Category Archives: Serve To Learn

Visiting Egypt ‘Gave the Word Sacrifice New Meaning to Me’ — Toni Svonavec Offers Insights on Serve to Learn

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Today, I’m proud to present the reflections of Serve to Learn superstar Toni Svonavec! She went on the summer 2014 trip, and we were very excited when she visited our Virginia headquarters just a few weeks ago to talk about her experiences!

For those of you who don’t know, Serve to Learn is a three-week service trip to Egypt to serve the world’s greatest kids. (By the way, you can find your application for the July 3-25 2015 Serve to Learn trip here!) Each year, people from all over the world come together in Egypt and teach basic English skills with their time — and hearts. It’s a life-changing experience, so brush up on your Arabic, get your arts and crafts supplies, open up your hearts, and get ready to be forever changed.

Toni Svonavec currently lives in Fredericksburg, Virginia. where she works as a second-grade teacher in the Stafford County Public School System.

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

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

After coming home from Egypt, did you see things in a different light than before you left?

Living short-term in a part of the world that the media often portrays as very dangerous gave me perspective on my own anxiety and fears. I learned that the only healthy fear is fear of the Lord. When you are following after Christ there are no fears in life. The only thing to fear is being disobedient to God’s plan for you.

Did you have any “Eureka moments” while you were on the trip? Something that helped you understand why Christians in Egypt do what they do?

Visiting Insina [a mountain where many Christians were martyred long ago] gave the word “sacrifice” new meaning to me. I learned what it truly means to suffer for your faith.

Did you meet anyone in Egypt who really impacted you? What was their story? How did it make you feel?

I was greatly impacted by all of the servants from the Church who ran the school and the visits to the homes. Their commitment to volunteer in their community was amazing.

What is the most powerful thing you would say to someone to convince them to sign up for Serve to Learn 2015?

I personally did Serve to Learn as a test for myself, to see what teaching in a foreign country would be like. I would encourage other teachers who have the summers off to try Serve to Learn. It’s an amazing way to serve and it gives you so much insight to education in other countries.

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 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 to five of your friends, and finally, go (cautiously) stand in the middle of a busy intersection with a megaphone and shout it out!  

‘Simply Go to Love and Be Loved’ — John Eskandar Reflects on Serve to Learn

  His Holiness Pope Tawadros II held a special meeting with the volunteers, commending them for teaching children in Mallawi and Assiut.
John Eskandar poses with His Holiness Pope Tawadros II during a July 12, 2014 meeting with the Serve to Learn volunteers.

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 John Eskandar, 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!

John Eskandar is a Serve to Learn all star! He has attended Serve to Learn four times in the past five years and can’t seem to get enough. John lives in Baltimore, Maryland with his family. He graduated from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) with a chemical engineering degree and currently works as an environmental construction engineer to provide sanitation to his city. His goal is to use whatever education and experience he can gain to glorify God’s name wherever He needs him.

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

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

1. What are some things you admired about the families and people you served with? What do you think you learn from them?

The families I served with [as part of Serve to Learn] are extremely hospitable. They definitely think that visitors are saints. When the servants come to that (false) conclusion, they then treat the visitors as if they are kings and queens. This taught me a great deal of humility. They only see the good in people, and humble themselves to the lowest levels, when really they are saints.

2. Coptic history in Egypt shapes who Copts are today. While you were on Serve to Learn, did you see where some of our traditions come from?

I recently gave a presentation on Serve to Learn at St. Marks in Washington, D.C., in which I talked about how much this trip has made me appreciate being a Copt. Our trip to Ansena was one of my most memorable trips. Seeing how many martyrs died for the sake of the faith showed me how important it is to keep that faith preserved. While we were on the tour in Ansena the guide opened one of the tombs and gave me a cloth full of blood off of one of the relics. The fact that the ground is still literally holding onto the blood shows how much the blood is saturated into the soil,  that after 1,700 years the cloth is still holding on to the blood.

3. Were there children who especially touched you with their story, love, humor? Can you tell me about them?

There were two siblings, a girl and a boy who had lost their father recently. I believe their language of love was touch, and right when I entered that house during visitation they were hugging me so hard and holding onto my neck. This really touched me for some reason, I am not sure why, but their hugs were so innocent and pure, they just left me full of joy.

4. What advice do you have for us while we plan next year’s Serve to Learn trip?

I thought the trip covered many great aspects. It helped me appreciate my Coptic Church more than ever (even though I grew up in Egypt). It helped me feel the importance of service. I also felt extremely loved by the kids, and I also learned how to function with love with a group of other servants. The only advice I would have is to add a spiritual aspect to the trip. Maybe add in the schedule a prayer time, or a tasbeha time, or maybe a Bible study from the abouna present.

5. Is there something you want to say to others interested in coming on the trip next year?

My advice for future volunteers is to leave any expectations at home, and simply go to love and be loved.

 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 this video of His Holiness Pope Tawadros II’s comments 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 to five of your friends, and finally, go (cautiously) stand in the middle of a busy intersection with a megaphone and shout it out!  

‘Their Joy Is Overwhelming & Their Faith Is So Strong’ — Mina Ebied Talks About Serve to Learn

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Mina takes a selfie with young learners at the 2014 Serve to Learn site in Abnoub.

 

Not sure what Serve to Learn could hold for you? Here’s the deal: Submit your application. Book your flight. Land in Egypt. Play with the world’s funniest, smartest kids. Teach them English. Make life long friendships. Experience God’s love. Come home feeling more purpose for your life. Serve to Learn: Learn to Serve. 

For three weeks this summer, 22 young people took a step towards a better tomorrow for themselves, Egypt, and the world. Here are the thoughts of one of them, Mina Ebied. He was born in Egypt and moved to Canada with his family when he was nine years old. He now works and studies in Alberta and is currently applying to optometry school.

If this interview piques your interest, and you want to read more about how Serve to Learn changes lives, you can learn more through these interviews with Gaby, VeronikaDavidBen, Kirollos, MariamAlex, and Mirelle.

Here’s what Mina had to say about his summer doing Serve to Learn:

After coming home from Egypt, did you see things in a different light than before you left?

Coming home from Egypt helped me put things in perspective. I always knew that there is more than meets the eye in life, and that value isn’t always in material objects. However, spending the summer with people in Egypt, I experienced hospitality like I never have before. I experienced generosity and love like I never have before. We were perfect strangers, and yet they treated us like the closest family. People there may not have much in material objects or money, but they have the love of Christ and it overflows.

Do you feel like you know the Coptic community better now after taking part in Serve to Learn?

We have our Coptic community here, and we think that we are miles away and so separated. However, we all stand on a common ground, and the community can be universal. After all, the church is one here and in Egypt.

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

I mostly speak of the children and what a pleasure it was to spend time with them. They were all so wonderful and quite eager to learn or even just play around together. The stories that stand out the most, though, are the ones from our home visits in the evenings. It was a truly enriching experience.

Can you name one thing you would add to Serve to Learn for next year?

I absolutely enjoyed Serve to Learn, and I would go again and tell everyone I know to go as well. However, the only thing I would add is more details in the information package as to what to bring along. I didn’t quite know the need until I got there, and I would just love to help them out to the best of my abilities.

What is the most powerful thing you would say to someone to convince them to sign up for Serve to Learn 2015?

We live in Canada, and we are so busy being “busy” with school, work, and the many responsibilities of the daily life here. We often forget how fortunate we are to have everything we have; we forget to appreciate what we have been blessed with. Going to Egypt opened my eyes to how blessed we truly are. Not only to that, but also to how grateful we should be for everything we have. People there have much, much less than we do, and their joy s overwhelming. Their faith is so strong and their life is truly inspiring. The Bible is more than words, and going to Egypt helped me see how your faith can truly define and support every aspect of your life.

You can apply now for the July 3-25 Serve to Learn trip! 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!