All posts by Nermien Riad

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.

We Have Not Forgotten Them

In July 2015, I shared with you that we learned that 10 of the 21 martyrs who were killed in Libya, had left behind 19 children. We spent a lot of time carefully looking at the children and their situations.

We discovered that all of the families, by God’s grace, were benefiting from great generosity from both the Egyptian government and people all over the world. These families were given many resources that would help meet their day-to-day needs and was to be shared among the martyrs’ wives, children, parents, and their unmarried siblings. Coptic Orphans also committed to standing with these children—not just by providing financial resources —but also by enrolling the 19 children into our Not Alone Program.

But what’s really valuable — and transforming — is our Reps’ work to mentor the children of the martyrs, promote their self-discipline and resilience, instill a strong work ethic, and support their education. That is real long-term development, not charity.

Our Reps were prepared to give each child of the martyrs the love and mentoring they needed after tragically losing their fathers. Their families also receive the wider support we offer to all of the program’s families, such as workshops to help widows manage their finances, and to empower them to support their children.

We had mentioned three years ago that we’d only know the final results of these efforts when these children grow up. But as we commemorate the anniversary of the martyrs, I wanted to share an update about one of the families of the 21 martyrs. For Emad, Mariam, and Karmina,* their father was one of the martyrs, who faithfully called out Jesus’ name as he was killed on the beach in Libya. He was survived by his wife and children, ages 22, 20 and 14.

At the time of his father’s death, Emad, the middle-child, was in his last year of general high school. When he first joined Not Alone, his Rep encouraged him, and provided him with the emotional and psychological support needed to get through the trauma of his father’s death. His Rep worked through the trauma Emad experienced, and turned his tragedy into pride for his father.

Emad’s Rep also worked with him and his sisters on getting through their education despite their real-life difficulties. He made Emad aware about scholarship opportunities available post-graduation. This encouraged Emad, who ended up scoring 90.5% his final year of general high school. Since he did not want to live apart from his family, Emad made the decision to forgo the scholarship opportunities available at universities in other governorates, and enrolled in the Faculty of Commerce at Beni Suef University. Emad successfully completed his first year and is now going strong his second year.

Our program also helped Emad’s eldest sister, Mariam to work through her shock after watching the graphic video of her father’s death. Despite this, Mariam’s Rep helped her continue through her university education until she was able to graduate and obtain a bachelor’s degree from the Faculty of Arts, Mass Communication department. Today, Mariam hopes to work in this same field.

In addition to encouraging Emad and Mariam in their education, their Rep motivated them to participate in the life-skills workshops we offer year-round. They attended workshops on topics such as developing good study habits, emotional intelligence, and the importance of volunteering. Their Rep did not stop there, and also encouraged their mother to participate in two workshops on self-image and teaching volunteerism to her children.

And let’s not forget about this martyr’s youngest daughter, Karmina. After participating in our workshop on positive self-image, she gained a lot of confidence in herself and proudly stated, “I can do everything – and even if I fail, I will try again and will be able to do it!”

*Names changed to protect the privacy and dignity of the children served by Coptic Orphans. 

Valuable Girl Project Kicks Off New Session in Qena

Valuable Girl Project event speakers in Qena

Dear Friend,

I’m excited to share some more good news with you about our Valuable Girl Project partnerships with local Community Development Associations (CDAs). Last time, I told you about the launch of a new session of the Valuable Girl Project in Assiut with seven new CDAs. Now, I’m happy to let you know about another city where Coptic Orphans launched a new session of the program. On October 18, 2017, 90 key figures from the governorate of Qena came together to the signing of our contracts with another 7 local CDAs.

The event in Qena brought together several government dignitaries, local religious leaders, representatives of other non-governmental organizations, and members of the press. The event was held under the auspices of Abd Al Hamid El Hagan, the governor of Qena, who personally attended along with top officials from the governorate and the church. These included Bishop Beman, several undersecretaries of Ministry of Social Services (MOSS), Mouhmed Al Tarawy, the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Endowments (awkaf), and the chairpersons of the partner CDAs and their staff.

Before I tell you more about what the Valuable Girl Project aims to do, I want to tell you what brought all of these people together by painting the picture of the real difficulties faced by girls in cities like Qena.

In impoverished parts of Egypt, tradition often excludes girls and women from the education offered to boys and men from the same age group. Less education leads to fewer opportunities, fewer opportunities lead to less power, less power leads to being viewed as being less valuable—which leads to exploitation. Viewed as “less valuable,” girls are more likely to be deprived of critical health care and are susceptible to harmful practices including female genital mutilation, child marriages, ‘honor’ killings, domestic child labor, and sexual violence.

To address these problems, the Valuable Girl Project works to empower girls and women by helping them complete their educations, raising their self-esteem and giving them more control over their lives. To do this, the Valuable Girl Project adopts educational one-on-one mentoring relationships between a “big sister” and a “little sister” to assist with overcoming learning difficulties, provide a role model, and to offer guidance and support that they might be lacking at home. To achieve this, we strive to create a safe space where girls can develop their sense of self-worth and develop leadership skills.

The event in Qena started with a welcome from Coptic Orphans where I thanked the governor for his support, and expressed my gratitude to the undersecretaries of MOSS for helping the relevant CDAs get official approval.

Following this was a presentation by Salwa Youssef, the representative of Coptic Orphans, who gave introductory remarks about Coptic Orphans and the Valuable Girl Project, which included the goals and philosophy of the program.

Afterwards, several distinguished guests spoke at length about the work of the Valuable Girl Project in Qena, which displayed the breadth of the support the project has in the city.

  • The Representative of the Regional Union of Qena’s NGOs expressed the need for the Valuable Girl Project in their communities. She explained that this project combats enormous problems including early marriage, children dropping out of school, and the weakness in student matriculation.
  • Gamal Yousef, the Representative of CDAs and a UN Consultant, relayed four key points including his acknowledgment of the difficulty of development projects obtaining MOSS approval and praising Egypt’s support for Coptic Orphans. He further stated that the project encourages giving and a sense of belonging towards the community and country. He concluded that the attendees were from various community sectors, reflecting the harmony and coexistence of Muslims and Christians in Egyptian communities.
  • The undersecretary of MOSS shared that they are doing everything to ensure the success of the Valuable Girl Project and expressed his hope of implementing the program in other MOSS directorates.
  • His Grace Bishop Bemen expressed how proud he was of Coptic Orphans for developing a wonderful system to support orphans throughout their education and praised its work, leadership, and service.
  • Mouhmed Al Tarawy, the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Endowments (Awkaf), referred to Islamic teaching that “whoever wipes the heads of orphans” will gain paradise. He closed with a rhetorical question asking what a person would gain who not only wipes the head of an orphan, but also cares about their education and develops their personalities.
  • Abd Al Hamid El Hagan, the Governor of Qena, greeted Coptic Orphans and its leadership for its efforts and good work, inviting me to spend two days to explore Qena and see the impact of our work. He praised the Egyptians living abroad and all our partner organizations. He expressed his happiness with the goals of the Valuable Girl Project including national unity, acceptance, and tolerance. He noted that through the project, the girls become cultured, the community is served, and problems such as illiteracy and school drop outs are addressed.
  • Mouhamed Abd Mageed, the Governorate’s spokesperson, expressed his gratitude for all the joint efforts in helping him carry out his job efficiently by providing him with all the information needed for a press release. He stated, “This is the first time we meet an organization which helps and supports us in an accurate and rapid manner!”
  • Mokhles, the manager of hotel which hosted the event, expressed how much he and his staff enjoyed the event and organizing it.

Following the governor’s words, the chairpersons of the seven partner CDAs signed their contracts and received additional relevant documents.

I can’t express how extraordinary an event of this type is in Egypt. By God’s grace, your love, prayers, and support are what make milestones like this possible – thank you so much!

One Body in Christ,

Nermien Riad
Founder and Executive Director

Dreams Became Realities

Pictured above: a group of our 2017 Future Leaders Scholarship Recipients

Dear Friends,

I pray that you had a blessed start to your new year, and continue to witness God’s gracious blessings as we approach the joyous Feast of the Nativity in just a few days. With the culmination of 2017 behind us, we are encouraged by the goodness of our mighty God as we saw His hands work through our children, mothers, and volunteer Reps this past year. I wanted to share with you some of the wonderful highlights from this past year, so you too, could share in our joy.

At Coptic Orphans, we believe that growing a new generation of leaders is the key to survival of our Coptic culture and community in Egypt. Fundamental to nurturing new leaders in Egypt, is education; particularly higher education. I am happy to report that during 2017, 361 of our bright youth were Thanaweya Amma students and 235 students from Not Alone graduated from university! This is by no means an easy accomplishment, as our youth have faced many challenges including the insurmountable fate of losing one or both parents, in the midst of living in poverty during the rising economic crisis.

Despite this, many of our hard-working young men and women have won key scholarships for public and private universities, English language scholarships, among others. We introduced the Future Leaders Initiative to capture and highlight the additional activities and initiatives taken by Not Alone’s specially trained staff and Church-based volunteer Reps, to identify the most promising and distinguished participants. In 2017, of our many distinguished students, 34 received Future Leader Scholarships, which helped equip them to excel and reach their full potential to become future leaders and change-makers in their communities.  These scholarships played a huge role in boosting their self-confidence, helped them feel valued, and enabled them to make their dreams of obtaining a higher education become realities.

We are so proud of all our children, and especially of our distinguished students—not only for their determination to excel and succeed in their studies, but also because they each chose to selflessly give back to their communities by volunteering with their local churches or universities in more than one activity throughout this past year.

In other exciting news, by God’s grace and your generous support, 932 new children joined our Not Alone program in 2017. We look onwards to this New Year and are hopeful of the amazing things God has in store for each one His children.

 Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me,“Write, for these words are true and faithful.” And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.” Revelation 21: 5-7