Honoring Ola Ghabbour’s Legacy at Coptic Orphans’ 25th Anniversary Gala

Ola Ghabbour (right) with Coptic Orphans executive director Nermien Riad at the 2008 Coptic Orphans Gala in New York.
Ola Ghabbour (right) at the 2008 Coptic Orphans Gala in New York.

I’m excited to begin sharing stories about the people we’re honoring at our 25th Anniversary Galas in Australia, Canada, and the United States.

At all three Galas, we’ll be presenting the Leading by Example Award, which honors pioneers whose character and achievements make them role models in Egypt and around the world.

You may already know that His Holiness Pope Tawadros II will accept the award at our Sep. 28 Gala in Canada. Renowned scientist and visionary planner Dr. Farouk El-Baz will receive his award at the U.S. Gala on Oct. 11, and Nick Kaldas, APM, Deputy Commissioner of the NSW Police Force, will receive his award at the Australian Gala on Nov. 9.

Just as importantly, at the Gala in the United States, we’ll be posthumously honoring past Leading by Example Award recipient Ola Ghabbour.

A leading Egyptian humanitarian, Ola Ghabbour received the award in 2008. And though she passed away on January 8, 2013, to the sadness of everyone whose lives she had touched, it’s important that the world continue to learn from her leadership and incredible spirit of volunteerism.

I’ve never seen anyone work the way Ola Ghabbour worked for the children of Egypt. She was a lifelong crusader, starting with her successful campaign to rescue Egypt’s “blue babies.” By gathering experts and promoting training for Egyptian doctors, she lifted the death sentence that heart defects usually imposed on these newborns.

But her most incredible contribution was building 57357 Children’s Cancer Hospital, the first and only state-of-the-art children’s cancer hospital in the Middle East and the largest of its kind in the world. Her efforts proved the power of ordinary Egyptians working together.

She began by fundraising among friends and family, and grew a remarkable campaign among Egyptians of all walks of life. She even encouraged Egypt’s poor to contribute a single pound. If millions of Egyptians did that, she reasoned, the hospital would rise easily.

She was right. The hospital opened in 2007, less than a decade after she began fundraising. In 2008, she received the prestigious World Health Organization’s UAE Health Foundation Prize in Geneva on behalf of the Children’s Cancer Hospital Foundation, Egypt.

Ola Ghabbour changed Egypt for the children, making it a more humane, more advanced, more caring place. All of us who work for the children owe her a huge debt, because she changed Egypt for them, and for everyone who loves them.

About Nermien Riad

Nermien Riad founded Coptic Orphans in 1988 after volunteering for an orphanage in Cairo. When she saw that most of the children had living widowed mothers who simply couldn't afford to feed them, she gathered family and friends to sponsor children in Egypt. Today Coptic Orphans works through a network of 400+ church-based volunteers in Egypt, who visit fatherless families in their homes and make sure they get everything they need to unlock their full potential. That way, they don't have to get married off as child brides, work as 10-year old family breadwinners, or go to live at an institutional orphanage.