What Makes a Hero?

Nick Kaldas, APM, Deputy Comissioner, New South Wales Police Force
Nick Kaldas, APM, Deputy Commissioner, NSW Police Force

Dear Friends,
Today, I’m proud to share the thoughts of the director of our office in Australia, Nevine Iskander. She and her team are hard at work preparing for the final 25th Anniversary Gala that’s coming up fast!
— Nermien Riad

What do you think makes a hero?

I ask because on Nov. 9, when we celebrate Coptic Orphans’ 25th Anniversary in Lilyfield, I’m going to share the stage with someone I consider a hero.

I know what you’re thinking. These days, the word “hero” gets thrown around a lot. It’s not like the old days, when to be a hero you had to fight a dragon or start the Sunday School Movement.

It’s true, there’s no one quite like the heroes of the past, and the saints are heroes in a class all their own. Nevertheless, at Coptic Orphans, we usually hold on to an older sense of “hero,” using it to describe our tough little kids, who overcome so many tragedies to excel.

So why would I use the word “hero” specifically to describe Nick Kaldas, who’s going to receive the Coptic Orphans Leading by Example Award on Nov. 9?

It’s not about his titles, as impressive as they are. (He’s actually Nick Kaldas, APM, Deputy Commissioner of the New South Wales Police Force.) It’s his acts that mean something, and the values that underpin them.

For one thing, I use the word “hero” to describe how Nick Kaldas stands up for those who have no one else to stand up for them.

This is something we really value at Coptic Orphans, this idea of defending the vulnerable. We need look no further than Isaiah 1:17 for the roots: “Bring justice to the fatherless; plead the widow’s cause.”

There are many such Bible verses, and many vulnerable people, and Nick Kaldas has been there for those people though his work in law enforcement.

He joined the NSW Police Force in 1981 and has worked mainly in major crime investigations, homicide, armed robbery, major drug investigations, counter-terrorism, and covert operations. At other times he’s gone abroad to the Middle East to investigate assassinations. Here in Australia, he’s taken on organized crime. Today, he oversees a staff of 16,000.

These are not small things, and some involve considerable risk. They also show a high level of achievement.

This leads me to another reason for using the word “hero.” Someone in Nick Kaldas’ shoes could easily let his professional success (or instinct for self-preservation) get in the way of caring about others. We’ve seen it over and over.

But no one I’ve talked to believes Nick Kaldas has forgotten the individuals he serves, or the community. In fact, I hear the opposite: He’s committed to Australia and the community at large.

That commitment was honored just last year, when he received the Champion of Harmony Award for his leadership role in promoting tolerance among cultural communities in New South Wales, empowering them and promoting harmony.

This, too, is a Coptic Orphans value. We prize tolerance because we’ve been raised to love our neighbor as ourselves, and to treat the stranger with kindness.

Yet another value I see in Nick Kaldas is a commitment to giving back to the community. The model of law enforcement that he promotes is rooted in a commitment to community service through availability, to understanding our needs and to responding to them. So I wasn’t surprised at all to hear, as I sought candidates for the Leading by Example Award, that Nick Kaldas is very supportive of community organisations and community projects.

So in Nick Kaldas, we have a passion for social justice and standing up for the vulnerable; a devotion to harmony and tolerance; and a commitment to giving back to our communities. I hope you’ll agree with me that we’re talking about the traits that make a hero.

When you put these traits together, you get such strong, hard-working, giving leaders. They’re good role models for our kids, and pillars of our communities and our country.

I look forward to seeing our guests on Nov. 9 in Lilyfield, as we celebrate 25 years of Coptic Orphans’ work — and honor Nick Kaldas for embodying the kind of heroic values we treasure.

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.