‘They Had So Little, Yet So Much Love to Give’ — Nadine Roffaell Reflects on Serve to Learn

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Nadine Roffaell  and her students on the playground after class.


Dear Friends,

January 2015 was a special month in Armant, a small, rural village near Luxor. What made it so special was the meeting of 12 volunteers from around the world with Egyptian children — the world’s most wonderful kids! The volunteers spent three weeks playing, teaching, and learning with the children as part of Coptic Orphans’ Serve to Learn program. Today, I’m excited to share another post from that meeting of hearts, on the theme of “a picture is worth 1,000 words.” To bring you the real feeling of the Serve to Learn experience, each volunteer chose one picture and described what that moment meant to them. This is Nadine Roffaell’s picture and 1,000 words!

— Nermien

Who’s in this photo?

Children from my very first Serve to Learn class!

Where was it taken?

The photo was taken at the monastery in the playground.

What’s happening in the photo?

Someone called out “PHOTO!”.. Then all of a sudden they jumped all over me. The children absolutely loved taking photos with us.

How did you feel when it was taken?

It was taken on the first day of the program and I had only spent an hour with these children. I was so happy. I couldn’t stop laughing when the photo was taken. I’ve always loved being with children, but they were something different. They had so little, yet so much love to give. It was day one and I already felt attached. Although I wasn’t confident with my Arabic at the time, a smile was all it took. I didn’t want them to go home that day. Being with them was home. I felt like they were my own.

Why do you want to remember this moment?

I want to remember this moment so I can remind myself of the value of a smile. A smile was all they gave at this moment, but it was worth so much.

If you could help people understand one thing with this photo, what would it be?

Look at the smiles on their faces. They were so happy. We say these children have nothing, or are less fortunate, but they have everything. They know simplicity, they have happiness and they are Love.

Interested in learning more about Serve to Learn? Check out our page and our new video, which gives a snapshot of the program! Time is running out to apply for our July 3-25 session, and spots fill up fast, so please get your application in by the April 15 deadline. 

If you want to read other Serve to Learn stories, here are interviews with ToniJohnGabyMinaAndyVeronikaDavidBen, Kirollos, MariamAlex, and Mirelle, as well as another 1,000 Words post by Ryan.

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.