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.

‘My Father Was Amazed at What I Could Do’

Girls who grow up believing in themselves can achieve great things!
Girls who grow up believing in themselves can achieve great things!

What happens when you awaken someone’s understanding of their own rights and self-worth?

Valuable Girl Project coordinators know that awakening, because they’ve seen it on the faces — and heard it in the words — of young women in some of Egypt’s poorest, most tradition-bound villages.

In fact, these awakenings have been happening since 2002, when the project was founded. Then, as now, it was funded by a special pool of donors, separate from other Coptic Orphans programs. It operates from the principle that, in order to truly be the salt of the earth, Christians must be proactive about loving their neighbors, as Christ taught us.

Lara, a Valuable Girl in Luxor, describes her own awakening this way: “I’ve learned that girls and boys are equals, and that there’s no difference between us. I’ve also learned about my rights and duties.”

Awakenings like Lara’s come despite huge obstacles. As she says: “In my village, we have solid customs and traditions that girls shouldn’t finish their education, and we’re not even allowed to go out of the house. Most of the girls in my village can only make it till middle school, and then they’re forced to get married.”

“And then the only thing anyone cares about is that they give birth to boys!” adds Lara, who has now spent over a year as a Big Sister in the project’s mentoring program.

Even more exciting is when these awakenings lead to action, as they have in Lara’s case. Now 22 years old, she has made her point to the doubters.

“I’m older than all my brothers, and I’ve always felt that my father wished I’d been a boy in order to help him farm and be his backbone,” she says. “I was like any other girl — I just used to listen to how he felt about it without doing anything about it!”

After learning of her own equality and rights, Lara says she became more confident.

“I decided to go talk to my father and asked to help him on the farm. His jaw dropped — he didn’t know what to say, and I insisted that he give me a chance to prove myself.”

“I went with him and I drove the tractor, harvested the crops, mowed the field, and even fed the cattle. My father was amazed at what I could do; I’ve practically proved to him that girls are the equal of boys and even better!”

Not content with the horizons of the family farm, Lara has set her sights on higher education. Since finding her own confidence — and her father’s — she has moved on to study graphic design at a local college.

This is how the Valuable Girl Project sets about and succeeds in transforming girls and young women. Involving them in the Big-Little Sister mentoring is only the first step; beyond that are leadership training and coaching that instill even greater confidence and self-worth.

The results become evident in how the girls think of themselves and others.

For example, monitoring the attitudes of the Valuable Girls over time reveals that nearly every one experiences an increased sense of self-efficacy — the belief in their capacity to act and thereby achieve what they want to achieve. Overwhelmingly, they also report increased agreement with the concept that males and females should have equal access to social, economic, and political opportunities.

These changes in attitudes are crucial to transforming not just individual lives, but also communities and societies. As Lara says:

“I’ve proved to my neighbors and other community members that girls are not weak and useless; they’re human beings of equal value and have the same rights and duties.”

Lara and our Valuable Girls are claiming the same rights and opportunities as their fellow citizens. In doing so, they’ll make a better world for their daughters!

Good News! Coptic Orphans Is Growing and Hiring

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His Holiness Pope Tawadros II meets with Coptic Orphans employees and volunteers in Cairo.

Do you want a career where you can grow professionally and make a difference in the lives of orphans and widows in Egypt? Coptic Orphans has openings for dedicated professionals who want to join a team that has been working to improve the lives of Egypt’s most vulnerable children for over 25 years. 

Here is how His Holiness Pope Tawadros II assessed Coptic Orphans in 2013, when, in a great blessing, he held a special meeting with staff and volunteers in Cairo:

I’m glad to have joined you in this ministry… I regard it very highly… administratively it’s excellent. Ten out of ten. From the practicality angle, and perceiving people’s unique needs, ten out of ten… it’s a good example of management that I hope one day the Church structure can emulate.

By God’s grace, we’re growing and inviting applications from skilled, professional candidates for these positions:

United States (Fairfax, VA)
Donor Relations Director
Human Resources Manager
Human Resources Associate
Communications Associate

Canada (Montreal)
Donor Relations Associate 

Australia (Sidney)
Donor Relations Associate

Egypt (Cairo)
Human Resources Manager
Area Program Manager – Upper Egypt, Lower Egypt
Operations Director
Field Coordinator – Middle Egypt, Lower Egypt
IT Associate
Programs Director
Field Coordinator – Minya

United Kingdom (London)
UK Regional Manager 

For a full listing of our open positions, please see our jobs page.

If a friend, colleague, or family member has the right skills and passion for one of these positions, please forward them this blog post or share this link with them through Facebook. Thank you, and may you and your family find the blessings of Christ’s Resurrection during these Holy Fifty Days!

A Refuge in Egypt: Marking the Holy Family’s Flight on June 1st

160601_June 1Dear Friends,

Today is such an important day: The marking of the day our Savior found refuge in Egypt, and blessed our land and people. June 1, when we reflect on the Flight of the Holy Family, is an incredibly meaningful day for all Copts. So I’m excited to share, once again, the reflections of Dr. Joseph Faltas. Dr. Faltas holds a Ph.D in Philosophy from the Faculty of Theology, Athens University in Greece. He also has a postgraduate degree from the same university in Patristic Studies, and he has spent over 30 years conducting highly specialized research on the early Church fathers. Dr. Faltas has worked with the Orthodox Patristic Center; beyond this, he led the Ecumenical Studies Unit of the Coptic Center for Social Studies, Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate. I’m very grateful for the Church history and wisdom that Dr. Faltas shares with us on an almost daily basis; it shapes our work for the children.

— Nermien Riad

Fleeing … Escaping

On the fast-approaching date of June 1, our Coptic Orthodox Church throughout the world celebrates one of its seven minor feasts of Christ: the Feast of His Entry into the Land of Egypt, escaping from Herod.

The minor feasts of Christ commemorate events of Our Lord Christ’s life. The Church always sets them before us to enhance our spiritual life and our salvation, so that we live as Jesus did.

The Holy Family sought refuge in Egypt to avoid the evil wrath of Herod, who killed the infants of Bethlehem. However, the advent of Our Lord Christ to the Land of Egypt granted it divine peace and reassurance. Everyone who believes in Him will always live in peace regardless of all circumstances; he’ll be a witness to the living faith of the Mighty God, the Pantocrator.

Christ’s Flight to Egypt

We wonder: If the flight of the Holy Family to Egypt was an escape, was it then an indication of Christ’s passive flight? Certainly not; it was a temporary escape from evil, an initiative of His salvation of humankind and an overwhelming blessing to the entire world. This escape resulted in having a faithful people and Church across the ages — a deep-rooted faith in Egyptians’ hearts, especially among ordinary people. His escape proved to the contemporary world their devotion to Him, who fled for them. Indeed, there is not a trace of doubt associated with His blessed flight.

An Alternative Escape

In stark contrast with Christ’s positive escape, there is a negative kind of escape manifested in rejecting responsibility, cooperation, or even feeling for others. This kind of escape has nothing in common with Christ’s flight to the Land of Egypt. Hence, this type of escape implies a rejection of the blessings of the flight to Egypt, a flight which empowers large numbers of present-day children to avoid the darkness of ignorance. This is the flight that, through faith and the Church, enables girls and young women to stand fast against pressures to drop out of school, lifts up high achievers to pursue success, and supports fatherless families in leading a secure life, instead of escaping into the unknown.

Let’s celebrate Christ’s entrance into the Land of Egypt; let’s flee to the Land of Egypt and share together the rejoicing in His escape — for our sake, and for us in the Land of Egypt.

— Dr. Joseph Faltas