I’ve been publishing this series of Serve to Learn interviews so that you can hear about the program straight from the people who’ve done it. You’ve already had a chance to read the interviews with Mirelle, Ben, Kirollos, Mariam, and Alex. Today, I’d like to present the thoughts of 2014 volunteer David Ibrahim.
What was the most beautiful trait that the people you served with exhibit? Do you think you can or want to imitate that?
I loved the people that I served with. They were great. What I loved about them was their concern for the kids we served. They connected with the kids out of the classroom, and they didn’t just try to teach them English, but to be their friends. What I also liked was the fact that they never took anything too seriously, they weren’t too sensitive, and they were always joking around with each other. I think we definitely had more fun than the El Barsha group :D
Did anything you saw in Egypt help you better understand yourself, your family, your Church?
Yes. I can’t say that I know why God allows poverty, war, suffering, etc., but I do have to say that after I visited Abnoub I kind of understand it. I think He allows this stuff, because they are stronger than we are and they can deal with it. It was like what On Wealth and Poverty from St. John Chrysostom said. We had to read this book prior to our trip. If a poor man enjoys his life just as much, if not more, than a rich man, then who is really richer? The people that I served know the secret to being content in all things, good or bad. Meanwhile, sometimes we have problems just being content in the good things in our life.
I also saw how the tasonys there knew each kid by name — and there were about 200 kids! They knew how to discipline them, listen to them, and talk to them; I thought that was pretty cool.
Was there a child that especially touched you with their story, love, humor? Can you tell me about them?
There was one girl whose name was Senayaa. She worked in a factory, she worked with her mom, she was studying to be an educator, and she helped the kids in her area learn English. Her dad had just passed away six months before we met her. She was just so happy with everything, and said her work passed by fast because she enjoyed it. We always say that we have busy lives in the modern world, and we talk about how stressed we are and how difficult everything is, but we have to look past that sometimes.
In terms of humor, there was this one kid named Yessa and he was 11 years old. He was hilarious. The teachers in the classroom behind us would do this one thing, where if the kids were loud they would smack the walls to get their attention, so Yessa would always sit in the back, and when he heard them, he would hit the wall in return! He also brought this water gun in one day and he started squirting the whole class with it out of nowhere! There was this other time where he brought in fireworks that he bought from the streets, but I had to take them from him so he wouldn’t let them off at church.
One last thing :) I thought it was really cool seeing the priests just walking on the streets and not expecting any special treatment or anything. I think they were visiting their congregations’ houses, and this was in some shady areas.
Name one thing you would add or remove from Serve To Learn for next year.
I would add more pictures of the site where the servants are going to be working at, so they know what they’re getting into. I think the gifts given during house visits should be removed. I think they should be distributed by the church, because the church knows what they need. We don’t. I enjoyed the trips to the monasteries, and the travelling we had on the weekends. I think that the groups should meet more often, but I realize that might be difficult in terms of logistics.
If someone were on the fence about going to Serve to Learn, what would you tell them?
I would tell them this story. When we visited Baba Tawadros, he helped me a lot with understanding the kids. He asked us if we knew the word JOY. J is for Jesus. This means first we have to pray, confess, repent, take communion, live a life with Christ. O is for Others. This means we have to put others before ourselves and be considerate of them. Y is for You. This is where you take care of yourself, and what you need. And so, if they went with Serve to Learn I would tell them this is what they would see. Especially from the moms. After everything they said, they would always say thank God.
You can apply now for Serve to Learn; the November 15 deadline is practically here! Don’t forget that applications for the July 3-25 session are also out! If you still have questions, you can learn more by reading the Serve to Learn FAQ, or by writing to us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, you can watch His Holiness encourage young people to serve the children in Egypt in this video made at one of Coptic Orphans’ recent 25th Anniversary Galas. Lastly, you can check out the “Top 5 Myths Why You Can’t Take Part in Serve to Learn Debunked.”
PS Please go to the top of this post and hit the “Like” button, then share the post, tweet it, email it to everyone you know, print it out and pass it out to 5 of your friends, and finally, stand in the middle of a busy intersection with a megaphone and shout it out!