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.

She’s Making Dignity a Family Tradition

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Ireney doesn’t seem to know the meaning of the words “take it easy,” which may explain how she’s built her business into a source of family pride and dignity.

You last heard about Ireney in 2014, when I visited her in Samalout. She overwhelmed me with hospitality then, and things hadn’t changed a bit around her livestock feedstore when I saw her this summer.

Except – that’s not strictly true. Since I last saw Ireney, she’s converted her hard work, intelligence, and B’edaya loans into more progress. She has expanded her line of animal feed, flour, and fertilizer.

There in the cool, cavernous “warehouse” that’s connected to her home, she meets customers and neighbors, closes her deals, and does one more extremely important thing: she passes on her values.

Ireney is very clear: She wants her kids grow up to be hard-working in their lives and occupations. To that end, she’s begin involving her young son in accounting and helping her with the business.

It’s important for her kids to have role models, because they’re already missing one. Ireney’s husband passed away many years ago, so her guidance is all the more crucial.

Together with a specially trained Coptic Orphans volunteer — a Church-based “Rep” who comes recommended by his bishop — she’s putting her children on the path to a quality education and solid values.

Ireney’s success demonstrates what widowed mothers can achieve with access to this type of microcredit initiative. Her goal is to grow the business because “the more I can buy, the more I can sell.”

B’edaya funds these women’s income-generating projects from the ground up until they become self-sufficient. Donations cover all aspects of the loan process from beginning to end, and the money is reinvested over and over to help multiple families.

But beyond this, there is the foundation that’s being laid for a new generation. B’edaya mothers model the behaviors that give their family dignity and their children the keys to success.

To those who’ve never been there, it’s hard to grasp what Ireney is overcoming. In Samalout, and in Upper Egypt in general, traditions severely limit widows. Many end up taking charity for life.

But Ireney is breaking this mold, with your help. Two years from when I last visited her, she’s going strong. Her kids can see it, and you can feel it — in her manner, in her frequent laughter, in the prosperity of her household.

And it’s not only her household. In March, Coptic Orphans held ceremonies around Egypt honoring 42 widowed mothers. They received a total of LE243,500 (US$27,400) in microloans for their income-generating projects.

All of us at Coptic Orphans see these mothers as heroes. By God’s grace, and through your generosity, we’re honored to provide them with both microloans and coaching in entrepreneurial skills to develop their inborn perseverance, ingenuity, and business-savvy.

This is a great blessing to be part of, and the Coptic Orphans family is grateful that you’ve chosen walk with families like Ireney’s.

* The name of the B’edaya participant has been changed in this instance to protect her privacy

Signed, Sealed, Delivered… Valuable Girl Power Wins a Post Office

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Never underestimate the girls of Egypt!

Your support for the Valuable Girl Project means a group of determined girls were able to send a big message about their power to make change – through the mail!

What’s more, in the process, they helped their fellow villagers avoid sexual harassment and the dangers of a perilous highway. Here’s how it unfolded:

After the young women in the Mahaba Coptic Orthodox Association for Development & Environment received civic education training through the Valuable Girl Project, they started to contribute to solving their community’s problems. These 20 youths, aged 15-26, believed that they could make one of their neighbors’ dreams come true, there in the village of Al Amodain.

The village, with a population of 30,000, lacked a post office. As it happens, the mail is a lifeline for the community members — it’s the means by which they can get their government pension, transfer money, and receive letters from loved ones.

Without a postal facility in their own village, they had to go to the post office in Atsa, 5km away. It cost the Al Amodain villagers too much to go back and forth, and on top of that, Atsa’s post office was often crowded. Things were apt to heat up inside, especially after a vendetta sparked tensions between the two villages. In fact, the Al Amodain villagers were forced to go to an even more distant post office just to avoid potential conflict.

The Valuable Girls took the initiative to raise people’s awareness about their rights. They also addressed the local government officials, advocating for a post office in Al Amodain. It took many discussions with the officials, but in the end, they approved the construction of a post office. The girls and the local authorities took on the cost of building the new facility, and they raised 100,000 EGP.

When, in the end, the new post office officially opened in February 2016, it was proof to the entire village that despite the obstacles society place in their path, girls can indeed make history as much as men can!

“My mom suffered 2-3 times per month when she went to the post office to get the money sent by my dad, who works in El Suez,” said Mary, adding, “My mom now tells me: ‘Finally, I don’t have to suffer from traveling and sexual harassment each month!’”

“The way to the nearest post office used to be called ‘The Way to Hell’ because of the many accidents that happened to people traveling on this highway,” said another Valuable Girl, Salma. “Now I’m proud of myself as well as the other girls that we were able to positively contribute to our community.”

Thank you for continuing to support for the Valuable Girl Project, and let’s keep educating Egypt’s brilliant children!

‘Jesus Makes them Happy’ — Serve to Learn Volunteer Monika Toma from Vienna Austria on Serve to Learn Kids

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Dear Friends,

Applications for the Serve to Learn Jan 21 – Feb 11 trip are due Oct 15. So if you’re thinking about applying, do it soon, because time is running out fast! For those of you who don’t know what Serve to Learn is, allow me to explain it to you. It’s really quite simple. 
Serve to Learn is a three-week service trip for youth from all over the world to teach kids in Upper Egyptian villages through a variety of fun games and activities. See? It’s super simple, just apply, volunteer, and let the kids’ love and faith change you forever.

Speaking of simplicity, this “A picture is worth 1,000 words” blog post by 2016 Serve to Learn Monika Toma from Austria shows you exactly how beautiful the simplicity of the children can be. And how much we have to learn from their pure and simple love for Jesus.

— Nermien

Who’s in this photo?

Two elementary school boys from Mallawi, Egypt.

Where was it taken?

In my classroom.

What’s happening in the photo?

They were both drawing a picture of Jesus during playtime. Both were really focused and trying so hard to get it perfect.

How did you feel when it was taken?

I felt sooo proud and happy because those two used to always want to go out and play football [soccer] outside. Every time we asked what they wanted to do, most of them shouted “Nel3ab koora!” (“We want to play soccer!”). Then towards the end of the second week, these two boys came to me and asked if they could draw a picture of Jesus instead of going outside. My heart was just so full of joy at this sight.

Why do you want to remember this moment?

So that I remind myself of how much more those children teach us than we teach them. Their love for Jesus is just so pure and admirable.

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

You don’t need a lot to make those kids happy. Jesus makes them happy.


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 us at 703-641-8910 or at info@copticorphans.org