Category Archives: Approaches to Charity and Development

Coptic Orphans Launches B’edaya Microfinance Initiative Round III

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Widows celebrate receiving their B’edaya microfinance loan packages at a private ceremony in Luxor.

I’m excited to share this news with the whole Coptic Orphans family: Round III of the B’edaya microfinance initiative for mothers has officially launched!

Coptic Orphans recently held ceremonies around Egypt honoring the 42 widowed mothers who will receive LE243,500 (US$27,400) in microloans for income-generating projects.

These mothers are heroes to all of us at Coptic Orphans, and by God’s grace, we’re honored to provide them with both microloans and coaching in entrepreneurial skills to develop their inborn perseverance, ingenuity, and business-savvy.

An Egyptian woman who wants to start a business faces barriers that would make Donald Trump cry. But Egypt’s widows face even huger challenges. How they dress, who they talk to, where they go — all of these are subject to scrutiny and control based on tradition. Frequently, they can’t even leave the house to work, even if their children are malnourished.

It’s exactly these hostile conditions that B’edaya is designed to handle — the everyday life of some of the most disadvantaged widows in Egypt, particularly those in remote villages. It tailors small loans to the needs of the mothers of orphans. The aim is to give them an opportunity to generate income, more ability to feed their children, and more control of their lives.

The 42 mothers were selected from among a pool of 143 widows whose children are enrolled in Coptic Orphans’ education-focused Not Alone program. Seven of the mothers are receiving B’edaya loans for the second time, after running and expanding their income-generating projects, and one is receiving a loan for the third time.

“When my husband died, I felt alone and helpless. I was about to sell his photography studio, because according to the traditions in my village, as a widow, I can’t run the business and deal with the public,” one B’edaya client from Kom El Dab’, Menoufeya said at the ceremony.

“After I enrolled my kids with Not Alone, Coptic Orphans representatives encouraged me not to sell the business, but instead to stand up for my right to work and raise my kids with pride and dignity,” she said. “So I re-opened the studio and ran the business to ensure a dignified life for my kids. With this new loan, I’m going to buy a digital camera so I can photograph weddings, which is very profitable in our area.”

Coptic Orphans launched B’edaya Round III in March, in order to honor International Women’s Day (March 8) and Egypt’s Mother’s Day (March 21), with the following three ceremonies:

• Ma3adi, March 4, to honor 12 mothers from Lower Egypt and Greater Cairo
• Bani Mazar, Minya, March 11, to honor 18 mothers from Middle Egypt
• Luxor, March 18, to honor 12 mothers from Upper Egypt

The ceremonies represent the culmination of nine months of preparatory work to ensure proper planning, training, and an effective selection process. At the events, loan recipients received their checks, took part in basic financial training, and were familiarized with additional details about B’edaya. The events also provided an opportunity for the mothers to network, share experiences, and trade contact information. Previous loan recipients appeared onstage to present their advice and experiences to the Round III participants.

“This is my second time taking out a B’edaya loan,” said a client from Ezbet El Nakhl, Cairo. “I started my first project two years ago with a B’edaya loan to sell bedding and bed sheets.”

“Back then, I was so shy and afraid to take the risk, but the Coptic Orphans representative encouraged me and I succeeded in overcoming my fears and establishing a strong network of clients,” she said. “From the income I generated, I was able to pay back my first loan, and renovate my kitchen, bathroom, and living room. This made me feel proud of myself for the first time. I’m taking out the second loan to expand my business by adding the sale of women’s accessories. I’m much better now at marketing and communicating with my customers, so they’ve ask me to sell them these things.”

B’edaya microloans are offered at 0 % interest for 26 months, with the first six months considered a grace period for loan repayment, followed by six equal installments spaced four months apart. The loans disbursed to each recipient vary in size according to the amount requested in the application process, up to a maximum of LE7,000. The amount is also subject to the assessment of the selection committee, which is made up of the Coptic Orphans program management team.

The LE7,000 ceiling is a significant increase compared to Round II, when the total amount of loans dispersed was LE91,000 disbursed to 29 mothers, with a maximum sum of LE4,000 and a 14-month repayment period.

B’edaya Round III encompasses 13 type of projects ranging from selling livestock feed (4), selling groceries (11), selling women’s accessories (2), selling fabrics, bedding, and sheets (1), selling cleaning products (1), raising and selling cattle (5), raising and selling poultry (3), selling machine-sewn products (8) running a photo studio (1), selling upholstery (1), selling shoes and accessories (2), running an ironing service (1), and styling hair (2).

B’edaya Round III activities in 2016 and beyond will include quarterly home visits to the entrepreneurial mother by Coptic Orphans staff and volunteers, who will monitor the progress of the projects and provide regular coaching.

B’edaya shows what we can do when we pull together, as a community, and set our minds on achieving dignity and self-sufficiency — not dependence on charity — for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Children who grow up in a household where B’edaya is working can see their mother in a whole new light, as a creative, hard-working businesswoman. This can make a huge difference for the whole family!

I’ll keep you posted as B’edaya unfolds further. All of us, as the Coptic Orphans family, are grateful to God for the blessing of working alongside these strong, determined mothers. They are role models for their kids! 

Did You Know? Simply by Shopping at Amazon This Christmas, You Can Help Egypt’s Children Break Free of Poverty!

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Dear Friend,

Will you be using Amazon or other online retailers this Christmas? If you are, there’s an easy way you can make every purchase into a life-changing gift for orphans in Egypt.

Here’s how you can do it. Many online retailers will donate to the nonprofit of your choice just for shopping on their site. It’s free. All you have to do is choose which nonprofit your donation will go to. This year, you can choose Coptic Orphans, so that your Christmas generosity is transformed into quality education, health care, and many other benefits that help children grow up stronger and break the cycle of poverty.

Many online retailers offer this gift-giving, and each one is a little different. To make it easier, I’m listing a couple of the larger ones, so that your Christmas cheer reaches all the way to Egypt!

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Amazon Smile is simple. Every time you buy an item using smile.amazon.com, .5% of your purchase goes to a pre-selected nonprofit organization . You don’t have to pay a single extra penny. On your first visit to AmazonSmile, you will be prompted to select a charitable organization from a list of eligible organizations, search for Coptic Orphans and you’re good to go. But remember, this only works if you use smile.amazon.com, so add it to your favorites list!

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Love coupons? Try GoodShop.  It has coupons for thousands of different online stores, so it saves you money. And not only that, every time you buy something through GoodShop, they make a donation to a charity of your choice ! Save money AND change the lives of children in Egypt, what could be better?

Here’s how to use GoodShop:

1. Visit goodsearch.com, and go to the “How It Works” tab on the upper right of the page.
2. Select “Support a Cause” in the drop down menu.
3. Type “Coptic Orphans” when asked “Who Do You Want to Help?”
4. Register and create a user profile that allows you to track how much you’ve raised for the kids.
5. Use the GoodShop tab at the top of the homepage or go to GoodShop to visit their online shopping mall and browse through thousands of partner stores, including top brands in clothing, office supplies, gifts and more.
6. Click through to the store and shop as you normally would. You pay nothing extra, but a portion of all qualifying purchases will go to your cause.
7. 100% of the donation amount displayed on merchant’s GoodShop page will go to Coptic Orphans for the children.

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I’m just adding this one in because it’s a favorite of ours at the Coptic Orphans office. GoodSearch.com isn’t quite like the rest of these give-as-you-buy websites… it’s even cooler. GoodSearch is a search engine that donates 1¢ every time you search for something online. All Coptic Orphans staff members have been using GoodSearch and we’ve already earned enough to enroll one more child into our program for an entire year! It’s great to see the pennies add up into life-changing opportunities for our kids! Here’s how to make GoodSearch your search engine, and generate money for the kids with every search:

1. Visit www.goodsearch.com and — again, under the “How It Works” tab, and the drop down menu’s “Support a Cause” item — enter “Coptic Orphans” when asked who you want to support.
2. Create a user profile that will allow you to keep track of how much you’ve raised for the kids.
3. Use the search box on our homepage or download a Good To-Go add-on to search the Internet just like you normally would, with the added bonus that you are earning a donation to the children for virtually every search.

Two Blankets in Wintertime (Are Not the Most Wondrous Thing)

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Keeping her children warm is not the only thing that Salma’s been able to change since starting her business.

Imagine the sense accomplishment you’d feel at being able to buy blankets for your children when before they’d shivered on chilly nights. Furthermore, imagine being able to buy your kids a new mattress to keep them off the cold tiled floor of your home.

That’s the sense of accomplishment that Salma has — and she’s a widow who’s never before experienced economic empowerment.

Salma, a mother of two young children, lost her husband eight years ago in a traffic accident. Her troubles were compounded by health problems.

I met Salma in the Upper Egyptian city of Sohag, where up until recently, she and her family endured the brief but chilly winter nights as best they could. Her sense of what she had to put up with in life, though, has changed since six years ago. That’s when she got involved with B’edaya.

Using a small loan provided by the project, she started a hairdressing business in her home. B’edaya allowed her to develop her enterprise by buying modern equipment. With that boost, she went from having to travel to her clients, to having them come to her house for appointments.

“The equipment is what attracts the ladies to come to me,” she told me, showing off the neat wooden shelves where she stacks her hair dryer, combs, and hair care supplies.

“Salma is very wise in how she manages the profits from her business,” said Susan, the Coptic Orphans staff member who oversees Salma’s loan. Indeed, the money from styling her neighbors’ hair has purchased the new mattress and blankets that keep Salma’s kids warm at night.

This is all part of the B’edaya strategy, which emphasizes empowerment over handouts. For all of the widows who take out loans, the capital and the income it helps generate are good things. But the loan is only a catalyst — a means for Salma to harness her inner drive and latent abilities, and in the process, be transformed.

It’s especially important to focus on transformation in the society where Salma is from, because traditions about widowhood in Upper Egypt are piled on top of other patriarchal constraints. The end result is that widows are often house-bound and kept helpless. To see a widow in this situation evolve into a businesswoman, therefore, is quite extraordinary. The blankets and mattress, in this context, are the smallest wonders I can see in Salma’s home.

As is proper, B’edaya can’t take credit for this transformation. That credit goes to Salma herself. And that’s how it should be.

*Name changed to protect the privacy of B’edaya participant.