Tag Archives: Australia

‘I Feel Blessed to Have Had That Experience’ — Mary Helmy Reflects on Serve to Learn

Mary Helmy spending time with her students as the van takes them home after a day of learning and play.

Dear Friends,

It’s the start of March, and I’m  excited to be reading through the applications of wonderful prospective Serve to Learn volunteers. Because demand for Serve to Learn has grown, there will be two trips in the upcoming months: June 17 – July 8 AND July 22 – August 12. Applications are due by March 15. There’s nothing more heartening to me than to see young Coptic youth from all over the world deciding to spend part of their summer, or even taking time off from work, to travel to Egypt for a full 3 weeks, to serve orphaned Coptic children in Egypt.  If you’re wanting a taste of what you’ll learn on Serve to Learn, here’s recent volunteer Mary Helmy from Australia, with another “a picture is worth a 1,000 words” blog post. 

— Nermien

Who’s in this photo?

The kids and me.

Where was it taken?

The children had just finished our class and were going back home in a van.

What’s happening in the photo?

I was saying goodbye and they asked me to come back with them. I hopped in and spent a few minutes hanging out with them.

How did you feel when it was taken?

I felt like a kid hanging out with my friends enjoying every moment with them. They were so excited and full of joy and laughter. I didn’t want to say goodbye.

Why do you want to remember this moment?

Despite losing a parent, or both parents, and all the difficulties of that, the children were just enjoying being kids, having fun, full of hope. I felt close to them.

If you could help people understand one thing with this photo, what would it be?

It’s not really about teaching English or the classroom, it’s about getting to really know the children, laughing with them, having fun, learning to let go and be a kid again. Despite all their hardships in life, they loved openly, not just me, but God. I grew to love them as well. I really wanted to go back to their homes and hang out and play with them. I feel blessed to have had that experience. One of many, many memories I’ll treasure. Thank you God.

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

If this “a picture is worth a 1,000 words” blog makes you want to read other Serve to Learn stories, here are Pheobe Azer‘s and Ryan Wasson‘s. If that’s not enough, you can read Serve to Learn  interviews with Toni, JohnGabyMinaAndyVeronikaDavidBen, Kirollos, MariamAlex, and Mirelle. You may also enjoy these video interviews with Nadine RoffaellPeter Wassef and Mary Loka.  Any questions you’d like to ask a real human being? Call or email Joyce Lancen at 703-641-8910 or at info@copticorphans.org

5 Moments I’ll Never Forget From Our 25th Anniversary Galas

140929_Canada Gala withHis HolinessDear Friends,

By the grace of God, and thanks to a spectacular team effort by volunteers, staff, and supporters, our 25th Anniversary Galas achieved everything we’d hoped and prayed for!

To everyone who helped create the Galas in Canada, the United States, and Australia — and to the more than 1,000 guests who came and supported the children of Egypt — please accept our heartfelt thanks.

The biggest accomplishment is that our guests sponsored 150 new children. This was an enormous leap forward, in just 7 weeks. It’s as if we were able to enroll over 20 kids each day — something unheard of!

But numbers alone don’t tell the 25th Anniversary story. So I want to share 5 specific moments when I said to myself, “Wow, this is really happening… we’re really doing this, thanks to God.”

  1. His Holiness Pope Tawadros II smiling as he tells us ‘Bravo for your service’

141124_HH smilingI got chills during the Canada Gala, watching His Holiness smile as he said these words to staff and sponsors: “Bravo for your service. And I’m not sure who’s happier — you, or the children you serve… you’re all happier. Say it loud! Yes… And I’m with you.”

I never imagined His Holiness would one day say such a thing, and with a big smile. After all, we started out so small — just a few volunteers and a dream. But there I was, listening, and later we even got to present His Holiness with the Leading by Example Award to show our gratitude.

It reminded me of feeling blessed and grateful on another occasion, when His Holiness said Coptic Orphans is “a good and outstanding example of a ministry with specific characteristics: Administratively, it’s excellent. 10 out of 10. From a practicality angle, and perceiving people’s unique needs, 10 out of 10.”

  1. Egypt’s Consul General in Washington, D.C., revealing his own experience of fatherlessness

141120_Egyptian Consul SquareGod has an astonishing way of connecting us to the right people, at the right time. This was made clear to me once more at the Gala in the United States.

Can you imagine a speaker revealing that he’d lost his father at an early age? And not just any speaker, but Mr. Ayman Aldesouky Youssef, Consul General of the Arab Republic of Egypt in Washington, D.C.

When he explained that to us, from the podium, I felt so grateful for his courage. It takes a lot to talk about a huge personal loss. He didn’t have to do that — I believe it showed a real love for the kids.

Most of all, I was shocked by the beauty of that moment. How God had, unbeknownst to us, sent us a speaker so deeply and personally connected with our work for fatherless children.

  1. The Canadians mobbing the sponsorship table

141120_Sponsorship Table CanadaMight sound odd, but at one point in the Canada Gala, it felt amazing to see people rush the table where you could sign up to sponsor a child. We’ve had lines at sponsorship tables before, but not like this.

I could tell that something incredible was happening, and it did. By the end of the night, over 70 children had sponsors. This means we’ve committed to providing those kids with years of love and support.

Why’d it happen that way? Because of God’s grace, I think, and the inspiration of His Holiness’ presence. Or maybe Canadians are in a class all their own. All I can say is, at that moment, I felt blessed and grateful beyond words…

  1. Egypt’s Ambassador to New Zealand congratulating the Coptic Orthodox Church

141120_Zayed SquareThe Church — the center of our community — leads the way for orphans. So you can imagine how great it felt to hear a top Egyptian diplomat express deep admiration for the leaders of our faith.

Here’s what His Excellency Mahmoud Zayed, Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt to New Zealand, said at the Australia Gala:

“Let me also take this opportunity to highlight the fact that  the work and achievements of Coptic Orphans were facilitated by a great church, which is the Coptic Orthodox Church, the largest Christian Church in the Middle East. The Coptic Orthodox Church is a pioneer church in reaching out to its communities both in Egypt and around the world and in bringing them together and safeguarding their values and their heritage. Therefore, I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Coptic Church for its achievements and to wish the Coptic Church continued progress under the leadership of His Holiness Pope Tawadros II.”

This was a wonderful message to hear!

  1. Thabet, a Coptic Orphans graduate, lighting up the future

141124_ThabetThis last moment really struck me, because I think it points the way for the future of our community.

Here’s the story: To show our Galas guest what we do — take them right into the midst of the daily work in Egypt — we had a video made. The first time I saw it, I was floored by one particular person, Thabet.

He’s one of “our” kids — someone who flourished as a child in our programs, made it through his education against great odds, and now has a good job. He seems happy. That’s huge, and makes it all worthwhile.

But something else really moved me. I know it moved many people at the Galas, too, because they came up to me after the video was screened and talked about how they felt. They told me they were moved — and I felt this way, too — because Thabet’s giving back. He’s gone from being one of our kids, to being a volunteer himself and working to improve the lives of his kids.

This is something extraordinary, even though I know Thabet’s story is not unique. Seeing him on the screen, visiting his children, I really understood why we do this work. It’s about more than helping kids survive. It’s about encouraging them to be transformed — by education, by love, by the Church — and to become people who give love back to our community.

That’s the future, I believe. That’s why I share this with you.

So those are 5 of the moments — by no means all of them, but 5 — when I felt amazed and moved during this 25th Anniversary. I’m so happy to recall them with you, to share the results and the joy.

And so here we are, 25 years into this work, together. We’ve empowered 30,000 children in Egypt, making sure they have access to higher education, providing them with better healthcare and housing, and meeting other needs as they arise.

All I can think is, we are the ones who are blessed. His Holiness knew of what he spoke when he said “And I’m not sure who’s happier — you, or the children you serve.” Thank you to everyone who was part of our 25th Anniversary, and thanks above all to God, who makes all things possible.

How to Eat Well by Doing Good in Australia… In 4 Easy Steps

A lovely table and generous table, Oz style!
A lovely table and generous table, Oz style!

Dear Friends,
I’m happy to share this story from Australia today! It comes from Mary Loka, our donor relations associate. So grateful to these folks for being there for the children… good on ya, mates!
— Nermien Riad

Amidst all the preparations for Coptic Orphans’ 25th Anniversary Gala on Nov. 9 in Lilyfield, something extraordinary happened. It reminded me of the powerful spirit of volunteerism that lives in our Coptic heritage.

It all started last month, when I was approached by one of our sponsors. She wanted to organise a ladies’ fundraising dinner for Coptic Orphans within her circle of friends. Mariam is a wonderful and very organised lady with a generous heart for the orphans of Egypt.

Mariam did everything from A to Z, and we were just her cheering squad!

Here’s how she did it, in four easy steps. Well, it actually took a lot of hard work, but she made it look easy!

  1. She made a Facebook event to share the mission of Coptic Orphans with her friends, and started sharing Coptic Orphans videos every other day through this event page. That’s how she made people aware of our work and encouraged them to purchase tickets for the dinner.
  2. She booked the venue, and made sure her party would get a private room so that one of the Coptic Orphans board members could come speak with them without a lot of distractions.
  3. She networked and found many generous donors who donated a lot of gifts, which she then used for the dinner “goodie bags” and a raffle prize.
  4. She involved some beautiful young people from the church to help her put the goodie bags together, organise the raffle, and run trivia games during the event.

The dinner was sold out, the ladies had an amazing night, and they raised over AUS$2,000 for Coptic Orphans. Even better, they signed up to sponsor several children.

Hats off (on, actually) to the children of Egypt!
Hats off (on, actually) to the children of Egypt!

But what struck me the most was that 27 out of the 30 guests had never heard about Coptic Orphans before this dinner.

What Mariam did was more than just organise a fundraising dinner. She managed to spread the word in what would normally be a casual social event. She is an excellent example of a Coptic Orphans ambassador!

The youth crew - making a difference for Egypt!
The youth crew – making a difference for Egypt!

Many thanks from us at Coptic Orphans Australia to Mariam and her guests, who are making a difference for the children of Egypt!

By the grace of God, we are celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Coptic Orphans with Galas in Australia and the United States. We had the honored presence of His Holiness Pope Tawadros II at our Sept. 28 Gala in Canada, where he accepted the Leading by Example Award. Tickets to the Nov. 9 Gala in Lilyfield may be purchased online (where you can also get more details) or by contacting me at niskander@copticorphans.org or 02-9787-9777