuits’ team of six girls and a boy with Down syndrome, whose ages vary between 13 and 36. There were only four members in the team when the initiative started about two years ago. Now the team is gaining more members.

In a spacious room at the home of one of the girls in 6 October City near the capital Cairo, the team uses a large oval table and two opposite electric ovens for baking and cooking their cookies that include plain biscuits with different shapes, sugar fondants and chocolate chips.

The initiative was started by Nada, Noura and Shereen, three young women who have sisters in the team and is supported by the team’s family members.

The project was also backed by the European Cultural Foundation for one year since March last year.

The ‘Four Biscuits’ team members pose with their biscuits for a group photo in Cairo, Egypt. – XINHUA

“We dream that one day we can develop the project into a cafe with the team members as its employees who prepare the food and beverages, receive the guests, take and deliver their orders and everything,” said Nada Ahmed, a 27-year-old teacher and a co-founder of the ‘Four Biscuits’ team.

“We dream of having a cafe run by Down syndrome people in each Egyptian province,” she told Xinhua.

Sahar Mohamed, a 52-year-old lady, has been helping the team with baking the biscuits and fondants and checking the cookies trays in the ovens.

She is mother of 13-year-old Yehia, the only boy in the ‘Four Biscuits’ seven-member team.

“The idea of the project is to provide a safe job opportunity for the Down syndrome people while being observed and taken care of by their family members,” the lady told Xinhua while putting one of the trays in the oven.

“The ‘Four Biscuits’ team members have other talents. My son Yehia is a swimming champion who joined the African Special Olympics at the age of eight, while 36-year-old Mariam is currently joining the equestrian competition of the 2019 Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates,” she said.

The initiative is admired and encouraged by many people including public figures and celebrities. Famous Egyptian actress Menna Shalaby, for instance, is one of the their popular customers.

The team also receives a training course by a female social worker, who teaches them how to work, speak nicely, present themselves, behave and react.

Team member Sharihan, 21, came close to her female social trainer and kissed her on the cheek during the session held at the end of the working day.

“Our class is based on love. While I teach them to develop their skills. I also learn a lot of beautiful things from them,” said the 25-year-old social trainer who preferred to remain anonymous.

The ‘Four Biscuits’ team also market and sell their products online, having more than 13,000 followers of their Facebook page with very favourable reviews.

“I had a wonderful experience with the ‘Four Biscuits’ team when I made an order for my son’s birthday. Everyone loved the biscuits and the idea

behind it. Everyone just loved them,” Aya Sherif, one of the customers, wrote on her online review.

Meanwhile, Noura el-Baradey, a female customer, wrote that the cookies were so delicious “that I ate half of them even before I could take a picture and post it for recommendation”.

“Their cookies are made with special love indeed.”