Category Archives: Issues That Impact Children in Egypt

When Preparations Replace Desperation

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Mothers and daughters can both benefit from Coptic Orphans programs.

“B’edaya has had a big impact on my life; it makes me feel that I’m not a burden on my kids, and I’m able to manage my household finances and prepare for my daughter’s marriage.”

When Shereen, a budding small businesswoman and micro-loan recipient, said these words to our staff, what stood out was her mention of preparing for her daughter’s marriage.

As we look ahead to launching a new round of micro-loans in March though our B’edaya microfinance initiative, I’m struck by how Shereen’s words show that just a bit of capital can change the life of a female entrepreneur. Her family members also feel the positive impact, with potentially life-changing results.

Her observation particularly sticks in my mind because, with economic hardships rising sharply in Egypt, Coptic Orphans field staff have noticed a serious increase in young girls being married off early. They usually end up in that situation because families – particularly those without male heads of household, whom this project serves – can’t cope with feeding “extra” mouths.

Early marriage, as anyone who’s familiar with it knows, can devastate the life of a child. The repercussions for a girl’s health, education, economic security, and happiness can be impossible to overcome.

As just one example of early marriage’s traumatic outcomes, a 2014 study by the American University in Cairo’s Social Research Center, in partnership with the Ford Foundation, found that 27% of women who were married before they turned 18 had been physically abused by their husbands.  

So the ability to prepare for a daughter’s marriage, as Shereen points to with pride, is hugely important.  

Widowed mothers who are able to start or build up their small business with micro-loans are able to do something that’s almost impossible without financial stability: prepare for the future.  In Shereen’s case, that translates into being able to get ready for her daughter’s marriage, rather than being pushed headlong into arrangements that her whole family may later regret.

These are the kinds of results we count on from the micro-loans. As important as they are to filling stomachs with food and bank accounts with savings, the biggest changes often become apparent over time. The girl who doesn’t get forced into early marriage, the mother who feels her own self-worth — those are the real payoffs.  

We’ve had fantastic applications for the upcoming round of this project, and we plan to disburse these 0% interest micro-loans to coincide with Mothers Day and International Women’s Day in March. I look forward to sharing details of some of the new business projects we’ll be supporting in the months ahead.

For now, we’re grateful for your support, and we continue to count on it to achieve the results Shereen speaks of. We believe in mothers who can prepare for the future, and in freeing young girls from early marriage!

How the Girls’ Love and Tolerance Awakened a Community

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The Valuable Girl Project honors young women’s voices.

I’m writing today with sadness, because Leila, one of the participants in the Valuable Girl Project, recently passed away. Like all of the Little Sisters in the project, Leila is someone we cherished. Her loss is felt deeply by staff, family, and her friends.

Yet, I also want to share the remarkable way the girls united after Leila’s passing, and how that also brought together their Christian and Muslim parents.

Leila (not her real name) was struck by heart problems while traveling out of Upper Egypt. By the time she could be treated, it was too late to save her life. In the wake of this tragedy, her fellow Little and Big Sisters were sad, but consoled each other. And, amazingly, they decided that they should be part of the public mourning.

“All of the girls wanted to be present at their sister’s funeral,” said Susan, coordinator of the project site.

I can’t tell you how unusual that is, not just in a town in Upper Egypt, but in all of the country. Cemeteries are, as a rule, just about as segregated as it gets. For the girls to unite around the memory of their friend, and persuade their parents to permit their show of collective grief and solidarity, was an extremely rare event.

Leila’s family was really overwhelmed by the girls’ decision to come together, and as a group including both Christians and Muslims. And, somehow, this brought the community together in a way that hadn’t happened before. It seemed to make them value the project even more, and increase their determination to sustain it.

“We really want to see this project continue,” Rana, the mother one of the Valuable Girl Project participants, told Susan. “Even if it means we have to keep it going without funding, somehow.”

Thanks to generous donors whose specially dedicated contributions provide all the support for the Valuable Girl Project, there’s no danger of the project shutting down. In fact, we’re just as committed to it as the parents, and we’re identifying participants and sites for 2016.  We’re spreading the messages that girls and young women are a benefit to themselves and society when they have access to education, that Christians and Muslims can overcome the obstacles facing them. And we count on everyone who shares these values to stand with us.

This work makes a difference. We can see it in the way the girls came together when Leila passed away, surprising their community with their love and unity. We can see it in their parents’ desire to continue the project, no matter what stands in the way. Together, we’ll keep spreading tolerance and access to quality education for these valuable girls!

Welcoming the New Year, with Thanks to God & Our Supporters for 2015 Achievements

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His Holiness Pope Tawadros II meets with Serve to Learn volunteers, July 25, 2015.

Dear Friends,

Looking back at 2015, which had the children’s many academic successes, our meeting with His Holiness, the anniversary gala in Cairo, and a conference of nearly 500 Church-based volunteers, I can only express deep gratitude to God for making everything possible.

As together we step into 2016, I’m reminded of these words I love: “Let us give thanks to the beneficent and merciful God, the Father of our Lord, God, and Savior, Jesus Christ, for He has covered us, helped us, guarded us, accepted us unto Him, spared us, supported us, and brought us to this hour.” 

We also owe so much to our supporters worldwide for enabling these remarkable steps forward, especially by ensuring access to quality education for thousands of children. We’re deeply grateful to everyone who’s made a commitment to the academic success of these brilliant, heroic kids.

As we close out 2015, Coptic Orphan has reached over 40,000 children in Egypt since 1988. Here are some of the ways your love, prayers, and support made an impact this year:

• Almost 25% of Coptic Orphans youth, who come from some of Egypt’s most poverty-stricken communities, earned senawiyyah 3amma (high school final exam) grades of 85% or higher.

• Children enrolled in Coptic Orphans programs were more than three times more likely to complete their secondary education than their average Egyptian peers.

• For the second year running, 10 Coptic Orphans children beat tremendous odds to win prestigious LOTUS and AMIDEAST scholarships to Egypt’s best universities such as the AUC and the British University.

These academic achievements of Coptic Orphans children would not be possible without the Church. We’re incredibly grateful to the Church for partnering with us in 55 dioceses across Egypt.

We felt especially blessed in 2015, because His Holiness Pope Tawadros II met with the volunteers in our Serve to Learn program on July 25, telling them of the value of their service for the children and for Egypt. We’re thankful beyond words for His Holiness’ inspiration and leadership.

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A pair of the hundreds of kids the 2015 Serve to Learn volunteers were blessed to form bonds with and teach.

Overall, in 2015, 37 Serve to Learn volunteers from around the world traveled to Egypt for three weeks of serving, teaching, and forming close bonds with children in communities such as Armant, Luxor, and El Barsha, Mallawi.

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Nearly 500 Church-based volunteer ‘Reps’ meet in August 2015 to discuss serving the children and receive intensive training.

Another key step forward in 2015 was the conference of nearly 500 Church-based volunteer “Reps,” the backbone of Coptic Orphans’ work with the children. The highlight of the August event in Hurghada was intensive training in how to build rapport with the children served by Coptic Orphans.

Coptic Orphans capped the year on Oct. 11 with a silver anniversary gala celebrating 25 years of serving God and the children. Among the speakers and honored guests at the Cairo event were Deputy Minister of the Cairo Governorate Gihan Abdel Rahman Ahmed, former Minister of Urban Development Dr. Laila Iskander, and Dr. Raouf Ghabbour.

At the event, which was attended by over 150 guests, Coptic Orphans presented its Leading by Example Award to Eng. Hossam El Kabbany, chairman of the Al Orman Association, to honor his tireless work to improve the lives of Egypt’s most vulnerable citizens. The award honors people whose character and achievements make them role models in Egypt and around the world. Past recipients include Dr. Farouk El Baz, His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, and Ola Ghabbour, founder of the Children’s Cancer Hospital.

With God’s grace, we’re looking forward to a fantastic 2016 that builds on these achievements and brings better lives to even more children. And as we finish a wonderful 2015, I want to say to everyone in the Coptic Orphans family: “Thank you, and may you have a blessed and Happy New Year!”