Tag Archives: 25th Anniversary

What Makes a Hero?

Nick Kaldas, APM, Deputy Comissioner, New South Wales Police Force
Nick Kaldas, APM, Deputy Commissioner, NSW Police Force

Dear Friends,
Today, I’m proud to share the thoughts of the director of our office in Australia, Nevine Iskander. She and her team are hard at work preparing for the final 25th Anniversary Gala that’s coming up fast!
— Nermien Riad

What do you think makes a hero?

I ask because on Nov. 9, when we celebrate Coptic Orphans’ 25th Anniversary in Lilyfield, I’m going to share the stage with someone I consider a hero.

I know what you’re thinking. These days, the word “hero” gets thrown around a lot. It’s not like the old days, when to be a hero you had to fight a dragon or start the Sunday School Movement.

It’s true, there’s no one quite like the heroes of the past, and the saints are heroes in a class all their own. Nevertheless, at Coptic Orphans, we usually hold on to an older sense of “hero,” using it to describe our tough little kids, who overcome so many tragedies to excel.

So why would I use the word “hero” specifically to describe Nick Kaldas, who’s going to receive the Coptic Orphans Leading by Example Award on Nov. 9?

It’s not about his titles, as impressive as they are. (He’s actually Nick Kaldas, APM, Deputy Commissioner of the New South Wales Police Force.) It’s his acts that mean something, and the values that underpin them.

For one thing, I use the word “hero” to describe how Nick Kaldas stands up for those who have no one else to stand up for them.

This is something we really value at Coptic Orphans, this idea of defending the vulnerable. We need look no further than Isaiah 1:17 for the roots: “Bring justice to the fatherless; plead the widow’s cause.”

There are many such Bible verses, and many vulnerable people, and Nick Kaldas has been there for those people though his work in law enforcement.

He joined the NSW Police Force in 1981 and has worked mainly in major crime investigations, homicide, armed robbery, major drug investigations, counter-terrorism, and covert operations. At other times he’s gone abroad to the Middle East to investigate assassinations. Here in Australia, he’s taken on organized crime. Today, he oversees a staff of 16,000.

These are not small things, and some involve considerable risk. They also show a high level of achievement.

This leads me to another reason for using the word “hero.” Someone in Nick Kaldas’ shoes could easily let his professional success (or instinct for self-preservation) get in the way of caring about others. We’ve seen it over and over.

But no one I’ve talked to believes Nick Kaldas has forgotten the individuals he serves, or the community. In fact, I hear the opposite: He’s committed to Australia and the community at large.

That commitment was honored just last year, when he received the Champion of Harmony Award for his leadership role in promoting tolerance among cultural communities in New South Wales, empowering them and promoting harmony.

This, too, is a Coptic Orphans value. We prize tolerance because we’ve been raised to love our neighbor as ourselves, and to treat the stranger with kindness.

Yet another value I see in Nick Kaldas is a commitment to giving back to the community. The model of law enforcement that he promotes is rooted in a commitment to community service through availability, to understanding our needs and to responding to them. So I wasn’t surprised at all to hear, as I sought candidates for the Leading by Example Award, that Nick Kaldas is very supportive of community organisations and community projects.

So in Nick Kaldas, we have a passion for social justice and standing up for the vulnerable; a devotion to harmony and tolerance; and a commitment to giving back to our communities. I hope you’ll agree with me that we’re talking about the traits that make a hero.

When you put these traits together, you get such strong, hard-working, giving leaders. They’re good role models for our kids, and pillars of our communities and our country.

I look forward to seeing our guests on Nov. 9 in Lilyfield, as we celebrate 25 years of Coptic Orphans’ work — and honor Nick Kaldas for embodying the kind of heroic values we treasure.

25 Years, 25 Images of Egypt — A Quarter-Century’s Worth of Memories

Dear Friends,

Today is the big day in Reston, Virginia… Coptic Orphans is celebrating 25 years of work for the love of the children of Egypt! Come be a part of the Gala!

I look forward to seeing you this evening in Reston… and afterwards, if you can walk, swim or fly to the Australia Gala in Lilyfield on Nov. 9, so much the better!

As part of this celebration, I’m sharing a video of images of this last quarter-century’s worth of work. There are certainly many more photographs that deserved to be included, so look for a longer video when Coptic Orphans’ 50th Anniversary rolls around.

This video is called “25 Years, 25 Images of Egypt,” and it contains some amazing photography of our beautiful motherland and our brothers and sisters. Among the people you’ll see are our wonderful Church-based volunteers, the “Reps,” as well as the strong mothers of Egypt, their vibrant children, and our beloved clergy.


Heartfelt thanks to everyone who has, by the grace of God, been part of empowering 30,000 children in these 25 years. So many you have been so generous and have shown an amazing spirit of volunteerism! And a special thanks to the people who took these photos, for playing such an important role in telling the children’s stories.

To learn more about the 25th Anniversary celebrations, please visit our Gala page. Love to see you there tonight, and on Nov. 9!

PS Did you see either of the two videos of His Holiness speaking at the Coptic Orphans Gala in Canada on Sept. 28? He says incredible things about serving the children, especially through service trips to Egypt. We are so grateful and blessed that His Holiness came to the event!

‘30,000 Children Empowered’? What Does That Even Mean?

Slogans: Fabulous for decorating, but too short for documenting 25 years of work.
Slogans: Fabulous for decorating, but too short for documenting 25 years of work.

Dear Friends,

The big day — the Coptic Orphans 25th Anniversary Gala in the U.S. — is just hours away! I hope to see you all in Reston, VA on Oct. 11! (Tickets are still available here.)

By now, you’ve probably seen the Gala’s slogan, “25th Anniversary, Celebrating 30,000 Children Empowered.” But if you’re like me, you may react to slogans something like this:

“Hmmm… ‘30,000 Children Empowered’ … 30,000? Exactly 30,000? Where’d they get that number? It sounds made-up. And ’empowered’ …what does that even mean?”

After all, who’s going to believe that Coptic Orphans went out and counted exactly 30,000 children? And “empowered” … you could define that lots of ways, right?

So if you’re like me,  you read that slogan and say, “You’d better be able to back that up.”

Fortunately, I love backing things up, especially with long (and my children would say, occasionally boring) explanations. So here and now, I’m going to explain exactly what “30,000 Children Empowered” means.

Why? Because slogans aren’t enough. They get a point across, but you always need the data to back them up. So below, I’m going to share the numbers that show how we got to 30,000.

And to give meaning to “empowered,” I’m going to use the Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition: “empower: verb \im-ˈpau̇(-ə)r\ to promote the self-actualization or influence of.”

All that said, here’s how the 30,000 figure adds up, and here are the details of how the children have been empowered:

30K 1 NAPNot Alone Program

Total children empowered: 18,862

Nearly 10,000 kids were enrolled in our flagship program, Not Alone, in 2013 alone. And the program’s been going since 1992. The reality is, if you walk into any Coptic community from Assiut to Alexandria, the odds are good you’ll meet fatherless children and widows who have benefitted from Not Alone.

Our beloved sponsors and donors can tell you how Not Alone works. Over 400 Church-based community leaders, the “Reps,” serve as advocates and mentors to our children. The Reps come recommended by their own bishops and priests, and our staff in Egypt offers them regular trainings in how to support and protect the children. Day in and day out, year after year, each Rep builds a long-term relationship with the children they serve, connecting with each child through home visits, life-skills workshops, and community activities. They work to achieve Not Alone‘s goal of increasing each child’s academic achievement, building a well-rounded personality, and nurturing their sense of volunteerism as future leaders of Egyptian society.  By connecting the children with these building blocks for a successful life, Not Alone helps prepare them to break the cycle of poverty. In the Not Alone Program, that’s what we call “empowered.”

30K 4 NAPValuable Girl Project

Total children empowered: 3,796

The Valuable Girl Project aims to promote the academic retention, education, and literacy tutorship of girls and young women in high-poverty areas of Egypt.  To achieve these goals, the project supports young women in their efforts to stay in school and gain dignity at home, in the classroom, and in the community.  The project, which has been running for 12 years and peaked at 15 sites around Egypt, uses a model of one-on-one mentorship. Through it, young women in secondary school, the “Big Sisters,” become role models for girls in primary school, the “Little Sisters.” Local coordinators based in partner organizations oversee these mentorship programs.

The Valuable Girl Project has a unique twist, in that it serves both Christian and Muslim young women ages 7-22. The Big Sister-Little Sister relationships formed through the project offer a bridge to understanding among Christian and Muslim community members whose paths might otherwise never cross. In fact, one of the sentiments expressed by project participants is simply that they had no idea what the others’ lives were about, much less that they could be “nice.”

In this way, Coptic Orphans aims to do more than simply stand with disadvantaged girls as they attempt to break the cycle of poverty. Through the Valuable Girl Project, we boost these young women’s life chances,  but just as importantly, we increase the overall level of Christian-Muslim tolerance and understanding in Egyptian society. Through the project, participants become self-actualized, and influence social change in their communities. For young women in a tough society like Egypt, that’s “empowered.”

30K 2 NAPServe to Learn

Total children empowered: 5,810

Serve to Learn is a program through which young Copts living abroad can benefit Egypt’s communities by volunteering in Egypt, while becoming more strongly tied to their Coptic faith and cultural heritage. Nearly 190 volunteers have served over the program’s 11 years of existence, teaching more than 5,800 young Egyptians basic English skills. This year’s team was even blessed to meet with His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, and to receive a spiritual orientation from Abouna Dawood Lamey.

The volunteers report that the trips have ignited their love for Egypt, stirred their spirit of service, and deepened their dedication to their cultural roots. Most importantly, the children come away having learned English skills from native speakers — no small thing in rural Egypt. Knowledge is power, and English has become a global language with applications in everything from the local tourism industry to multinational corporations. By sharing this knowledge, Serve to Learn is empowering the children.


Total children empowered: 2,995

The two-year-old TAMKEEN project aims to build the capacity of community development associations that support girls and young women in Upper Egypt through work with 40 community development associations in Assuit, Minya, and Sohag. TAMKEEN, whose name actually means “empowerment” in Arabic, mobilizes 15- to 23-year-old women to become active in their communities. These activities range from discussion seminars to youth parliaments. Many of the activities expose participants to the value of volunteerism. One key objective is to nurture new and often unheard voices, especially in remote villages.  In such areas, poverty is rampant, and young women are at a particular disadvantage. So the activities carried out through the USAID-funded TAMKEEN, and the skills learned through them, are vital to empowering these young woman.

When you add up all the numbers, the real total of children is actually 31,463. That’s how we got the 30,000 figure — by rounding down.

And in terms of what it means to empower the children, I would suggest that what each of these initiatives accomplishes is very much within Webster’s definition of promoting “the self-actualization or influence of” the children.

So that’s it. I’m not big on slogans. I much prefer the long answer, backed up by data. But if you have to summarize what Coptic Orphans has accomplished, by the grace of God, in a quarter-century of work — as I’m often asked to do — then “25 years, 30,000 children empowered” pretty much says it all.

Hope to see you on Oct. 11 at the Gala in Reston!

To learn more details about the Coptic Orphans 25th Anniversary Gala in Reston, Virginia on Oct. 11, and to obtain tickets, please visit our Gala web page. There, you can also view a video of His Holiness at our Gala in Canada, including his remark: “Bravo for your service. And I’m not sure who’s happier — you, or the children you serve.” Details about the Nov. 9 Australia Gala are also available there!