Helm: a social enterprise expanding opportunities for people with disabilities in Egypt
Ayman Ismail:
Noha El Sebaie:
Seham Ghalwash:
Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs)
December 2021
Drawing from individual experiences and shared passion, Amena and Ramez first founded Helm as a student club at the American University in Cairo in 2012. As a club, Helm worked extensively to identify the main challenges facing persons with disabilities (PwDs) in Egypt. During meetings with various stakeholders, Helm found that employment was a recurring theme. The employment rate for PwDs in Egypt was only 21.3% compared to 40.2% among the non-disabled. During its first year alone, Helm found jobs for 300 individuals with some sort of disability. Despite this initial success, Helm strived to increase its social impact by increasing the integration of PwDs in Egypt through changing employers’ mindset and building inclusive work atmospheres where PwDs could work and thrive. There were, however, major cultural barriers in Egypt standing in the way of this vision. Despite these challenges, Helm managed to play a pivotal role in creating social transformation around disability in Egypt. Helm became a key player in reshaping Egypt’s legislation on PwDs through participating in several policymaking discussions, parliamentary committee meetings and programs with governmental entities. In the hope of increasing Helm’s potential social impact, Amena and Ramez aimed to maintain their growth in Egypt and to expand to other markets in the region. Accordingly, they were faced with a set of compelling questions. Amena and Ramez further wanted to make sure that their current business model and contribution to social transformation for PwDs could help them to grow and serve other markets. Should they adapt their business model and services offerings to scale up their social impact accordingly? If so, how?
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