Category Archives: “The Widow’s Cause”

Great News from Egypt This Mother’s Day

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Love, healthcare, better education… these are things we all pray for for our families on Mother’s Day.

Good news about Egypt is precious these days, so I wanted to share a few wonderful developments that give me a feeling of hope.  

I came across the following news this morning in Save the Children’s new State of the World’s Mothers report, and I thought,  “What a perfect Mother’s Day gift for someone who loves Egypt as much as I do!”

To make a long story short, Egypt still has a long way to go to improve healthcare. But if you’re a mother or child in an urban area, there is extremely good news. The report reveals (emphasis added):

Egypt has made good child survival gains among its most affluent urban residents (47 percent reduction in under-5 mortality between 1995 and 2008) but even better gains for the poorest (66 percent reduction over the same time period). As a result, the poorest urban children in Egypt have gone from being 3.7 times as likely to die before their fifth birthday (in 1995) as the urban best-off to 2.4 times as likely to die (in 2008).

The report (the section on Egypt is a good read — I recommend it) also describes successes in immunizations, family planning, and clean water.

What’s most interesting about this news is that it points to Egypt’s potential to solve problems. For some people, it’s fashionable to talk about Egypt as hopeless. Well, this kind of progress shows that it’s not.

So how did this progress come about? The report asks that question:

How did Cairo achieve success? The city’s remarkable progress is the result of national health system reforms, specialized programs and the persistent efforts of civil society organizations.

I want to bite on that last bit again. Not only does Egypt’s health ministry deserve some long-overdue respect, but some of the thanks for this progress are also due to non-governmental organizations. Partnership!

As you know, here at Coptic Orphans, we see everything through the lens of using education to break the cycle of poverty. So this report has big implications.

We all know the bad news about Egypt’s schools — overcrowded, underfunded, in decay. But we have to stop thinking of education in Egypt as being in unstoppable decline, and start thinking big.

Solutions are out there. If they’re anything like the ones for healthcare, it will take smart and strategic partnerships between Egypt’s government and civil society. Not to speak of the force behind all transformations — God — and our willingness to let Him guide our work.

This is something Coptic Orphans has given a lot of thought to. With your support, we’ve accumulated decades of experience in supporting kids, both in and out of the classroom. Where lessons can be learned from our experience, we’re ready to step up. The gains that we make will be for the kids, and the benefits will  reach the mothers.

On future Mother’s Days, if we want good news like this for moms and children, we’re going to have to make it happen. It will take partnership, support, and good will from everyone in Egypt and the diaspora who wants to see progress. If it could be done for healthcare, let’s do it for education! 

Easter Rebirth in Egypt

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When darkness falls, as it did in Libya, I’m amazed at how God sends reminders of His love.

This Easter, I’m reminded of that love by the story of Verena, a mother so depressed she was ready to end her life — and yet, she found a new beginning.

Verena began suffering from sadness when her husband died, leaving her alone with a debt of 25,000 Egyptian pounds (US$3,000) and two children to feed.

She slipped deeper into depression when the bank took over her small monthly widow’s pension, and still further when other creditors hauled away her furniture.

Verena was completely exhausted when Shenouda, one of our Church-based volunteer Reps, showed up at her door in El Marg. She asked him to look after her children, saying she no longer wanted to live.

Rep Shenouda got to work right away. In a sense, he took over the family, starting with the children’s needs. Once he was sure that basic necessities such as food were covered, he focused on education.

Verena’s children had been out of school for some time, because their mother was so filled with despair that she hadn’t managed to get them enrolled. Dropping out had created a huge obstacle in their path.

Shenouda not only gathered and organized the documentation required for Verena’s children to enroll, he also provided them with private tutoring so they could catch up on lessons they had missed.

The dedication, love, and care that Shenouda showed to the children brought back Verena’s hope and rekindled her devotion to her family’s future. “With Coptic Orphans, I was reborn,” she told us.

The bottom line is, this is what your support is making possible: People like Shenouda, serving in their own community, caring for children they really know — and acting out of their faith in God.

Verena’s story shows what we can achieve when we care for each other as One Body in Christ. This Feast of the Resurrection, thank you for being our partner in this story of rebirth.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” 1 Peter 1:3

 

* Names changed to protect the privacy and dignity of the children and their families.

Could Hot Tea in Egypt Keep Cold Rain Off a Child?

Tea.
Egyptian tea brings happiness to the guest.

I’m in Egypt now, seeing the faces of all our old friends. Their welcome is like the tea — it’s the warmest, it’s the sweetest, and it never changes. At the same time, the challenges facing our brothers and sisters in Christ are really evident wherever I turn.

I’d like you to imagine that we’re together today, sitting in this modest room in Sohag. It belongs to a widow, Niveen, who serves us tea. As she steps carefully onto her threadbare carpet, I notice it’s soaked dark with water. She explains, reluctantly, that the roof leaks icy rain in the winter. It ruins the rugs, it reeks, and it keeps her children awake at night.

Since her husband passed away, Niveen has had trouble feeding her kids. She’s supported through the Church’s beneficence, but it’s hard to make ends meet. Her biggest goal right now, besides fixing the roof, is to buy blankets to protect her children from the winter chill.

Hundreds of times, I’ve been in rooms like this in Egypt, sitting with strong, struggling mothers like Niveen. And without fail, they don’t dwell on the ice water in their lives. They focus on serving me the warmest, sweetest tea.

That’s the hidden meaning of Egyptian tea. It’s what goes unspoken, because of the host’s dignity: “Yes, my roof leaks ice water, but I’m going to bring you hot tea.” That’s strength. That’s our culture. I’m so proud of it, and I’m so proud when we can return that hospitality.

I’m telling you the story of Niveen because you can make a difference. Coptic Orphans has an Urgent Needs Fund that meets the most pressing needs of families like hers. In 2014 alone, almost 100 generous people collaborated with the fund, empowering nearly 270 families to deal with life’s most difficult challenges.

Here’s how the fund works: One of our 400 Church-based volunteers, or “reps,” notices a family facing a particularly dire situation. Often, the health of the children involved is at risk, and frequently, the missing piece for survival is housing or medical care. Other times, there is an educational need that could mean the difference between a child’s success or failure in life.

The rep carefully assesses what intervention can truly make a difference for the family in harm’s way. Usually there are material improvements — a roof that doesn’t leak buckets of water, a door that keeps out criminals, a floor that is clean and hygienic — that can meet the urgent need. Or an operation can save a child’s life, or help with tuition can bring a life-changing career within a young person’s reach.

The rep contacts Coptic Orphans staff with a description of the case, which is vetted for its urgency and the effectiveness of the proposed solution. If the case passes muster, it is posted online with a plea for a donor to support the family in Egypt.

Next, through the generosity of donors who see the case online, or hear about it through word of mouth, a donation is made that we channel into meeting the urgent need. All donors receive a report documenting the “before” and “after. ” It shows what’s been done in concrete terms, often with photos. Sometimes the donations come with amazing swiftness, and the suffering is alleviated quickly. That’s always a cause for prayer and joy for the family, the reps, and our staff.

Here in Sohag, Niveen doesn’t know if someone will step forward to help keep the winter rain off her kids. For my part, I know this: The Egyptian tradition of hospitality is alive in her. The tea she offers is our shared strength, and a starting place from which we can keep cold rain off a child.  At moments like these, when I am warmly welcomed in Egypt, I know that it’s part of working together to respond to the needs within the Body of Christ, of which we’re all one part.

To make an immediate difference in a family’s life through the Urgent Needs Fund, please click here.

PS Names and some details about the families aided by the Urgent Needs Fund are changed to protect their privacy and dignity.