Category Archives: Serve To Learn

‘Love Was Jam-Packed Into Those Tiny Classrooms’ — Gaby Salib Reflects on Serve to Learn

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Gaby Salib with two Serve to Learn 2014 students.

I’ve been interviewing our Serve to Learn volunteers so that everyone can hear about the program from those who’ve done it. Today, I’m proud to share the reflections of Gaby Salib, who took part in Serve to Learn 2014.

For those of you who don’t know, Serve to Learn is a challenging, life-changing, three-week service trip to Egypt. (By the way, you can find your application for the July 3-25 2015 Serve to Learn trip here!) Young people from all over the world answer their calling to make a difference in the world by signing up to serve. Once in Egypt, volunteers are immersed in the life of the community as they teach basic English to the children. Arabic and teaching skills are a great asset for volunteers, but what’s more important is to be ready for some hard work, lots of love, and to be forever changed!

Gaby Salib, who’s interviewed in today’s post, took part in the 2014  trip to Egypt. She lives in Baltimore, MD and is now studying computer engineering at the University of Maryland. Gaby has a strong passion for teaching languages globally — first English, next computer science!

If you want to read other Serve to Learn stories, here are interviews with VeronikaDavidBen, Kirollos, MariamAlex, and Mirelle.

Here’s what Gaby had to say about Serve to Learn 2014!

What was your favorite thing about the people and the kids you lived with while you were in Egypt? Have you brought a little bit of that back home?

The group that I lived with in Egypt made a very lasting impact on me. My favorite part of having my living mates was that though we had each come from fairly different walks of life, we all decided to do Serve to Learn to connect back to Egypt to see what we could do to give back. I’ve definitely taken the spirit and passion of the group back with me. We’ve kept in touch in order to continue encouraging each other spiritually and to remind each other that we need to continue to care for Egypt. As I’ve been back, my favorite topic of discussion is Egypt’s reformation and passion for renewal!

What were some things you found surprising about Copts or Egypt while you were doing Serve to Learn?

The trap that many Christians are destined to fall into is what I found to be surprising about Copts during my time doing Serve to Learn. But at the same time, I found their outlook to be surprising as well. They never spoke as if they were destined to poverty and lower education, but they spoke about what God had blessed them with and granted to them.

The mothers of our Not Alone program children were the ones who threw me off the most. There was one mother we visited who only had her 16-year-old daughter to rely on. But to bring in some money, she sewed and fixed clothes for neighbors or anyone who needed a good stitching. I saw such extraordinary strength in her confidence to use the gifts God has given her. Regardless of how small anyone else may see her skill to be, she has recognized God’s hand in her life and has done her best with what she’s been given. Now, how many people can say they’ve done the same? Bam!

What surprised me about Egypt was the reality of the mistreatment of women as a whole. This realization was so prominent and outrageous to me that I found more of myself and my value as a woman while being looked down upon by the Islamic culture. Since I’m a computer engineering major, I have had a glimpse of the male-dominated field. It felt good to be able to relate and to encourage the girls who were told they couldn’t go into certain professions, or wouldn’t be as good at engineering as a man would, for example. I pray to finish my degree and show them that women are just as intelligent and creative as men would be in such a profession.

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

I definitely talk about my classroom experiences most often. It was such an interesting experience to see myself become the teachers I thought were so annoying! It was also extremely humbling to have a classroom of 30 children accept my broken Arabic, without chuckles or corrections! They were all so sweet and loving. Sometimes I would even ask them to teach me different tenses of verbs that I couldn’t quite pronounce! It was such a beautiful exchange of knowledge and creativity in our classrooms. We made them notebooks in which they could write and draw to express their creativity. And seeing the excitement and pride they felt for their work was the greatest gift I could have ever received. Writing this makes me realize how much love was jam-packed into those tiny classrooms.

What are some Serve to Learn things you would:  Do? Do more of? 

Do: I would continue to plan monastery visits and spiritual trips on the weekends; they really brought spiritual clarity to the trip.

Do more of: Informational and spiritual preparation by video sessions. Although we may be too busy to read all of On Wealth and Poverty before coming to Egypt, we should have some sort of interactive spiritual preparation on expectations of conduct and such.

If one of your friends was on the fence about going to Serve to Learn, what would you tell them to convince them to come? 

I would ask them how well they know the hardship of their brothers and sisters in Egypt. If they respond saying they aren’t completely heartbroken about their conditions, then I would tell them they need to Serve To Learn. God tells us in Isaiah 58:6-9,

“Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh?
8 Then your light shall break forth like the morning,
Your healing shall spring forth speedily,
And your righteousness shall go before you;
The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’”

 Apply now for Serve to Learn’s July 3-25 trip in 2015! 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 “see” Serve to Learn through our Serve to Learn video (courtesy of co-geniuses Fady Hanna and Mark Yacoub—thank you!) or read “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 5 to five of your friends, and finally, go (cautiously) stand in the middle of a busy intersection with a megaphone and shout it out!  

‘You Have the Chance to Be Part of Something Bigger Than Yourself’ — Veronika Tadross Reflects on Serve to Learn

Veronika T
Nikki Tadross and a student demonstrate the Serve to Learn smile.

Tomorrow (Nov. 15) is the last day to submit your application for the Jan. 16-Feb. 7 Serve to Learn trip!

If you don’t already know, Serve to Learn is a three-week trip to Egypt where you have the opportunity to really find yourself in the service of others. Your days there are filled with teaching English through fun activities, playing with the world’s greatest kids, and learning what it really means to “live in the service of others.” Arabic and teaching skills are helpful but not the most important things. Just come with an open heart and an open mind, and I promise you, you will be transformed.

Serve to Learn has been around for over a decade, and this summer, nearly 20 volunteers took part. Today, I wanted to share the thoughts of one of those volunteers, Veronika “Nikki” Tadross from Virginia.

These days, Nikki is a student at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida. She’s studying English education with the aim of becoming an English as a Second Language teacher.

If you want to know more about how Serve to Learn changes lives, I invite you to check out these interviews with DavidBen, Kirollos, MariamAlex, and Mirelle.

Here’s what Nikki had to say about Serve to Learn:

What was your favorite thing about the people and the kids you lived with while you were in Egypt? 

My favorite thing about the people and the kids was their ability to slow down, listen, and spend time with each other.

Have you brought a little bit of that back home?

I try my best to. Listening and getting to know people on a deeper level is highly underrated.

For many of us, going back to Egypt helps us connect to our roots; do you feel that you better understand where you come from after Serve To Learn?

Absolutely! There’s something really cool about seeing where my family came from.

What is a story that you tell all your friends when you talk about your summer with Serve to Learn? 

One of my favorite stories is about Marina. After doing Serve to Learn for three years, and having her in my class from the very beginning, I saw a difference between her and her siblings in her attitude towards higher education. Her older sister dropped out and decided that she just wanted to get married, while Marina, who is a few years younger than her, decided that this life was not what she wanted. When I asked her why, she said: “You told me two years ago I’m really bright, and that I should go to college… I took that very seriously.” This was cool, because I didn’t fully understand the impact of my words until this moment.

What do you feel are the three most important reasons someone should come on a Serve to Learn trip?

1. You have the chance to be a part of something bigger than yourself.
2. These kids are valuable, and worth your investment of time.
3. You’ll learn more about life, and the value of our relationship with Christ, through observing these kids.

What are some things you wish you had done differently, done more of, or not done at all this summer during the trip?

Wish I could have spent more one-on-one time with some of my students.

The moment has arrived to apply for Serve to Learn; the November 15 deadline is here! Don’t forget that applications for the July 3-25 session are also available! 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!

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

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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!