Category Archives: Diaspora

Cycling for the Children Raises Funds, Spirits in California!

Gearing up in California to support the children in Egypt!

Dear Friends,

When Coptic Orphans supporter Lara Mikhail from Tarzana, CA, reached out with her idea of hosting a SoulCycle fundraising event, I was thrilled, but when I actually saw the pictures and read her email about how the event went, I had to share it with you. I’m constantly amazed at how the cause of educating orphaned children in Egypt can create a spirit of generosity that transcends continents. As participant Sawsan Rafidi said: “The donors participated in a fitness program and the recipients were helped with much-needed funds . The event brought together kids and adults of all ages, cementing family ties and friendships. It made us make new friends in the spirit of giving.”

— Nermien Riad

Firstly, I’d like to thank every single person who made the long drive out to SoulCycle Brentwood on that hot Saturday afternoon. Thank you for deciding that it was worth sweating buckets and doing something that you’ve never done before in order to make a difference. The money that was raised will make a huge difference in the lives of many Coptic orphans.

A year ago, I was seeing SoulCycle everywhere; every drive down to the west side of Los Angeles we were passing multiple branches, and pictures of the trendy yellow cycles and neon signs were dominating my Instagram feed. At the start of the summer, I finally decided that I needed to see what the hysteria was all about. Walking into my class at SoulCycle West Hollywood, I saw such a diverse group of people. I could see how it has formed a community; people of all backgrounds united by cycling.

This past year has been extremely focused on diversity, tolerance, and peace in the wake of many hate crimes and terrorist acts. Despite all the terrible things happening around us, as Christians, we must have faith.  The major attacks against Coptic Christians in the past few months have significantly affected me. How can such tragedies happen on God’s watch? Where is all the love in the world? What struck me most is how little the media is covering these horrific attacks. How are the people lost in Manchester worth over a week of coverage while the 28 Copts brutally shot on their way to pray only deserve a place in the news ticker? I decided that despite my strong faith, it is not enough. I needed to take action, not only to raise money to help the children, some of whom were orphaned as a result of these attacks, but also to raise awareness of the situation of Coptic Christians.

The event itself was simple to put on. Through conversations with family and friends, and through my social media, I let everyone know that by showing up at SoulCycle on June 10, they could make a difference for fatherless Coptic children in some of Egypt’s poorest communities! Each person gave a gift to take part, and that money is now supporting the 10,000 children who receive love and mentoring from Church-based Coptic Orphans volunteers, as well as access to quality education such as private tutoring and school supplies. It was a big success: over 50 people showed up to cycle, sweat, and support the children!

Here are some of the reactions people had to participating:

“It was especially important for me to attend and support Coptic orphans who have lost everything. The least I can do for my brothers and sisters in Christ is help provide for their needs. They are entitled to a peaceful life and to partake in helping them reach that goal is very satisfying. Our every bit of donation helps! The Bible says, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.’ (James 2:14-17).” ~ Alina Ovesepyan

“I didn’t really know anything about Coptic orphans or their treatment in Egypt before, but then when I was invited to the SoulCycle event I looked up Coptic Orphans and I found out about what the organization does to help the Coptic widows and orphans in Egypt. It was really interesting to see the issues that exist and how Coptic Orphans is helping support families and I’m glad I got to help out in a small way.” ~ Gabi Berchtold

“It was my first time soul cycling; the experience was overall amazing and fulfilling as I knew it was all for a great cause. We live so caught up in our own lifestyle that we forget to do things that benefit others. This event was a reminder that taking a minute of your day can sure make a difference. It was rewarding in so many levels. Rewarding for me and for someone in need.” ~ Sandy Zelada

“My heart broke when I read about all the children that are only technically ‘orphaned,’ not because both their parents are dead… but because the widowed mothers cannot afford to feed their children. Horrific evil and injustice pervade this world every day and I am often blinded and demoralized by this. I lose my drive; I lose my hope. But then I meet people like you. And I am reminded that there is beauty and love and something worth fighting for here still. Changing the lives of ten or two or one of these orphans is changing the world. It’s changing their world and the value in that is unquantifiable.” ~ Molly Dent

“We are aware that the Coptic people are targeted against and so may innocent people are suffering and being killed from hate crimes. We had a great time and it felt so good to sweat it all out for a great cause!” ~ Natasha Mandelman

I truly believe that my generation has the power to make a difference. I’m amazed every day by my peers who are actively participating in their community and so persistent in their determination to change the world.  For this reason, I chose SoulCycle as my platform for fundraising in order to attract more young people and make them more aware of my mission. It is extremely important for all teens to know about this situation in Egypt so that they can be active in helping the Coptic Christian community and promoting love and tolerance.

I hope that this event inspires other young Egyptians to get involved. There are so many creative ways of fundraising, and hosting a SoulCycle charity ride was fun and easy. My ride for Egypt was much more than raising money; I raised awareness.

If you would like to host a fundraising event for Coptic Orphans, please send us your idea at info@copticorphans.org. Thank you, and may God bless you!

Here’s a Free Way You Can Help the Kids in Egypt Every Time You Shop Online!


Did you know that last year, generous and conscientious online Christmas buyers and sellers raised over $3,400 for the children in Egypt?

That’s enough to extend the benefits of Coptic Orphans’ programs — quality education, better housing, medical care, mentoring — to 5 new children for a full year. Imagine changing the lives of 5 children just by shopping online!

But this opportunity isn’t just about Christmas! Now, you can support Coptic Orphans’ kids all year round by using major online retailers.If you’re anything like me, you’re doing most of your shopping online. It’s convenient, hassle-free, and it lets you do something that you can’t do in a store — send this “free” money to support the children of Egypt.

Here’s how you can do it. Many online retailers, like Amazon, will donate to the nonprofit of your choice just for shopping on their site. Others, like eBay, give you the option to easily donate every time you buy or sell on their site. It’s free. All you have to do is choose which nonprofit your donation will go to. You can choose Coptic Orphans, so that your purchases are 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 have gift-giving programs, and each one is a little different. To make it easier, I’m going to tell you about the two biggest ones, eBay Giving Works and AmazonSmile.eBay Giving Works is an easy and convenient way of giving a little bit every time you buy or sell on eBay. The next time you’re about to check out on eBay, you’ll have the opportunity to choose and follow Coptic Orphans from a drop-down menu. Alternatively, you can follow Coptic Orphans on eBay by clicking here. And once you follow us, eBay will save your preferences and you’ll find our name pre-selected for you every time you check out on their site.

Sellers on eBay will have the opportunity to give a percentage of their sales to their favorite nonprofit. eBay will prorate listing fees based off of percentage donated. To learn more about how eBay promotes selling for charities, visit the eBay for Charity page here.
Amazon Smile is very 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!

Thank you for shopping online in this simple, easy, free way that can bring so much joy to children in Egypt!

‘My People, Egypt’

Dear Friends, 

I’m proud to present this guest post by Dr. John Awad, a recent graduate of the George Washington University School of Medicine, on our responsibility as Copts living outside of Egypt towards our brothers and sisters who are still there. I have met John in the past and have always been struck by his gift of always speaking the truth and always speaking it in love.

— Nermien Riad

On May 21st, 2017, I received my diploma for completing graduate school while at the George Washington University. That day was one of celebration and joy. Thousands of families of various ethnic and religious backgrounds came together to see hundreds of their children achieve lifelong dreams after years of hardship, toil, and struggle. Adorned in our graduation regalia, we took pictures, smiled, hugged, and stood reminiscing over the last four years regarding how much we learned and accomplished in our short time spent in the capital of the United States. And in one of those pictures, I, along with fellow Muslim and Coptic classmates, held proudly the flag of our home nation, Egypt.

I speak of Egypt because Egypt is a part of me. No matter where I go or what journey I embark on, I will always be an Egyptian American. Egypt is the country that reared my mother and father. Egypt is the land in which many of my aunts and uncles, first cousins, and numerous other relatives live today. Egypt is the land of my Coptic heritage, a heritage that extends thousands of years to the people of ancient Egypt. It is a heritage that I am proud of and share with all whom I come across. I am inextricably tied to Egypt, and Egypt to me. Thus, as long as I live, how could I ever forget my country Egypt, and my brothers and sisters living there daily in fear for their lives?

In recent weeks and months, our Coptic community has been the target of numerous bombings and bloody massacres carried out by radical Islamic militants seeking to destabilize Egypt, eliminate Coptic Christians, and drive a gulf between us and our Muslim brethren in the country. In the last year alone, we have had a myriad of killings aimed at bringing our community to its knees. According to the Esshad database (https://eshhad.timep.org/database) an “online platform that aggregates and collates alleged religious persecution and sectarian attacks in Egypt”, there have been over 500 incidents of sectarian violence directed at Copts in Egypt since 2013 alone. Prominent among these are the following:

• May 26, 2017- at least 29 Coptic Christians killed by gunmen as they rode buses to visit Saint Samuel the Confessor Monastery in Minya
• April 9, 2017- 29 killed in bombing St. George’s Cathedral in Tanta and 18 killed in bombing at St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Alexandria
• February 2017- 7 killed in various incidents throughout Arish, including shootings and a beheading while over 140 Coptic families were forced to flee Arish for Ismailia due to pressure by Sinai insurgents
• December 11, 2016- 29 killed in a bombing in St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo.

Aside from these larger attacks, there have been isolated incidents including the murder of a Coptic storeowner in Alexandria on January 3rd, the murder of a Coptic husband and wife as they slept in Menoufia on January 6th, the slaying of a Coptic doctor in Assiut on January 13th, and the killing of a man on January 17th in Masr al-Qadima. All of this is indicative of the larger problem within Egypt—that Copts have been increasingly targeted and murdered for their faith while the Western world is largely silent.

But we in the West, afforded the liberties of democracy and free speech, do not have to be silent. While our brothers and sisters at home suffer greatly, with little in the way of freedom of speech and few options for respite, we possess an incredible platform to speak out regarding these persecutions. In fact, it is our moral obligation to do so, and to do anything less is an evil in and of itself. Our Lord Christ at the beginning of His ministry reiterated the fundamental tenets of His mission as laid out in Isaiah 61:1-2: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19). Our families in Egypt are brokenhearted. They have lost so much and suffered for so long. They live in daily fear for their lives because of an unfair and naïve hatred perpetrated by darkness. They have been shot, bombed, burned, stabbed, beaten, and imprisoned for their love for Christ. And yet they still believe in Christ and they still love others and they still desire a unified Egypt where Muslims and Christians dwell together in peace and harmony.

We can learn so much from our families in Egypt if we pay attention to their patience and unwavering faith in these dark times. They neither call for retaliation nor death for the perpetrators of these crimes, crying out instead, “we forgive you”. And in terms of their faith, they shout, “with our soul and with our blood we redeem the cross”. They truly follow in the footsteps of the martyrs before them, who shed their blood so our Church can survive and so we can worship in safety in the US, Australia, Europe, Africa, Bolivia, and elsewhere while they cannot enjoy these same freedoms. Without their sacrifices, none of us would be able to sit where we are today and worship in peace each day.

The late Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor, author, political activist, and Nobel Laureate among other things was quoted as saying, “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.” Likewise, in the same thought, St. James in his epistle writes that “to him who knows to do good, and does not do it, to him it is a sin” (James 4:17). Therefore, in this light, it is our duty to make known the suffering of our Coptic brethren at home. We must tell the public around us what they are facing daily and how they are discriminated against in both law and everyday life. We must share proudly—both in person and social media—with our neighbors who we are and what we believe. We must keep alive the traditions handed down to us by our forefathers, the traditions that martyrs like Saints Abanob and Moses the Strong and Mena sought to preserve. We must remember the names of every single person killed and lost in these attacks, asking for their prayers on our behalf and praying for the repose of their souls.

In practical terms, we can donate our money and time to charities like the Saint Verena Charity, Coptic Orphans, and others that visit the families of those martyred and offer financial, emotional, and spiritual support during these trying times. We should support efforts, such as those by Coptic churches across North America, to raise money for metal detectors to be placed outside of every church in Egypt for security purposes. We should reach out to members of our government to make them aware of these persecutions and ask that they not only condemn these killings but also offer support to Egypt and its Coptic people in the midst of these dangerous times. The United States and its citizens can have a sincerely positive humanitarian influence when we unite our voices together to say that we can no longer accept discrimination of any minority whether they be Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu or any other religion, creed, and ethnicity. And having been a persecuted minority back home, we should reach out to the marginalized minorities in the West and seek to serve them with love, drawing on our own experiences to fully engage these communities and assist them with all their needs.

Finally, we should live as Christ taught us, loving those who desire to harm us, blessing those who curse us, doing good to those who hate us, and praying for those who spitefully use and persecute us (Matthew 5:44). We genuinely pray for those who commit these atrocities that they may find love and peace, and turn away from this evil to find the Truth. We also pray for our Muslim neighbors in this time of Ramadan, that their holy month may be blessed and that we would live together as brothers and sisters in peace and harmony. We strongly condemn any harm against the Muslim community in the US as well, and seek to always maintain cordiality, peace and unity together as we build a better future here in the West.

Lastly, let us never forget our Coptic families. They died because they found something worth dying for, and that is something we should never be ashamed of. To forget them, is to forget our identity, and to essentially forget ourselves. May God watch over us always: Long live Egypt and long live the Egyptian people.