Coptic Orphans Welcomes Dr. Neveen Waheeb

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Dr. Neveen Waheeb’s expertise will enrich Coptic Orphans’ work with the children.

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.

Giving Girls Education and Respect: It Works

The Valuable Girl Project creates a safe space for learning.
The Valuable Girl Project creates a safe space for learning.

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!

Here’s another post about these girls and their site: Girls, Tolerance, Pyramids (And Other Wonders of the World)Stay tuned to learn more about the Valuable Girl Project by subscribing to this blog! More updates coming soon.

* Names and identifying details in story are changed to protect the privacy of the young women in the Valuable Girl Project.

Egypt’s People ‘Taught Me the Definition of Gratefulness’ — Magy Mekhail Reflects on Serve to Learn

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Magy Mekhail takes a perfect selfie with her class and Abouna Maximos.

Dear Friends,
I’ve traveled all over Egypt, but every time I visit an Upper Egyptian village I’m still amazed at the simplicity, generosity, and hospitality I find there. So in the interview below, when Serve to Learn volunteer Magy Mekhail says she learned the “definition of gratefulness” from the people of Matay in Upper Egypt, I believe her. Serve to Learn is a three-week service trip in Egypt where you teach, play, and love the world’s greatest kids! Come to Egypt and find out what these kids can teach you. Applications for the Jan. 22 – Feb. 13 trip are being accepted until Nov. 15.
— Nermien

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For you, what was the most moving or life-changing part of Serve to Learn?

How grateful people are. In the midst of all their hardships and struggles they are so thankful and hospitable. They just want to invite us in and feed us because they are so happy we visited — they taught me the definition of gratefulness.

Did Serve to Learn deepen your understanding of Egypt and your roots? 

Yes, I understood the culture better, why people act a certain way. It just added to my Coptic pride :)

Given the chance, what would you have done more of during the program?

I would have done more home visits and visited my kids (from my class) more than once.

What advice would you give anyone considering applying for Serve to Learn?

Talk with your partner and plan materials ahead of time. Don’t worry about accommodations or comfort or whatever because all that doesn’t matter when you are with your kids.

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Interested in learning more about Serve to Learn? Check out our video, which gives a snapshot of the program! 

If this blog makes you want to read other Serve to Learn stories, here are those of Marianne SawiresJessica HannaJessica AyobPheobe, and Ryan. If that’s not enough, you can read Serve to Learn  interviews with ToniJohnGabyMinaAndyVeronikaDavidBen, Kirollos, MariamAlex, and MirelleYou may also enjoy these video interviews with NadinePeter, and Mary.  

Any questions you’d like to ask a real human being? Call or email Mira Fouad, who runs Serve to Learn, at 703-641-8910 or at mfouad@copticorphans.org