Petra Institute Celebrates Jubilee, Grants Scholarships to Coptic Orphans

Jubilee Celebration attendees gather at the Petra Institute, May 2014.
Gathering for the Petra Institute’s Jubilee Celebration, May 2014.

Dear Friends,
Today, I’m excited to share this good news from Venis Senada, our training and development manager.
— Nermien Riad

Have you heard of the Petra Institute, and have you ever thought about what an invitation to their 25th anniversary celebration could turn into?

The Petra Institute is a faith-based organization called to serve the Christian community by building capacity for children’s ministry. They’re based in South Africa, they work with partners in many countries, and they held their Jubilee Celebration in May 2014. Since I’m a former student of theirs, I received an invitation to attend their celebration as a representative of Coptic Orphans.

Coptic Orphans is where, as training and development manager, I’ve planted the mustard seed that the Petra Institute gave me while I was their student. That seed grew into the giant tree whose roots and branches include the strong relationships among Coptic Orphans participants and volunteer Reps.

The invitation from Petra offered a huge opportunity to bond more deeply with Coptic Orphans’ stakeholders. The results, which I’ll talk about below, are benefitting our organizational development.

It was wonderful to be chosen to be interviewed during the Jubilee Celebration. I was asked to share Coptic Orphans’ vision and role in the Egyptian community, and explain how we’ve helped to transform and improve the lives of more than 30,000 fatherless Egyptian children. I was also asked to talk about my relationship and experiences with Petra, and how my encounter with them had affected my life.

I had a wonderful time, and after that I had some conversations with many key people in different churches in South Africa. They asked me about Coptic Orphans and what Christians in Egypt had faced during the Muslim Brotherhood period.

As I described our work, I found that the simple but deep “serve with love” concept of our Serve to Learn program won the hearts and attention of my fellow attendees. They decided to spread the word among their congregations after being inspired by the promo video I shared with them.

Petra is quite picky when it comes to choosing their partners, as they aim for long-term partnerships with just one entity in each country, not just short-term training agreements. Though they’d had a partner in Egypt since 2004, nevertheless, Coptic Orphans entered into a strategic partnership agreement with them. Now they’re eager to cooperate more deeply. For starters, they’ve given us free access to the valuable materials on their website.

While at Petra, I was able to give my powers of persuasion a workout. The Petra Institute had stopped offering their leadership and mentoring course back in 2010, but based on our recommendations, they decided to bring it back May 11-June 19 of next year. Another exciting development is that Petra has generously agreed to provide three full scholarships for people affiliated with Coptic Orphans.

One last piece of good news resulting from the trip: Two key Petra leaders are scheduled to come to Egypt next month to train our staff. Dirk Coetsee, their managing director, and Taleta Coetsee, their training products and resources manager, will work with our team to enhance their training and facilitation skills. This kind of skills-building should yield positive results in the performance of our volunteers and increase the overall efficiency with which we operate.

That’s the story of what can result when you receive an invitation from the Petra Institute. We’re very grateful for their partnership and look forward to great things in the future!

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.