‘I Feel Blessed to Have Had That Experience’ — Mary Helmy Reflects on Serve to Learn

Mary Helmy spending time with her students as the van takes them home after a day of learning and play.

Dear Friends,

It’s the start of March, and I’m  excited to be reading through the applications of wonderful prospective Serve to Learn volunteers. Because demand for Serve to Learn has grown, there will be two trips in the upcoming months: June 17 – July 8 AND July 22 – August 12. Applications are due by March 15. There’s nothing more heartening to me than to see young Coptic youth from all over the world deciding to spend part of their summer, or even taking time off from work, to travel to Egypt for a full 3 weeks, to serve orphaned Coptic children in Egypt.  If you’re wanting a taste of what you’ll learn on Serve to Learn, here’s recent volunteer Mary Helmy from Australia, with another “a picture is worth a 1,000 words” blog post. 

— Nermien

Who’s in this photo?

The kids and me.

Where was it taken?

The children had just finished our class and were going back home in a van.

What’s happening in the photo?

I was saying goodbye and they asked me to come back with them. I hopped in and spent a few minutes hanging out with them.

How did you feel when it was taken?

I felt like a kid hanging out with my friends enjoying every moment with them. They were so excited and full of joy and laughter. I didn’t want to say goodbye.

Why do you want to remember this moment?

Despite losing a parent, or both parents, and all the difficulties of that, the children were just enjoying being kids, having fun, full of hope. I felt close to them.

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

It’s not really about teaching English or the classroom, it’s about getting to really know the children, laughing with them, having fun, learning to let go and be a kid again. Despite all their hardships in life, they loved openly, not just me, but God. I grew to love them as well. I really wanted to go back to their homes and hang out and play with them. I feel blessed to have had that experience. One of many, many memories I’ll treasure. Thank you God.

Interested in learning more about Serve to Learn? Check out our page and our video, which gives a snapshot of the program!

If this “a picture is worth a 1,000 words” blog makes you want to read other Serve to Learn stories, here are Pheobe Azer‘s and Ryan Wasson‘s. If that’s not enough, you can read Serve to Learn  interviews with Toni, JohnGabyMinaAndyVeronikaDavidBen, Kirollos, MariamAlex, and Mirelle. You may also enjoy these video interviews with Nadine RoffaellPeter Wassef and Mary Loka.  Any questions you’d like to ask a real human being? Call or email Joyce Lancen at 703-641-8910 or at info@copticorphans.org

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.