Category Archives: Diaspora

Egypt, Leadership, and Putting Men on the Moon: An Interview With Dr. Farouk El-Baz

Our 25th Anniversary Gala in Reston, Virginia is now just days away! 

140923_Photo Green El BazI was excited to have the opportunity to ask Dr. Farouk El-Baz, who will receive our Leading by Example Award at the Gala on Oct. 11, about the experiences and perspectives that have shaped his life.

Dr. El-Baz, a former NASA scientist who was born in Zagazig, is one of the most influential modern scientists to hail from Egypt. He has a long and distinguished record of service to Egypt and humanity.

Today, Dr. El-Baz plays a prominent role in the world’s scientific community. He continues to inspire students through his classes and research at Boston University, and has put forth a vision for a powerful and transformative Development Corridor in Egypt. In addition, Dr. El-Baz is currently serving on the Advisory Council of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

Nermien Riad (NR): You’ve spent many years, in many countries, doing research and teaching. Yet clearly, you retain a strong love for Egypt. Why is that?

Dr. Farouk El-Baz (FB): Egypt is a country indeed, but it is also a notion  a thought that pulls you in. Once you feel belonging to Egypt, it remains in your heart and in your mind. It is said that “visitors who drink from Egypt’s Nile must return.” If that is true for foreign visitors, then it is much more to those born in Egypt.

NR: You played a key role in many of NASA’s Apollo lunar missions. What lessons in leadership did you gather from your work to put man’s first footprints on the Moon?

FB: The leadership of NASA in those days had one objective: to encourage each individual in the workforce to achieve “more than what they think they are capable of doing.” Each individual felt that his job was essential to achieving that momentous goal of reaching the Moon. I was neither educated nor trained in the things I did then. They were accomplished by self-learning, dedication, persistence, and very hard work.

NR: Like Coptic Orphans, you have a long-term commitment to a better Egypt. How is your research on arid climates, dersertification, and aquifers connected to that?

FB: Upon completion of the Apollo program, NASA enlisted my help in programs that applied what we learned to the study of the Earth. This was done through the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, Skylab, and Landsat programs. Through my inputs, these missions produced images of Egypt that explained things in a bird’s eye view. I began then to apply the new knowledge to help Egypt, especially upon my appointment as science adviser to the late President Anwar Sadat.

NR: You’ve put forth a plan for Egypt’s development that focuses strongly on innovative land use. Could you tell us a little about that?

FB: The “Development Corridor” was designed based on my geological knowledge of the landforms of Egypt and the potential of using them for the benefit of future generations. It opens over 10 million acres of land that is just west of the Nile for urban development, agriculture, industry, etc., close to the densely populated centers. Thus, it limits urban encroachment on the fertile land of the Nile and opens more vistas for innovation by younger generations.

The Development Corridor envisioned by Dr. El-Baz.
The Development Corridor envisioned by Dr. El-Baz.

NR: What do you miss most when you’re not in Egypt?

FB: When not in Egypt, I miss family members and my friends and colleagues. However, the “social media” ameliorates this somewhat, as communications are now much easier than in the past.

To learn more details about the Coptic Orphans 25th Anniversary Gala in Reston, Virginia on Oct. 11, and to obtain tickets, please visit our Gala web page. There, you can also view a video of His Holiness at our Gala in Canada, including his remark: “Bravo for your service. And I’m not sure who’s happier — you, or the children you serve.” Details about the Nov. 9 Australia Gala are also available there!

Did You Hear What His Holiness Said About You?


Dear Friends,

September 28, 2014, was an amazing day. That’s when His Holiness Pope Tawadros II blessed Coptic Orphans by appearing in person at our 25th Anniversary Gala in Canada to accept the Leading by Example Award.

I can’t describe what an honor it was that His Holiness made the time to receive the award that evening in Brampton, Ontario. His presence was an incredible affirmation of the 25 years of work that all of us have put in, together, for the love of the children of Egypt!

Today, I’m writing to share a video of His Holiness’ remarks at the Gala. Here they are:

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Of course, when His Holiness speaks about Coptic Orphans, he’s talking about you. You are the reason we’ve been able to reach this milestone of 25 years and 30,000 children empowered. Without so many devoted prayers, so much faithful volunteering, and such generous support, thousands of children in Egypt would be living much harder lives and be far less equipped with the tools they need to break the cycle of poverty.

It’s only by the grace of God that  together, we’ve come this far in 25 years, and we’re so grateful that His Holiness chose to describe our work this way!

Two more Coptic Orphans 25th Anniversary Galas are now just days away! We look forward to seeing you at the celebrations in the United States (Oct. 11) and Australia (Nov. 9). To learn more about venues, tickets, guests of honor, and other details, please see our Web page

How to Eat Well by Doing Good in Australia… In 4 Easy Steps

A lovely table and generous table, Oz style!
A lovely table and generous table, Oz style!

Dear Friends,
I’m happy to share this story from Australia today! It comes from Mary Loka, our donor relations associate. So grateful to these folks for being there for the children… good on ya, mates!
— Nermien Riad

Amidst all the preparations for Coptic Orphans’ 25th Anniversary Gala on Nov. 9 in Lilyfield, something extraordinary happened. It reminded me of the powerful spirit of volunteerism that lives in our Coptic heritage.

It all started last month, when I was approached by one of our sponsors. She wanted to organise a ladies’ fundraising dinner for Coptic Orphans within her circle of friends. Mariam is a wonderful and very organised lady with a generous heart for the orphans of Egypt.

Mariam did everything from A to Z, and we were just her cheering squad!

Here’s how she did it, in four easy steps. Well, it actually took a lot of hard work, but she made it look easy!

  1. She made a Facebook event to share the mission of Coptic Orphans with her friends, and started sharing Coptic Orphans videos every other day through this event page. That’s how she made people aware of our work and encouraged them to purchase tickets for the dinner.
  2. She booked the venue, and made sure her party would get a private room so that one of the Coptic Orphans board members could come speak with them without a lot of distractions.
  3. She networked and found many generous donors who donated a lot of gifts, which she then used for the dinner “goodie bags” and a raffle prize.
  4. She involved some beautiful young people from the church to help her put the goodie bags together, organise the raffle, and run trivia games during the event.

The dinner was sold out, the ladies had an amazing night, and they raised over AUS$2,000 for Coptic Orphans. Even better, they signed up to sponsor several children.

Hats off (on, actually) to the children of Egypt!
Hats off (on, actually) to the children of Egypt!

But what struck me the most was that 27 out of the 30 guests had never heard about Coptic Orphans before this dinner.

What Mariam did was more than just organise a fundraising dinner. She managed to spread the word in what would normally be a casual social event. She is an excellent example of a Coptic Orphans ambassador!

The youth crew - making a difference for Egypt!
The youth crew – making a difference for Egypt!

Many thanks from us at Coptic Orphans Australia to Mariam and her guests, who are making a difference for the children of Egypt!

By the grace of God, we are celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Coptic Orphans with Galas in Australia and the United States. We had the honored presence of His Holiness Pope Tawadros II at our Sept. 28 Gala in Canada, where he accepted the Leading by Example Award. Tickets to the Nov. 9 Gala in Lilyfield may be purchased online (where you can also get more details) or by contacting me at or 02-9787-9777