Category Archives: Issues:Education

‘You’ll Be Able to Serve the Kids Through Love’ — Mina Awad Reflects on New Serve to Learn Medical Initiative

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Dear Friend,

I often hear people exclaim, “it’s such a small world!”— And I always think: “that is so true— especially in the Coptic community!” This guest blog post by Mina Awad, from Indianapolis, shows just how small the Coptic community really is, and how different parts of it often come together in mysterious ways to unfold God’s plan to serve his children. Mina Awad is part of a dedicated group of volunteers who have been working hard to put together a service trip for aspiring medical professionals. The Serve to Learn medical education initiative will be running alongside our normal Serve to Learn trip this June 18-July 9. Read Mina’s post to see how a mission trip to Nigeria introduced him to an organization called  the Coptic Medical Association of North America (CMANA) and how his friend Crestin‘s experience with Serve to Learn introduced him to Coptic Orphans; see? — “it is such a small world!”

—Nermien

“I see Jesus in every human being. I say to myself, this is hungry Jesus, I must feed him. This is sick Jesus. This one has leprosy or gangrene; I must wash him and tend to him. I serve because I love Jesus.” – Mother Teresa

This quote was the motive behind me wanting to serve overseas, and the inspiration for a journey that ultimately helped shape the new medical education initiative of Serve to Learn.

Here’s how the story unfolded:

Reading Mother Teresa’s quote made me want to go to Africa and help those less fortunate than myself. To make a true difference and have an impact on someone else’s life, whether by teaching young kids about God, sharing a word with a homeless man, handing out gifts, or even preaching the true faith. I saw myself living an incredible life here in the United States, and desired the opportunity to give back to someone else is in need. And what a better place to do that than in Africa?

In April of 2014, I got a call from a friend and I found out that there was a mission trip to Nigeria coming up in June with a very blessed group, and I knew that I had to go. I contacted the group and June couldn’t come quickly enough. Finally, my chance to make a change and an impact in someone else’s life was here.

I was very worried about the trip to Nigeria, and my parents were even more worried due to the security situation of the country. But my worry was about whether or not I could actually make a difference, or whether I was just wasting my time.

After speaking to a few people, I felt a very strong calling to go through with the trip. As soon as we arrived, I was greeted with an astonishing sight of poverty, more than I could’ve imagined. The village we stayed in, close to the city of Calabar, was made up of mud huts and a few tree branches. The circumstances that these people lived in were unsanitary, and hit me in a wave of surprises. People didn’t have any bathrooms, they had no running water, and their kitchen was almost always behind their house using a fire hand drill.

I couldn’t help but feel sorry for their way of living, especially compared to mine. Over the next two weeks, I spoke with these people, felt God’s hand shaping me, and learned many lessons that will stick with me for the rest of my life. Going in, I wanted to make a change, and impact someone’s life. Help feed a few people and preach the gospel to some kids. But in actuality, by the time I left Calabar, my life was changed. Each person that I had the blessing to speak with had impacted my life. The gospel was preached and fed to me through their unshaken faith, and their constant thanksgiving to God. I wanted to make a difference, but instead I left different.

My trip to Nigeria ignited my passion for mission work, for wanting to serve in order to be filled by Him, and shaped as His vessel. It also taught me a lot about an incredible organization called the Coptic Medical Association of North America (CMANA).

CMANA is a nonprofit organization that aims at uniting all Egyptian Christian healthcare providers by medically helping those in need, as well as through education and networking. CMANA coordinates multiple medical treatment mission trips all over the world, and is a leader in the Coptic mission in Africa.

A portion of the Nigeria mission trip focused on the medical treatment aspect of mission work. I was amazed at the lack of education that people in these countries had regarding simple medical knowledge such as hygiene and preventative medicine.

A year later, a friend of mine had the incredible opportunity to do a Serve to Learn trip for three weeks in Egypt with Coptic Orphans. She had a very similar experience to the one I had in Nigeria, and was also astonished at how little knowledge was available regarding simple medical issues.

At almost the same time that I talked to my friend about her experience with Serve to Learn, I received a call from my cousin, a third-year medical student. He told me that he wanted to use his medical knowledge to serve his brothers and sisters in Christ in Egypt. After a few discussions among the three of us, we arrived at the concept of a medical education service trip to Egypt through collaboration between Coptic Orphans and CMANA.

This three-week trip to Egypt, as an aspect of Serve to Learn, will focus on simple yet creative ways of delivering a health-focused curriculum to orphaned children of all ages in Coptic Orphans’ programs. We will focus on three medical topics: wound care, hygiene, and nutrition, providing instruction in English through fun activities that the kids can understand and relate to.

By putting our love for these children to work by teaching them basic health knowledge, we can help improve their lives, and build a more health-conscious generation of Coptic children.

By being a part of the medical initiative of this Serve to Learn trip, you’ll be able to serve the kids through love, compassion, hope, and education.

I encourage you to apply soon — the deadline is March 15 for the medical initiative, and April 1 to serve at one of the sites of the “regular” English-teaching Serve to Learn that Coptic Orphans has been running for over a decade. You can find the applications here.

You will make an impact on this trip, not just in each one of the children’s lives, but also in their homes and families. But that is not the only reason I would encourage you to go. I encourage you to apply soon because you will meet so many beautiful children who will touch your heart. They will look up to you as an older sibling, with nothing but love in their hearts and smiles on their faces. The love that you receive will leave you with no alternative but to open your heart and love them back. That is when the change happens.

Interested in learning more about Serve to Learn? Check out our page and our new video, which gives a snapshot of the program! Any questions you’d like to ask a real human being? Call or email Mira Fouad, who runs Serve to Learn, at 703-641-8910 or at mfouad@copticorphans.org

Coptic Orphans Welcomes Dr. Neveen Waheeb

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Dr. Neveen Waheeb’s expertise will enrich Coptic Orphans’ work with the children.

I am pleased to announce that Dr. Neveen Waheeb joined Coptic Orphans in August. Dr. Waheeb’s expertise in educational psychology adds depth to our team. In her new post, she will be in charge of capacity-building for our already strong field staff.

Dr. Waheeb’s vast experience in researching and working with Egypt’s vulnerable children is particularly relevant to Coptic Orphans’ work. Her specialized training in parent-child counseling will strengthen our capacity to train our staff and more than 450 Church-based volunteers in effective interventions at the family level. She also brings to the table valuable knowledge of how to deal with child abuse, and a research-based understanding of the effects of violence on children.

Dr. Waheeb’s past experience spans an important cross-section of Egypt’s non-profit community, including the St. Markarious Foundation, St. Augustine Educational, and the Alliance of Arab Women. Her arrival at Coptic Orphans widens the ever-growing circle of non-governmental organizations with whom we have connections.

We’re very proud to welcome Dr. Waheeb to the Coptic Orphans Program Department. Her Ph.D. in the psychology of education is directly relevant to Coptic Orphans’ mission to empower children to break the cycle of poverty through education.

We look forward to Dr. Waheeb’s expertise enriching our work with the children, enabling us to strengthen programs and better train staff and volunteers to connect with and serve vulnerable children.

Great News from Egypt This Mother’s Day

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Love, healthcare, better education… these are things we all pray for for our families on Mother’s Day.

Good news about Egypt is precious these days, so I wanted to share a few wonderful developments that give me a feeling of hope.  

I came across the following news this morning in Save the Children’s new State of the World’s Mothers report, and I thought,  “What a perfect Mother’s Day gift for someone who loves Egypt as much as I do!”

To make a long story short, Egypt still has a long way to go to improve healthcare. But if you’re a mother or child in an urban area, there is extremely good news. The report reveals (emphasis added):

Egypt has made good child survival gains among its most affluent urban residents (47 percent reduction in under-5 mortality between 1995 and 2008) but even better gains for the poorest (66 percent reduction over the same time period). As a result, the poorest urban children in Egypt have gone from being 3.7 times as likely to die before their fifth birthday (in 1995) as the urban best-off to 2.4 times as likely to die (in 2008).

The report (the section on Egypt is a good read — I recommend it) also describes successes in immunizations, family planning, and clean water.

What’s most interesting about this news is that it points to Egypt’s potential to solve problems. For some people, it’s fashionable to talk about Egypt as hopeless. Well, this kind of progress shows that it’s not.

So how did this progress come about? The report asks that question:

How did Cairo achieve success? The city’s remarkable progress is the result of national health system reforms, specialized programs and the persistent efforts of civil society organizations.

I want to bite on that last bit again. Not only does Egypt’s health ministry deserve some long-overdue respect, but some of the thanks for this progress are also due to non-governmental organizations. Partnership!

As you know, here at Coptic Orphans, we see everything through the lens of using education to break the cycle of poverty. So this report has big implications.

We all know the bad news about Egypt’s schools — overcrowded, underfunded, in decay. But we have to stop thinking of education in Egypt as being in unstoppable decline, and start thinking big.

Solutions are out there. If they’re anything like the ones for healthcare, it will take smart and strategic partnerships between Egypt’s government and civil society. Not to speak of the force behind all transformations — God — and our willingness to let Him guide our work.

This is something Coptic Orphans has given a lot of thought to. With your support, we’ve accumulated decades of experience in supporting kids, both in and out of the classroom. Where lessons can be learned from our experience, we’re ready to step up. The gains that we make will be for the kids, and the benefits will  reach the mothers.

On future Mother’s Days, if we want good news like this for moms and children, we’re going to have to make it happen. It will take partnership, support, and good will from everyone in Egypt and the diaspora who wants to see progress. If it could be done for healthcare, let’s do it for education!