by Mirianna la Grasta
6.00 PM. George Botros, the founder of Helpeace, sits on a purple leather sofa. Helpeace is a charity whose aim is to serve the people in need, regardless of their race and religion. Botros is a 33 year-old man, tall and robust, with an inscrutable gaze. He looks very confident in his black winter coat. Botros was born in Sudan, with an Egyptian background, and grew up in Brighton. Before meeting him at Fawanees, a shisha lounge in the heart of Wembley, London, I would never have imagined that George Botros was to tell me that the reason of Helpeace lays in the story of his life.
“I wanted to do something different, where 100% net profits would have gone towards those in need,” states George Botros. Having previous experience in charities, he realised that often “the money raised for charity went into the people’s pockets”. He adds with a disappointed tone: “Of every pound raised, nearly 36pp went into charity.” For this reason Botros decided to set up a new organisation of his own, involving in the project a few friends.
While finding inspiration for the charity name, they met a girl in Upper-Egypt, who was crying and asking for help: “She said she felt there is no hope for them, and that is where we took the name, we wanted to show her that she was wrong.” The name Helpeace merges three words: it is formed by two words, “help” and “peace”, which, if put together, mean “hope” in Coptic-Egyptian.
“I am Hope” is the launch concert held by the charity in Brighton in June 2015. “Helpeace was blessed from the very first event, people were so interested in helping others,” says Botros smiling. Over 470 people, coming from Brighton, London, Manchester and Wales, attended the event; they managed to raise over £9000 for the charity.
Image credit: George Botros
Since June 2015, Helpeace has accomplished three major projects. First, they collaborated with Compassion, a charity that is part of the Church community in Brighton. Botros says they have provided money to this charity, in order to buy food, drinks, underwear, sleeping bags and socks for the large number of homeless in Brighton.
For the second project they focused on Sudan, George Botros’ native country. “In Sudan there are children who die every day of hunger,” argues Botros. He adds: “We chose 6000 children to sustain with food, medications and education.”
Helpeace’s third project aimed to help the Egyptian girl that inspired the charity’s name. George Botros explains: “She is a teenager, she has a teenage brother, a very ill mother and a blind father. They actually all lived underneath the stair case of a building, without proper sanitary conditions.” In January 2016, thanks to Helpeace commitment, this family has been given a new refurbished flat, whose rent is paid by the charity. Moreover, the two teenagers are being sustained in education, so that they will be able to work and help their family in the near future.
Helpeace has 47 volunteers. Its Committee constitutes “the body of the charity”, Botros argues in a proud voice. It is formed by his friends, who were and are willing to help the less fortunate. Each member of the Committee works with his own team of volunteers and, later, he gives his feedback to the other members.
George Botros also focused on helping children in richer countries: here, the number of children coping with obesity is constantly increasing. “This idea was sitting in my head”, he says, “I want to start a mobile app that could both raise money for Helpeace and educate the young to a healthy life.” Botros explains that the app consists in a game, through which children could learn which are the nutrients of each healthy food. Moreover, “The app will teach them to choose a healthy life-style against a bad one.”
Every time, when speaking about the people he helps, George Botros highlights the importance of living a healthy life.
“So I continued until nine years ago”, he says, “it was not just drinking one pint or two, I went overboard into marijuana and alcohol: my life deteriorated”. His voice becomes darker. Botros got introduced to marijuana and alcohol while at High school, and this world led him ultimately out of his educational path. However, nine years ago, a set of circumstances, such as his grandmother’s severe illness and a talk with a teacher from his primary school, helped him to find a way back to life. “My teacher came to visit, sat down with me and told me that I was wasting my good brain, I wasn’t using all its potential,” says George Botros. He soon realised that he needed to get back into education, and to find a spiritual path.
Image credit: George Botros
After seeing an educational advisor and a monk, Botros travelled to the Red Sea Desert, Egypt. He lived in St Anthony’s monastery for 30 days. “The monks’ simple and austere life, made of discipline, organisation, charity, prioritising and basic medications taught me a lot of qualities,” says Botros in a calm way. This travel raised his determination to get back into life: “I immediately stopped the drugs, without taking any kind of course.” George Botros continues: “For the first time I was able to focus on something different, and this time my target was to get educated.”
Once back in England, George Botros’ great determination allowed him to complete the secondary school studies. He is currently studying for a BSc in Business Information Systems at the University of Brighton. He describes this course as the right choice for him, as it combines technical skills and business aspects. This helped him to get a job at PepsiCo, where he works as a Functional Systems Analyst for Oracle and Sap.
Thanks to his spiritual and educational path he stopped “to get into that bad habit again”. “Through my experience, I realised that living a life made of drugs and alcohol was very depressing and sad. In the meanwhile, there were a lot of people dying of homelessness, starvation, hunger. I thought that it was my duty to do something for them.”
This is the story of a man who not only had the courage to break off with his past. George Botros is also willing to help the people in need, teaching them how to live a prosperous life. “Of course, it is difficult for me to match the student and working life with the charity. But the people I have seen during my path, the people struggling, pushed me a lot.”