5 Moments I’ll Never Forget From Our 25th Anniversary Galas

140929_Canada Gala withHis HolinessDear Friends,

By the grace of God, and thanks to a spectacular team effort by volunteers, staff, and supporters, our 25th Anniversary Galas achieved everything we’d hoped and prayed for!

To everyone who helped create the Galas in Canada, the United States, and Australia — and to the more than 1,000 guests who came and supported the children of Egypt — please accept our heartfelt thanks.

The biggest accomplishment is that our guests sponsored 150 new children. This was an enormous leap forward, in just 7 weeks. It’s as if we were able to enroll over 20 kids each day — something unheard of!

But numbers alone don’t tell the 25th Anniversary story. So I want to share 5 specific moments when I said to myself, “Wow, this is really happening… we’re really doing this, thanks to God.”

  1. His Holiness Pope Tawadros II smiling as he tells us ‘Bravo for your service’

141124_HH smilingI got chills during the Canada Gala, watching His Holiness smile as he said these words to staff and sponsors: “Bravo for your service. And I’m not sure who’s happier — you, or the children you serve… you’re all happier. Say it loud! Yes… And I’m with you.”

I never imagined His Holiness would one day say such a thing, and with a big smile. After all, we started out so small — just a few volunteers and a dream. But there I was, listening, and later we even got to present His Holiness with the Leading by Example Award to show our gratitude.

It reminded me of feeling blessed and grateful on another occasion, when His Holiness said Coptic Orphans is “a good and outstanding example of a ministry with specific characteristics: Administratively, it’s excellent. 10 out of 10. From a practicality angle, and perceiving people’s unique needs, 10 out of 10.”

  1. Egypt’s Consul General in Washington, D.C., revealing his own experience of fatherlessness

141120_Egyptian Consul SquareGod has an astonishing way of connecting us to the right people, at the right time. This was made clear to me once more at the Gala in the United States.

Can you imagine a speaker revealing that he’d lost his father at an early age? And not just any speaker, but Mr. Ayman Aldesouky Youssef, Consul General of the Arab Republic of Egypt in Washington, D.C.

When he explained that to us, from the podium, I felt so grateful for his courage. It takes a lot to talk about a huge personal loss. He didn’t have to do that — I believe it showed a real love for the kids.

Most of all, I was shocked by the beauty of that moment. How God had, unbeknownst to us, sent us a speaker so deeply and personally connected with our work for fatherless children.

  1. The Canadians mobbing the sponsorship table

141120_Sponsorship Table CanadaMight sound odd, but at one point in the Canada Gala, it felt amazing to see people rush the table where you could sign up to sponsor a child. We’ve had lines at sponsorship tables before, but not like this.

I could tell that something incredible was happening, and it did. By the end of the night, over 70 children had sponsors. This means we’ve committed to providing those kids with years of love and support.

Why’d it happen that way? Because of God’s grace, I think, and the inspiration of His Holiness’ presence. Or maybe Canadians are in a class all their own. All I can say is, at that moment, I felt blessed and grateful beyond words…

  1. Egypt’s Ambassador to New Zealand congratulating the Coptic Orthodox Church

141120_Zayed SquareThe Church — the center of our community — leads the way for orphans. So you can imagine how great it felt to hear a top Egyptian diplomat express deep admiration for the leaders of our faith.

Here’s what His Excellency Mahmoud Zayed, Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt to New Zealand, said at the Australia Gala:

“Let me also take this opportunity to highlight the fact that  the work and achievements of Coptic Orphans were facilitated by a great church, which is the Coptic Orthodox Church, the largest Christian Church in the Middle East. The Coptic Orthodox Church is a pioneer church in reaching out to its communities both in Egypt and around the world and in bringing them together and safeguarding their values and their heritage. Therefore, I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Coptic Church for its achievements and to wish the Coptic Church continued progress under the leadership of His Holiness Pope Tawadros II.”

This was a wonderful message to hear!

  1. Thabet, a Coptic Orphans graduate, lighting up the future

141124_ThabetThis last moment really struck me, because I think it points the way for the future of our community.

Here’s the story: To show our Galas guest what we do — take them right into the midst of the daily work in Egypt — we had a video made. The first time I saw it, I was floored by one particular person, Thabet.

He’s one of “our” kids — someone who flourished as a child in our programs, made it through his education against great odds, and now has a good job. He seems happy. That’s huge, and makes it all worthwhile.

But something else really moved me. I know it moved many people at the Galas, too, because they came up to me after the video was screened and talked about how they felt. They told me they were moved — and I felt this way, too — because Thabet’s giving back. He’s gone from being one of our kids, to being a volunteer himself and working to improve the lives of his kids.

This is something extraordinary, even though I know Thabet’s story is not unique. Seeing him on the screen, visiting his children, I really understood why we do this work. It’s about more than helping kids survive. It’s about encouraging them to be transformed — by education, by love, by the Church — and to become people who give love back to our community.

That’s the future, I believe. That’s why I share this with you.

So those are 5 of the moments — by no means all of them, but 5 — when I felt amazed and moved during this 25th Anniversary. I’m so happy to recall them with you, to share the results and the joy.

And so here we are, 25 years into this work, together. We’ve empowered 30,000 children in Egypt, making sure they have access to higher education, providing them with better healthcare and housing, and meeting other needs as they arise.

All I can think is, we are the ones who are blessed. His Holiness knew of what he spoke when he said “And I’m not sure who’s happier — you, or the children you serve.” Thank you to everyone who was part of our 25th Anniversary, and thanks above all to God, who makes all things possible.

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.