Category Archives: Issues:Education

‘God’s Presence Infiltrated Life’ — Andrew Awad Recalls Serve to Learn

Andy
His Holiness Pope Tawadros II speaks with Andrew Awad on July 12, 2014, at a special meeting with Serve to Learn volunteers.

Heads up! The last day to apply for the Jan. 16-Feb. 7 Serve to Learn is November 15!

Serve to Learn is a life-changing , three-week trip to Egypt that brings together youth from all over the world to teach loving, inspiring, and adorable children basic English.  Arabic and teaching skills are helpful but not necessary; just be ready for some hard work, lots of love, and to be forever changed!

Today, so you can hear about the program from someone who did it, I’m bringing you an interview with 2014 Serve to Learn volunteer Andy Awad from Houston.

Andy went to the University of Texas at Austin and studied kinesiology and health science. He’s currently in Pittsburgh studying dentistry, and he plans to use his profession “to serve the Lord.” Andy has a “personal conviction of the importance of the lay person in the function of the Body of Christ” that drives his quest for service.

Andy’s thoughts are part of a series of interviews on Serve to Learn, a program we’ve been running for over a decade. Here, in addition, are interviews with volunteers DavidBen, Kirollos, MariamAlex, and Mirelle.

Here’s what Andy had so say about Serve to Learn 2014:

What would you say are the biggest differences between life as an Serve to Learn volunteer and your life back home?

One of the differences I noticed right away is that I was almost never bored. Our schedules were filled and there was rarely a dull moment. However, the main difference I noticed and enjoyed was that there weren’t many distractions and very little to worry about. This was amazing. Back home, there are 100 different things demanding my attention on any given day. When there isn’t, I have 100 different ways to just throw my time away. In Egypt it was different. I had a sense of purpose and God’s presence infiltrated life as I met the humble, loving people of El Barsha.

Did you find any similarities between your family at home and some of the people you saw while you were in Egypt? Did that surprise you?

One difference that I noticed immediately was that their g’s turn to j’s. This took some getting used to and by the end I was definitely more fluent in sa-eedy. The food and sense of humor, however, were the same. Egyptians always find a way to get their daily dose of laughter.

When you tell your friends about your summer, what stories do you tell most? Why?

I tell the stories of meeting Pope Tawadros, swimming in the Nile, el tar, eating mangos, Ansena, and about Akh Jerjes, the painter. Last but not least, I share the story of doing yoga on the rooftop as mohajabeen to scare away some boys spying on the ladies.

What was your favorite thing about the trip?

My favorite part of the trip was meeting the children we taught at their homes. Although, if there was a way to meet all the kids specifically from my class it would have been better. Meeting and connecting with them on a closer level in their homes allowed me to imagine myself in their shoes.

For people unsure about going on Serve to Learn, how would you convince them?

I would tell them this: Serve to Learn was a very enlightening experience. It forced me to reconsider what was important to me, and even helped me to better understand God’s purpose for me here. Also, by the end of the trip my views on Egypt changed drastically. I found it to be a much more beautiful place. Not because of its economy, political turmoil, or corruption, but because of its people and how God worked in them. The memories I made there will definitely last.

You can apply now for Serve to Learn; the November 15 deadline is practically here! Don’t forget that applications for the July 3-25 session are also out! If you still have questions, you can learn more by reading the Serve to Learn FAQ, or by writing to us directly at info@copticorphans.org.

Also, you can watch His Holiness encourage young people to serve the children in Egypt in this video made at one of Coptic Orphans’ recent 25th Anniversary Galas. Lastly, you can check out  the “Top 5 Myths Why You Can’t Take Part in Serve to Learn Debunked.” 

PS  Please go to the top of this post and hit the “Like” button, then share the post, tweet it, email it to everyone you know, print it out and pass it out to five of your friends, and finally, stand in the middle of a busy intersection with a megaphone and shout it out!  

Educating Women: How Copts Led the Way, and Why It Matters

A Big Sister-Little Sister pair tackles a learning experience in the Valuable Girl Project.
A Big Sister-Little Sister pair tackles a learning experience in the Valuable Girl Project.

Did you know that a Coptic pope was responsible for the first modern-day steps to educate women in Egypt?

The first instance of modern female education in Egypt came about “not by the efforts of a secular ruler,” but through the vision of His Holiness Pope Kyrillos IV, as I was just reading in an interview with Sam Tadros.

That insight from Tadros, the author of Motherland Lost: The Egyptian and Coptic Quest for Modernity, gave me pause. Right there, it struck me, is the spiritual root of Coptic Orphans’ Valuable Girl Project.

What’s amazing is that Pope Kyrillos IV, as far back as the period 1854-1861, anticipated not only the need to teach women, but also the importance of making more educational resources available to Muslims. As Tadros notes, “He established five modern schools that offered free education, even to Muslims — indeed, to all Egyptians.”

It’s no coincidence that the Valuable Girl Project, in practice, follows the trails blazed by Pope Kyrillos IV. The project focuses on bettering young women’s education, while being inclusive of both Christians and Muslims.

If you’re not familiar with it, in a nutshell, the Valuable Girl Project aims to promote the academic retention, education, and literacy tutorship of girls and young women in high-poverty areas of Egypt. Local coordinators based in our partner organizations oversee one-to-one mentorship programs through which young women in secondary school, the “Big Sisters,” become role models for girls in primary school, the “Little Sisters.”

The net effect is to support young women in their efforts to stay in school and gain dignity at home, in the classroom, and in the community. We’ve been running this project for 12 years now, and it reached a peak of 15 sites around Egypt. At total of 3,976 girls and young women have participated in the Valuable Girl Project — and we’re only getting started.

Why does all this matter?

Well, if you love the idea of a more prosperous Egypt, and you love unlocking the God-given potential of young women, then pairing education with girls is a match made in heaven.

Here’s where my love for data comes in. The World Bank report Measuring the Economic Gain of Investing in Girls: The Girl Effect Dividend cites research showing that educating girls “boosts long-run growth by 0.58 percentage points per year.” Moreover, a World Bank study in 1999 demonstrated that “increasing the secondary education of girls by 1% results in annual income increase of 0.3% per capita.”

When you look at percentages this small, they seem insignificant. But because they apply to the economic activity of the gargantuan that is Egypt, they end up meaning enormous progress.

These are the huge gains that Egypt can reap if we educate women, and I’m excited that we can achieve a more prosperous, developed motherland by following the vision of a Coptic pope.

Was It Your Prayer That Saved Her?

Marina has overcome the obstacles in her path, including the challenge of learning to read.
Marina has overcome the obstacles in her path, including the challenge of learning to read.

“I like reading spiritual books, but I have a hard time finding them.”

Seems like a normal remark, yes? Unless you know that it’s from a blind girl named Marina in the tiny Upper Egypt town of Tema. Not long before I met her, she looked headed for a life of endless days sitting at home, illiterate, in darkness.

Now? Marina is teaching other children in her church to read and studying to become an educator.

What changed for Marina? She benefited from loving, education-focused care from Coptic Orphans. When I met Marina in July, she read to me from her favorite Braille Bible stories, her fingertips skimming swiftly over the pages. She laughed. She cracked jokes. She talked with confidence about her future.

Can you imagine this transformation? Was it your prayers that saved Marina from a home-bound life, and helped unlock her God-given potential?

I do know this: Every day, many of us pray for the kids. I believe Matthew’s words: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you.”

I believe that in Marina’s case, we knocked, and God answered.

So I’m writing gratefully to share what I believe is the impact of your prayers, and to ask you to keep praying for all the children as the new school year arrives very soon.

Alongside your prayers, please also consider making a back-to-school gift to a child today by clicking here. Your gift can make a huge difference in that child’s life, giving them a critically needed extra boost of preparedness at the right time. Thank you.