‘Never Underestimate the Genuine Power of Love and Kindness’ — Gina Masoud Reflects on Serve to Learn Experience

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Dear Friends,

As this summer comes to an end, I’m moved to share with you a story from Serve to Learn 2016 volunteer Gina Masoud. This story is part of the “A picture is worth 1000 words” series where we ask volunteers to pick an image from their trip that represents a powerful moment, and to share why it’s important. Gina chose to tell a story about the power of love and kindness, and that’s a story to get us through the winter. 

Serve to Learn is a three-week service trip for youth from all over the world to teach kids in Upper Egyptian villages through a variety of fun games and activities. The next Serve to Learn trip will be Jan. 21-Feb. 11, 2017. Applications for this trip are due October 15.

— Nermien

Who’s in this photo?

Myself, Julie, Mina, Lydia, Miryam and Merna,  and a child’s sister, Ereny.

Where was it taken?

In Ereny’s home during a home visit.

What’s happening in the photo?

We were originally going to visit another girl, Youstina, who was in my high school class. When we walked in, we saw that she had a sister who had suffered from bad burns to her face. She didn’t want to come sit in the same room as us, even though she wanted to. She stood by the doorway to the living room. The group quickly realized we were there for her. We gave her the most attention. We showed her love and said words to her I’m sure she hadn’t heard since the accident. By the end of the visit, which was only 45 minutes, she had changed from the girl who wouldn’t sit with us, to the one who waved to our bus as we were driving away. She spent the rest of the visit with the group and enjoyed herself.

How did you feel when it was taken?

So happy. In a few minutes, with a few kids, a few words, and a lot of hugs, we changed how a person felt about themselves.

Why do you want to remember this moment?

To remind myself that even though it may seem like the effects of our actions are a single drop in the ocean, that drop was an entire ocean for one person.

If you could help people understand one thing with this photo, what would it be?

Never underestimate the genuine power of love and kindness.


*Names of our children are changed in order to maintain their privacy.

Interested in learning more about Serve to Learn? Check out our page and our video, which gives a snapshot of the program!

If this “a picture is worth a 1,000 words” blog makes you want to read other Serve to Learn stories, here are Pheobe Azer‘s and Ryan Wasson‘s. If that’s not enough, you can read Serve to Learn  interviews with Toni, JohnGabyMinaAndyVeronikaDavidBen, Kirollos, MariamAlex, and Mirelle. You may also enjoy these video interviews with Nadine RoffaellPeter Wassef and Mary Loka.  Any questions you’d like to ask a real human being? Call or email us at 703-641-8910 or at info@copticorphans.org

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Good News About the Children’s Achievements in Education!

I’m writing to share good news about the fruits of Coptic Orphans’ work in education for the children. 

In 2015, a record-breaking 69 hard-working Coptic Orphans youths were awarded scholarships.  With your prayers, love, and encouragement, with the children’s bravery, and above all, by God’s grace, here are the 2015 achievements we aim to surpass as the kids head back to school soon:

  • 611 Coptic Orphans youths marked educational milestones: 419 graduated from 12th grade, 41 graduated with an associate degree, and 151 graduated from university.
  • 37 of our youths received Future Leaders (formerly iNPower) scholarships, our “in-house” grants aimed at allowing Coptic Orphans’ highest academic achievers to attend higher-tier institutions including Ain Shams, Cairo University, and Alexandria University.
  • 8 young Coptic Orphans were selected to receive the acclaimed LOTUS scholarship (awarded by the U.S. government to only 50 students in all of Egypt each year).
  • 11 Coptic Orphans won scholarships to government universities.
  • 13 youths earned in-house scholarships to study English.

We are grateful to God for these successes, as we know that all achievements ultimately rest with Him. We also know that these results came about because of the children’s own courage, persistence, and brilliance.

How does Coptic Orphans work, with your support, to boost the children so that they can achieve so much in school?

Fr. Maximos Gadalla is the priest in charge of social work for the diocese of Matay. He was a Rep with Coptic Orphans 2001-2006.

As a Rep, he has particular insight into how we work to secure a quality education for the children. Coptic Orphans Reps — the Church-based servants chosen by their bishop — keep an eye on the kids and their studies, arrange their safe transport to school, as well as tutoring, tuition, and school supplies.

We recently asked Fr. Maximos: “If you knew someone who was thinking about sponsoring a fatherless Coptic child, what would you say?” Here’s how he replied:

Exam grades confirm Fr. Maximos’ words about the children attaining “high educational levels.” By God’s grace, in 2015, nearly 33% of Coptic Orphans youth who took the thanawiyyah amma scored 85% or higher!  

I’d like to tell you about one of these youths, Kyrollos. He joined Coptic Orphans after his father, a laborer, died in 2003.  Kyrollos lives in Minya, in one of Egypt’s poorest areas. Yet he studies constantly in the family’s tiny, old house of mud bricks.

With his Rep’s constant attention, his mother’s love, and his own determination, he scored 96% on the thanawiyyah amma!

Stories like those of Kyrollos are a source of inspiration, because we know that these are difficult times to be a Copt in Egypt. His Holiness has called for an end to the attacks that ravage Coptic communities, and inflation remains a threat to families who are struggling to put food on the table.

Yet, despite these tough times, the kids are not giving up — you can see it in their hard studying and academic excellence.

All of us in the Coptic Orphans family are grateful for their perseverance, and above all, to God!

‘My Father Was Amazed at What I Could Do’

Girls who grow up believing in themselves can achieve great things!
Girls who grow up believing in themselves can achieve great things!

What happens when you awaken someone’s understanding of their own rights and self-worth?

Valuable Girl Project coordinators know that awakening, because they’ve seen it on the faces — and heard it in the words — of young women in some of Egypt’s poorest, most tradition-bound villages.

In fact, these awakenings have been happening since 2002, when the project was founded. Then, as now, it was funded by a special pool of donors, separate from other Coptic Orphans programs. It operates from the principle that, in order to truly be the salt of the earth, Christians must be proactive about loving their neighbors, as Christ taught us.

Lara, a Valuable Girl in Luxor, describes her own awakening this way: “I’ve learned that girls and boys are equals, and that there’s no difference between us. I’ve also learned about my rights and duties.”

Awakenings like Lara’s come despite huge obstacles. As she says: “In my village, we have solid customs and traditions that girls shouldn’t finish their education, and we’re not even allowed to go out of the house. Most of the girls in my village can only make it till middle school, and then they’re forced to get married.”

“And then the only thing anyone cares about is that they give birth to boys!” adds Lara, who has now spent over a year as a Big Sister in the project’s mentoring program.

Even more exciting is when these awakenings lead to action, as they have in Lara’s case. Now 22 years old, she has made her point to the doubters.

“I’m older than all my brothers, and I’ve always felt that my father wished I’d been a boy in order to help him farm and be his backbone,” she says. “I was like any other girl — I just used to listen to how he felt about it without doing anything about it!”

After learning of her own equality and rights, Lara says she became more confident.

“I decided to go talk to my father and asked to help him on the farm. His jaw dropped — he didn’t know what to say, and I insisted that he give me a chance to prove myself.”

“I went with him and I drove the tractor, harvested the crops, mowed the field, and even fed the cattle. My father was amazed at what I could do; I’ve practically proved to him that girls are the equal of boys and even better!”

Not content with the horizons of the family farm, Lara has set her sights on higher education. Since finding her own confidence — and her father’s — she has moved on to study graphic design at a local college.

This is how the Valuable Girl Project sets about and succeeds in transforming girls and young women. Involving them in the Big-Little Sister mentoring is only the first step; beyond that are leadership training and coaching that instill even greater confidence and self-worth.

The results become evident in how the girls think of themselves and others.

For example, monitoring the attitudes of the Valuable Girls over time reveals that nearly every one experiences an increased sense of self-efficacy — the belief in their capacity to act and thereby achieve what they want to achieve. Overwhelmingly, they also report increased agreement with the concept that males and females should have equal access to social, economic, and political opportunities.

These changes in attitudes are crucial to transforming not just individual lives, but also communities and societies. As Lara says:

“I’ve proved to my neighbors and other community members that girls are not weak and useless; they’re human beings of equal value and have the same rights and duties.”

Lara and our Valuable Girls are claiming the same rights and opportunities as their fellow citizens. In doing so, they’ll make a better world for their daughters!