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.
This time last year, I wouldn’t have expected to be able to deliver an update like this one on the Valuable Girl Project. But here it is:
Not only did Samia get excellent grades, but her Big Sisters improved the literacy rates in her hometown!
You may remember Samia from my blog post “Breaking the Cycle” last November. She’s the kid who entered the Valuable Girl Project with a chip on her shoulder — cursing, stealing, and hitting the other girls.
The project’s Big Sister-Little Sister model, which creates one-to-one mentoring relationships, seemed to do Samia a world of good. She stopped hitting people, learned social skills, and started making friends.
Samia’s transformation, which I mentioned last fall, reached another milestone this summer. During my visit, one of the project coordinators handed me Samia’s report card, which she’d proudly shared with her role models.
“EXCELLENT” grades in Arabic, math, and science!
When I saw those grades, I wondered if Samia’s father knew about this huge achievement. Her dad is behind bars for life, more or less. Would he be proud that Samia is making progress toward escaping his generation’s cycle of violence and poverty?
Seeing Samia’s grades confirmed for me, once again, that kids from the poorest households (even those where they’re more likely to be hit than hugged) can be transformed by education, love, and respect.
But girls can’t flourish in a community that’s crumbling. That’s why the Valuable Girl Project also aims to be a resource to the cities and villages where it operates.
It’s a good start to provide, as the project does, a safe space for the Big Sisters and Little Sisters to learn together, particularly when the pairs are Christians and Muslims.
But to really have an impact, other effects have to ripple outward from the project’s five sites in Upper and Lower Egypt. This summer, I found out about an exciting way that this aspiration became a reality.
Here’s what happened: The community development association that hosts Samia’s site discovered that many students in the area couldn’t read or write, despite being enrolled in school. In response, they organized a special training program in literacy tutoring skills.
The association approached the project’s Big Sisters, and 18 of them participated in the training. Next, the girls volunteered in a local literacy initiative. Together, they taught reading and writing to 200 kids! A pre- and post- evaluation of the children’s reading skills showed an average improvement of 60%.
It felt good to hear this, knowing that literacy has a huge positive impact on a child’s life chances. Not only that, but the Valuable Girl Project had benefited not just one girl, Samia, but an entire community.
I love that the Valuable Girl Project’s effects are beginning to radiate outward, from individual lives to communities. That’s the power of education and respect. When we give them to girls, they shine!
I’m writing to share exciting news about our work with grassroots community groups in Egypt. This is happening through a new phase of Tamkeen, a Coptic Orphans project that works with these groups to empower young women in some of Egypt’s most remote and impoverished villages.
Minya, Assiut, and Sohag, where Tamkeen is working, are home to 760 of Egypt’s poorest 1,000 villages. Young women in these economically stagnant areas are particularly disadvantaged. Furthermore, they’re largely cut out of the civic engagement and decision-making that might yield valuable resources for overcoming the challenges facing them.
It sounds like a bleak picture, but what might surprise you is the potential of the small community development associations in these young women’s villages. These associations, which are thoroughly familiar with the hardships their villages face, are key to achieving Tamkeen’s three goals: Creating an enabling environment for female school-aged youth to participate in their local communities, improving the communication capacities of local associations for networking and media engagement, and increasing the civic engagement of female youth ages 15-23.
We’ve already seen good results from the first phase of Tamkeen, a USAID-funded project, where these associations made it possible for young women to tackle everything from sexual harassment to urban pollution to illiteracy.
Now, Tamkeen has been reaching out to build capacity in several of the associations with whom we’ve partnered most successfully. Through workshops and other forms of training and coaching, Tamkeen coordinators and external consultants are making sure that these associations have the skills they need to take girls’ civic engagement to the next level.
Aida Abo, who heads Tamkeen in Assiut, said that in the period June 23-28 she trained five different local associations in the villages of Dairout Al Sheirf, Dairout, Manfalout, Alkousia, and Bani Shoukr. The trainings included sessions on financial management, project management, administration, measuring results, advocacy training, networking, and the management of funds.
Upcoming trainings will tackle the interrelated topics of denying children their rights to play and enjoyment, and the issue of children contracting illnesses after swimming in local ponds. One proposed solution for addressing these two issues is collaboration with youth centers in the villages of Manfalout and Dairout to build public swimming pools. This would protect children from schistosomiasis, a chronic disease spread by freshwater snails, while also upholding their rights to play and enjoyment.
It’s exciting to see capacity-building well under way, and to see Tamkeen’s girls and young women getting involved in issues that have a real impact on Egyptians’ health and lives!