Would He Live or Die?

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As we close out 2014 and make way for the New Year, I wanted to share Abanoub’s story, because his life shows the powerful changes taking place, by God’s grace, in Egypt.

Abanoub is seven. The last time he saw his father was one morning late last spring.

To buy a little bread, his father was working in the limestone quarry in El Minya. A power saw caught on his galabiyya and dragged him onto it, as the teeth continued to spin.

After his father was buried, Abanoub was next in line to work in the quarry. He could have lost a hand, an arm, or his life. It was that or go hungry. The question of whether or not he’d go to work in the dangerous quarry while still a child was basically another question: “Would he live or die?”

But the story doesn’t end there. Through the local Church, Coptic Orphans found out about Abanoub and enrolled him in our Not Alone program.

Today, as a result, Abanoub doesn’t have to work in the quarry that stole his father’s life. Instead, we’re restoring the protection, provision, and confidence that he lost after his father’s death.

Abanoub is one of thousands of Not Alone kids who are gaining the resources to break the cycle of poverty and the courage to become change-makers in their communities.

We address both immediate and long-term needs so that Not Alone children develop academically, socially, and emotionally for success. They become literate and develop skills that help them achieve in school. Then, they develop their God-given talents so that they can not only overcome their own circumstances, but transform future generations.

The hands and feet of Coptic Orphans in Egypt is a network of over 400 volunteer representatives (“Reps”) who are nominated by their local Orthodox bishops to work with nearly 10,000 fatherless families in some of the most impoverished communities, from the slums of Cairo to remote rural villages.

Each Rep has relationships with 15-25 children, and serves each by:

  • Regularly visiting the child in his or her home to assess and provide for basic needs and address underlying problems rooted in the home life of the child.
  • Connecting the child and his or her mother and siblings to assistance in areas such as academic tutoring and mentoring for special talents or needs.
  • Educating and advocating for families to access civil rights such as birth certificates, widows’ government pensions, land rights, and government identification documents.
  • Gathering children, their mothers and peers in specialized workshops that build skills in literacy, leadership, computer training, household finance, relationship-building, cultural appreciation, job readiness, and income generation, as well as covering critical topics in effective parenting, disease prevention and the negative effects of female genital mutilation.

For Abanoub and thousands of children like him, these are the vital needs covered by Coptic Orphans. As we greet the New Year and prepare for Christmas Day, I’m grateful that so many of you make this work possible by taking to heart the words of Isaiah: “Bring justice to the orphan; plead the widow’s cause.”

*Images and details changed to protect the privacy and dignity of Coptic Orphans participants

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.