Tag Archives: Coptic

‘You’ll Be Able to Serve the Kids Through Love’ — Mina Awad Reflects on New Serve to Learn Medical Initiative

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Dear Friend,

I often hear people exclaim, “it’s such a small world!”— And I always think: “that is so true— especially in the Coptic community!” This guest blog post by Mina Awad, from Indianapolis, shows just how small the Coptic community really is, and how different parts of it often come together in mysterious ways to unfold God’s plan to serve his children. Mina Awad is part of a dedicated group of volunteers who have been working hard to put together a service trip for aspiring medical professionals. The Serve to Learn medical education initiative will be running alongside our normal Serve to Learn trip this June 18-July 9. Read Mina’s post to see how a mission trip to Nigeria introduced him to an organization called  the Coptic Medical Association of North America (CMANA) and how his friend Crestin‘s experience with Serve to Learn introduced him to Coptic Orphans; see? — “it is such a small world!”

—Nermien

“I see Jesus in every human being. I say to myself, this is hungry Jesus, I must feed him. This is sick Jesus. This one has leprosy or gangrene; I must wash him and tend to him. I serve because I love Jesus.” – Mother Teresa

This quote was the motive behind me wanting to serve overseas, and the inspiration for a journey that ultimately helped shape the new medical education initiative of Serve to Learn.

Here’s how the story unfolded:

Reading Mother Teresa’s quote made me want to go to Africa and help those less fortunate than myself. To make a true difference and have an impact on someone else’s life, whether by teaching young kids about God, sharing a word with a homeless man, handing out gifts, or even preaching the true faith. I saw myself living an incredible life here in the United States, and desired the opportunity to give back to someone else is in need. And what a better place to do that than in Africa?

In April of 2014, I got a call from a friend and I found out that there was a mission trip to Nigeria coming up in June with a very blessed group, and I knew that I had to go. I contacted the group and June couldn’t come quickly enough. Finally, my chance to make a change and an impact in someone else’s life was here.

I was very worried about the trip to Nigeria, and my parents were even more worried due to the security situation of the country. But my worry was about whether or not I could actually make a difference, or whether I was just wasting my time.

After speaking to a few people, I felt a very strong calling to go through with the trip. As soon as we arrived, I was greeted with an astonishing sight of poverty, more than I could’ve imagined. The village we stayed in, close to the city of Calabar, was made up of mud huts and a few tree branches. The circumstances that these people lived in were unsanitary, and hit me in a wave of surprises. People didn’t have any bathrooms, they had no running water, and their kitchen was almost always behind their house using a fire hand drill.

I couldn’t help but feel sorry for their way of living, especially compared to mine. Over the next two weeks, I spoke with these people, felt God’s hand shaping me, and learned many lessons that will stick with me for the rest of my life. Going in, I wanted to make a change, and impact someone’s life. Help feed a few people and preach the gospel to some kids. But in actuality, by the time I left Calabar, my life was changed. Each person that I had the blessing to speak with had impacted my life. The gospel was preached and fed to me through their unshaken faith, and their constant thanksgiving to God. I wanted to make a difference, but instead I left different.

My trip to Nigeria ignited my passion for mission work, for wanting to serve in order to be filled by Him, and shaped as His vessel. It also taught me a lot about an incredible organization called the Coptic Medical Association of North America (CMANA).

CMANA is a nonprofit organization that aims at uniting all Egyptian Christian healthcare providers by medically helping those in need, as well as through education and networking. CMANA coordinates multiple medical treatment mission trips all over the world, and is a leader in the Coptic mission in Africa.

A portion of the Nigeria mission trip focused on the medical treatment aspect of mission work. I was amazed at the lack of education that people in these countries had regarding simple medical knowledge such as hygiene and preventative medicine.

A year later, a friend of mine had the incredible opportunity to do a Serve to Learn trip for three weeks in Egypt with Coptic Orphans. She had a very similar experience to the one I had in Nigeria, and was also astonished at how little knowledge was available regarding simple medical issues.

At almost the same time that I talked to my friend about her experience with Serve to Learn, I received a call from my cousin, a third-year medical student. He told me that he wanted to use his medical knowledge to serve his brothers and sisters in Christ in Egypt. After a few discussions among the three of us, we arrived at the concept of a medical education service trip to Egypt through collaboration between Coptic Orphans and CMANA.

This three-week trip to Egypt, as an aspect of Serve to Learn, will focus on simple yet creative ways of delivering a health-focused curriculum to orphaned children of all ages in Coptic Orphans’ programs. We will focus on three medical topics: wound care, hygiene, and nutrition, providing instruction in English through fun activities that the kids can understand and relate to.

By putting our love for these children to work by teaching them basic health knowledge, we can help improve their lives, and build a more health-conscious generation of Coptic children.

By being a part of the medical initiative of this Serve to Learn trip, you’ll be able to serve the kids through love, compassion, hope, and education.

I encourage you to apply soon — the deadline is March 15 for the medical initiative, and April 1 to serve at one of the sites of the “regular” English-teaching Serve to Learn that Coptic Orphans has been running for over a decade. You can find the applications here.

You will make an impact on this trip, not just in each one of the children’s lives, but also in their homes and families. But that is not the only reason I would encourage you to go. I encourage you to apply soon because you will meet so many beautiful children who will touch your heart. They will look up to you as an older sibling, with nothing but love in their hearts and smiles on their faces. The love that you receive will leave you with no alternative but to open your heart and love them back. That is when the change happens.

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

‘You’ll Feel Yourself Being Molded by God’s Hands’ — Crestin Andrews Unveils New Serve to Learn Medical Initiative

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Building relationships with the kids in Serve to Learn, “Your heart will be flooded with a joy it has never known before”.

Dear Friend,

If you’ve never read one of our guest blog posts before, I urge you to read this one. A few months ago, one of our returning Serve to Learn volunteers from Indianapolis, Crestin Andrews, came to talk to me. She wanted to use her passion for science and medicine to serve Egypt’s kids —and what came out of that conversation may change lives in Egypt for the better. I’ll let Crestin explain the initiative that now involves the creativity of many people and our valued partner, CMANA, and how she came to want to give everything she has to serve the people of Egypt.

—Nermien

After my Serve to Learn experience last summer in Mattay, I didn’t want to come back.

I stayed up many sleepless nights on the balcony of the apartment we called home, gazing out at the hidden beauty I couldn’t bear to leave. God Bless my incredible teammates for their patience in consoling me. We would make tea and sit around talking and joking until the tears of sadness quickly turned into tears of laughter. At one point, I came awfully close to canceling my plane ticket back.

My family and friends all thought I was nuts. “It’s just because it was a new experience for you,” they would tell me. But they didn’t understand. They didn’t understand what had captivated me about the shy smiles and curious eyes of the people I met in Mattay. And I don’t blame them, because I could hardly explain it myself.

It took me a long time to make sense of it all after returning. I felt like I had discovered an entirely new part of myself and was so afraid it would die out with the monotonous routine of my selfish everyday life. I had discovered a passion for service that I never knew existed within me. I mean REAL service. Anyone can say they love service, but the true test is what you are willing to sacrifice for it. When you leave behind all luxuries and commodities, drop yourself in an unfamiliar place outside of your comfort zone, and spend your every waking breath working to enrich someone else’s life for such a period of time, it changes you. The real challenge is how to hold onto it.

I wanted to find a way to merge this newfound love of service with my lifelong commitment to science and medicine. A friend and I were talking, when by chance he mentioned CMANA, the Coptic Medical Association of North America. I learned that CMANA organizes many medical mission trips and provides opportunities for health professionals to use their expertise in service overseas.

Soon after, another friend expressed interest in talking to Coptic Orphans about starting an initiative to educate children about basic health topics. Naturally, the partnership of CMANA’s health expertise and Coptic Orphans’ focus on education seemed like a match made in heaven.

And so was planted the seed of the upcoming June 18-July 9 Serve to Learn: Medical Education initiative. Our vision is simple. It’s essentially the same as the established Serve to Learn trip, which for over a decade has brought volunteers to Egypt from all over the globe. At several sites in villages along the Nile, these volunteers spend three weeks hosted by the local bishop, teaching Coptic kids basic English skills and a lifelong love of learning through fun activities.

For the new initiative, instead of teaching basic English skills, volunteers at this year’s special site for medical education will be providing instruction in basic health topics such as nutrition and hygiene. This targeted education can potentially have an immeasurable positive impact on the children’s lives, because poverty is on the rise in Egypt, pushing health awareness to an all-time low.

I strongly encourage anyone with an interest in medical education to consider this trip and help pioneer this new initiative! Applications are available here; they’re due by March 15 (April 1 to take part in the regular English-teaching trip)!

Going into this trip, your primary goal will be to give — give your time, give your knowledge, and give your energy. But what you will end up taking home is more than you could ever provide. You won’t be able to explain it, as words will surely fall short when you try. You’ll feel yourself being molded by God’s hands, which are so clearly evident in these people’s lives. Your heart will be flooded with a joy it has never known before, and you will begin the lifelong process of uncovering the heart of service God has placed in you.

You will become part of a group strengthened by camaraderie, and part of an even larger community of people who will inspire you with their extraordinary dedication to their service. Your teammates will undoubtedly become your family. Turns out that laughing at each other’s broken Arabic for three weeks makes for some pretty strong bonding.

And I promise you that when you sip from your cup of tea every morning at home, you’ll be transported back to those special times as if you were still there, discovering the depth of God’s miraculous creations.

Slots for this trip are limited, and the deadlines are fast approaching, so apply today! Applications are available here; they’re due by March 15 (April 1 to take part in the regular English-teaching trip)!

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

When Preparations Replace Desperation

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Mothers and daughters can both benefit from Coptic Orphans programs.

“B’edaya has had a big impact on my life; it makes me feel that I’m not a burden on my kids, and I’m able to manage my household finances and prepare for my daughter’s marriage.”

When Shereen, a budding small businesswoman and micro-loan recipient, said these words to our staff, what stood out was her mention of preparing for her daughter’s marriage.

As we look ahead to launching a new round of micro-loans in March though our B’edaya microfinance initiative, I’m struck by how Shereen’s words show that just a bit of capital can change the life of a female entrepreneur. Her family members also feel the positive impact, with potentially life-changing results.

Her observation particularly sticks in my mind because, with economic hardships rising sharply in Egypt, Coptic Orphans field staff have noticed a serious increase in young girls being married off early. They usually end up in that situation because families – particularly those without male heads of household, whom this project serves – can’t cope with feeding “extra” mouths.

Early marriage, as anyone who’s familiar with it knows, can devastate the life of a child. The repercussions for a girl’s health, education, economic security, and happiness can be impossible to overcome.

As just one example of early marriage’s traumatic outcomes, a 2014 study by the American University in Cairo’s Social Research Center, in partnership with the Ford Foundation, found that 27% of women who were married before they turned 18 had been physically abused by their husbands.  

So the ability to prepare for a daughter’s marriage, as Shereen points to with pride, is hugely important.  

Widowed mothers who are able to start or build up their small business with micro-loans are able to do something that’s almost impossible without financial stability: prepare for the future.  In Shereen’s case, that translates into being able to get ready for her daughter’s marriage, rather than being pushed headlong into arrangements that her whole family may later regret.

These are the kinds of results we count on from the micro-loans. As important as they are to filling stomachs with food and bank accounts with savings, the biggest changes often become apparent over time. The girl who doesn’t get forced into early marriage, the mother who feels her own self-worth — those are the real payoffs.  

We’ve had fantastic applications for the upcoming round of this project, and we plan to disburse these 0% interest micro-loans to coincide with Mothers Day and International Women’s Day in March. I look forward to sharing details of some of the new business projects we’ll be supporting in the months ahead.

For now, we’re grateful for your support, and we continue to count on it to achieve the results Shereen speaks of. We believe in mothers who can prepare for the future, and in freeing young girls from early marriage!