Category Archives: 25th Anniversary

Proud to Be a Copt & Egyptian? Here Are 3 Ways That One Award Honors Our Values

140830_LBE HH_new border for web pageYou may already know that His Holiness Pope Tawadros II is doing Coptic Orphans a huge honor by accepting the Leading by Example Award in person at our 25th Anniversary Gala in Canada on Sept. 28.

But the other day I realized that many people don’t know the whole story of the Leading by Example Award — the kinds of achievements and values it recognizes, and the many leaders who’ve received it in the past.

Here’s what makes the Leading by Example Award an embodiment of the pride we feel in being Copts and Egyptians:

First, it was established in 2004 to honor exceptional people — pioneers whose character and achievements make them role models in Egypt and around the world. Egypt is always at the center, because we honor those who’ve done something incredible for the motherland and her people.

Second, there’s something consciously Coptic and Egyptian about the values recognized by the Leading by Example Award. We look for candidates with traits treasured in Egypt and in the diaspora, including a spirit of volunteerism, a love of children and education, a commitment to giving back to the community, and a deep devotion to an Egypt of tolerance, prosperity, and peace for all people.

Third, there’s a unique way in which the award is both transnational and intensely Egyptian. It lifts up achievements regardless of geographic location, whether in the motherland or abroad. Moreover, when the award has been presented to exceptional non-Copts, it has been part of recognizing the growing global dimension of our people. No longer isolated, we Copts now thrive within a vast and diverse community of allies and partners.

The list of past recipients of the Leadership by Example Award is diverse, but each person was chosen in light of the considerations I mentioned. The list is as follows:

  • Former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Liz Cheney received the Leading by Example Award at Coptic Orphans’ Second Annual Gala, “An Evening with Shakespeare” held April 24, 2004 at the Cannon Building of the House of Representatives.
  • Rev. Kathleene B. Card, an Elder in the United Methodist Church, teacher, administrator, and former Director of External Affairs at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, received the Leading by Example Award at the Coptic Orphans Gala at the Embassy of Colombia in Washington, DC on October 27, 2005.
  • Egyptian actress and celebrity Yousra, a United Nations Development Program (UNDP) goodwill ambassador, received the Leading by Example Award for her philanthropic and humanitarian work at the Coptic Orphans’ fourth annual gala and awards ceremony held April 28, 2007 at the William F. Bolger Center in Potomac, MD.
  • Egyptian businessman Naguib Sawiris and leading Egyptian philanthropist and humanitarian Ola Ghabbour were joint recipients of the 2008 Leading by Example Award during the Coptic Orphans 20th Anniversary Gala at the Marriott New York Downtown on Saturday, October 18, 2008.

To carry on this tradition, in 2014 we’re marking our 25th Anniversary by presenting Leading by Example Awards to the following honorees.  It goes without saying that we’re incredibly honored to celebrate our silver jubilee in the company of these leaders:

  • His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, 118th Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark, will accept the Leading by Example Award in person at the Coptic Orphans 25th Anniversary Gala in the greater Toronto area on Sept. 28, 2014.
  • Renowned former NASA scientist Dr. Farouk El-Baz will accept the Leading by Example Award in person at the Coptic Orphans 25th Anniversary Gala in the greater Washington, DC area on October 11, 2014.
  • Nick Kaldas, APM, Deputy Commissioner of the New South Wales Police Force, will accept the Leading by Example Award in person at the Coptic Orphans 25th Anniversary Gala in the greater Sydney area on November 9, 2014.

Looking over this list of honorees, both past and future, I’m amazed at the history we’ve accumulated with the Leading by Example Award. Now that you know a little more about that history, I hope you’ll join us at the Galas, and become a part of this tradition of Coptic and Egyptian pride.

His Holiness Will Be There… Will You Accept Our Invitation, Too?


His Holiness Pope Tawadros II meets with Serve to Learn volunteers in Cairo, July 12, 2014.
His Holiness Pope Tawadros II meets with Serve to Learn volunteers in Cairo, July 12, 2014.

I have great news! His Holiness is blessing us with his presence at our 25th Anniversary Gala in Canada!

His Holiness’ commitment to attend is an incredible honor, and an affirmation of the amazing commitment that you’ve shown to the children in your years of prayers, support, and love.

Will you accept our invitation, too? The Galas will take place in Canada (Sept. 28) the United States (Oct. 11) and Australia (Nov. 9). You can learn more about tickets, times, and venues by clicking here.

I’m excited that His Holiness will accept Coptic Orphans’ Leading by Example Award, which honors pioneers whose character and achievements make them role models in Egypt and around the world. 

His Holiness is our clear choice to receive the award because of his noble efforts to realize his vision of an Egypt of tolerance and prosperity, where Christians and Muslims live in peace. Moreover, His Holiness has been an incredible advocate for the children as far back as 1999, when Coptic Orphans worked with him during his time as a general bishop.  

We’re also honored that His Excellency Mohamed M. Tawfik, Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the United States, will be speaking at our Gala in the United States.

In Australia, the 25th anniversary guest of honor and Leading by Example Award recipient will be Nick Kaldas, APM, deputy commissioner of the New South Wales Police Force.

Nevine Iskander,  who directs our office in Australia, tells me: “We’re thrilled to welcome Nick Kaldas as our guest of honor and recipient of the Leading by Example Award. As deputy commissioner of the New South Wales Police Force, Mr. Kaldas is a highly respected and accomplished Australian Copt, whose strength of character and commitment to serving the community at home and abroad, make him our choice for this honor.”

I’m also very proud that Ola Ghabbour, recipient of the 2008 Leading by Example Award, will be honored posthumously at the U.S. Gala for her incredible and tireless dedication to improving the lives of the children of Egypt.

I can’t believe His Holiness will be with us! I’m grateful beyond words. To me, it’s truly a sign that it’s time to celebrate all of our work together. It’s also an incredible way to mark the milestone we’ve reached, by the grace of God, of educating and empowering 30,000 children of Egypt in 25 years.
Thank you for all you’ve done to get us to this incredible day. I look forward to seeing you at the Galas, and to launching our shared vision for the next 25 years of transforming lives in Egypt!

‘Faith in God and Mission’ Make Coptic Orphans Different — 25th Anniversary Interview With Dr. Atef Moawad

Dr. Atef Moawad and Mrs. Ferial F. Moawad.
Dr. Atef Moawad and Mrs. Ferial F. Moawad.

Dear Friends:

In 2014, Coptic Orphans has been celebrating 25 years of love for the children and honoring the promise to stand with them, their families, and their communities in Egypt. Together, we’ve empowered over 30,000 kids to obtain better educations and break the cycle of poverty.

I asked Dr. Atef Moawad to talk about how we got here, from our humble beginnings in 1988. His encouragement and participation, which go back for our entire 25 years, have made a world of difference for the children. Because of him, Coptic Orphans was able to make its first presentation to a congregation in 1997.

Born in Beni Suef, Dr. Moawad came to the United States 55 years ago “when there were no Coptic churches or priests.” He is a retired obstetrician and professor at the University of Chicago, where he chaired the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. He attends St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Church. We’re blessed to have had his wisdom and vision at our side for so many years. 

— Nermien Riad

Coptic Orphans (CO): Have you always wanted to “Bring Justice to the fatherless; plead the widow’s cause” (Isaiah 1:17) or was there a pivotal moment when you discovered your passion and commitment?

Dr. Atef Moawad (AM): We’ve always been taught, from our childhood, to take care of the orphans. When I was a child in Beni Suef, we were taught to go to the villages and the poor people and teach in the Sunday School movement. This was in the 1940s and 1950s. We saw what these villages were like, and we used to go every week to Sunday school, and then visit the people’s homes.

Later, when I was in medical school, my priest in Giza, Abouna Salib Sorial, used to send me to visit very poor families living in very small villages with no lights. I would visit the people there and I constantly saw the hard times these people faced, the difficult lives they led. It was heartbreaking.

Now, especially now that we’ve come to the United States and live better lives — because God gives us blessings  many times, we feel guilty, because these are our brothers and sisters. So these things are felt even more intensely, once we’ve come to the United States and God gives us more.

CO: You’ve stood with the kids for a long time. What nourishes you and keeps you going from day to day?

AM: I think we can’t claim to be Christians just by mouthing words and not really helping the brothers of the Lord. Because, as we’re told, on the Last Day, you’ll say, “We know You and spoke of Your work, and we even did miracles in Your name,” and He says, “I don’t know you, because I was sick, I was poor, and you didn’t come to Me.”

The only thing that sustains us from day to day is the love Jesus Christ gives us, and the reason for us to help others is not that we’re giving from us, we’re giving from what God has given us. It’s a duty. And it’s a duty for us to look after those who did not get the same blessings. They’re our brothers and sisters.

CO: Of all the stories and accomplishments of the last 25 years, what one, for you, best expresses the spirit of Coptic Orphans?

AM: What impresses me most about Coptic Orphans is how they’ve stood the test of time. There have been times where they didn’t have an easy time getting where they wanted to be, but they’ve understood exactly what their goals are, and they’ve gone about reaching them in a very methodical and logical way, not getting emotional at all about anybody or anything that’s in their way, and difficulties they’ve run into.

They’ve really stood very steadfastly in the face of adversities, whether those were in the United States or abroad. They’ve really been very, very steady, and that’s why they’ve succeeded, and never at any time have they lost their focus. Their focus is the children  they’ve never bothered about any of what I call background noise.

There are many stories that have touched my heart. I’ve been struck by my visits with the individual families with whom Coptic Orphans is involved, and by the Reps in Egypt. They are extraordinarily dedicated and humble, and they’re willing to go the extra mile. This is what’s really touched my heart.

CO: The last quarter-century has seen many organizations close, instead of growing and offering more to the community. What makes Coptic Orphans different?

AM: Coptic Orphans is always innovative. But before that, first of all, is their faith in God and their faith in their mission. That’s what they’re focused on, and that’s very important.

Second, the organization itself does not depend on one person. It’s really broad-based. It depends on local structures, the local Reps, who are close to the people who are being served.

Third, the organization has understood how to manage the process of becoming a nonprofit organization in the United States. They’ve understood the system very well  for example, how to apply for grants, how to deal with tax codes. They’ve gone about all this objectively, not emotionally, and they’ve been very organized in their accounting.

A fourth thing is, their overhead is probably lower than most of the charitable organizations that I know about, because many times they depend on volunteers and other dedicated people.

Last but not least, [Coptic Orphans founder] Nermien Riad is extraordinarily organized and has very good leadership qualities.

CO: Looking forward, God willing, what should Coptic Orphans aspire to accomplish in our next 25 years?

AM: I envision Coptic Orphans being accepted by many of our second and third generation [Copts] in the United States. What we are doing, and what we hope to continue doing, is to attract not only immigrants and their children, but reach even the generations that follow. My son, for example, is committed to this work, but I want my children’s children to be part of Coptic Orphans. So I know that Coptic Orphans is going to young people’s conventions and retreats, and giving them some exposure to the organization. Also, the program of getting people to visit Egypt, Serve to Learn, is very good.

The other thing that’s important is that we concentrate on telling other organizations, as well as the people at various churches, and people who aren’t Copts, to be part of Coptic Orphans’ work. Because, as you know, people go on missions all over the world. Coptic Orphans can be very helpful by telling them “Go to Egypt.”

In addition, I really hope Coptic Orphans will increase its giving to not only Copts, but also to Muslims. In other words, we need to show our love to everybody, regardless of their faith, or race, or gender. That’s what the Lord asked us to do — to love everyone.