Tag Archives: education

‘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

How the Girls’ Love and Tolerance Awakened a Community

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The Valuable Girl Project honors young women’s voices.

I’m writing today with sadness, because Leila, one of the participants in the Valuable Girl Project, recently passed away. Like all of the Little Sisters in the project, Leila is someone we cherished. Her loss is felt deeply by staff, family, and her friends.

Yet, I also want to share the remarkable way the girls united after Leila’s passing, and how that also brought together their Christian and Muslim parents.

Leila (not her real name) was struck by heart problems while traveling out of Upper Egypt. By the time she could be treated, it was too late to save her life. In the wake of this tragedy, her fellow Little and Big Sisters were sad, but consoled each other. And, amazingly, they decided that they should be part of the public mourning.

“All of the girls wanted to be present at their sister’s funeral,” said Susan, coordinator of the project site.

I can’t tell you how unusual that is, not just in a town in Upper Egypt, but in all of the country. Cemeteries are, as a rule, just about as segregated as it gets. For the girls to unite around the memory of their friend, and persuade their parents to permit their show of collective grief and solidarity, was an extremely rare event.

Leila’s family was really overwhelmed by the girls’ decision to come together, and as a group including both Christians and Muslims. And, somehow, this brought the community together in a way that hadn’t happened before. It seemed to make them value the project even more, and increase their determination to sustain it.

“We really want to see this project continue,” Rana, the mother one of the Valuable Girl Project participants, told Susan. “Even if it means we have to keep it going without funding, somehow.”

Thanks to generous donors whose specially dedicated contributions provide all the support for the Valuable Girl Project, there’s no danger of the project shutting down. In fact, we’re just as committed to it as the parents, and we’re identifying participants and sites for 2016.  We’re spreading the messages that girls and young women are a benefit to themselves and society when they have access to education, that Christians and Muslims can overcome the obstacles facing them. And we count on everyone who shares these values to stand with us.

This work makes a difference. We can see it in the way the girls came together when Leila passed away, surprising their community with their love and unity. We can see it in their parents’ desire to continue the project, no matter what stands in the way. Together, we’ll keep spreading tolerance and access to quality education for these valuable girls!

Welcoming the New Year, with Thanks to God & Our Supporters for 2015 Achievements

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His Holiness Pope Tawadros II meets with Serve to Learn volunteers, July 25, 2015.

Dear Friends,

Looking back at 2015, which had the children’s many academic successes, our meeting with His Holiness, the anniversary gala in Cairo, and a conference of nearly 500 Church-based volunteers, I can only express deep gratitude to God for making everything possible.

As together we step into 2016, I’m reminded of these words I love: “Let us give thanks to the beneficent and merciful God, the Father of our Lord, God, and Savior, Jesus Christ, for He has covered us, helped us, guarded us, accepted us unto Him, spared us, supported us, and brought us to this hour.” 

We also owe so much to our supporters worldwide for enabling these remarkable steps forward, especially by ensuring access to quality education for thousands of children. We’re deeply grateful to everyone who’s made a commitment to the academic success of these brilliant, heroic kids.

As we close out 2015, Coptic Orphan has reached over 40,000 children in Egypt since 1988. Here are some of the ways your love, prayers, and support made an impact this year:

• Almost 25% of Coptic Orphans youth, who come from some of Egypt’s most poverty-stricken communities, earned senawiyyah 3amma (high school final exam) grades of 85% or higher.

• Children enrolled in Coptic Orphans programs were more than three times more likely to complete their secondary education than their average Egyptian peers.

• For the second year running, 10 Coptic Orphans children beat tremendous odds to win prestigious LOTUS and AMIDEAST scholarships to Egypt’s best universities such as the AUC and the British University.

These academic achievements of Coptic Orphans children would not be possible without the Church. We’re incredibly grateful to the Church for partnering with us in 55 dioceses across Egypt.

We felt especially blessed in 2015, because His Holiness Pope Tawadros II met with the volunteers in our Serve to Learn program on July 25, telling them of the value of their service for the children and for Egypt. We’re thankful beyond words for His Holiness’ inspiration and leadership.

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A pair of the hundreds of kids the 2015 Serve to Learn volunteers were blessed to form bonds with and teach.

Overall, in 2015, 37 Serve to Learn volunteers from around the world traveled to Egypt for three weeks of serving, teaching, and forming close bonds with children in communities such as Armant, Luxor, and El Barsha, Mallawi.

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Nearly 500 Church-based volunteer ‘Reps’ meet in August 2015 to discuss serving the children and receive intensive training.

Another key step forward in 2015 was the conference of nearly 500 Church-based volunteer “Reps,” the backbone of Coptic Orphans’ work with the children. The highlight of the August event in Hurghada was intensive training in how to build rapport with the children served by Coptic Orphans.

Coptic Orphans capped the year on Oct. 11 with a silver anniversary gala celebrating 25 years of serving God and the children. Among the speakers and honored guests at the Cairo event were Deputy Minister of the Cairo Governorate Gihan Abdel Rahman Ahmed, former Minister of Urban Development Dr. Laila Iskander, and Dr. Raouf Ghabbour.

At the event, which was attended by over 150 guests, Coptic Orphans presented its Leading by Example Award to Eng. Hossam El Kabbany, chairman of the Al Orman Association, to honor his tireless work to improve the lives of Egypt’s most vulnerable citizens. The award honors people whose character and achievements make them role models in Egypt and around the world. Past recipients include Dr. Farouk El Baz, His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, and Ola Ghabbour, founder of the Children’s Cancer Hospital.

With God’s grace, we’re looking forward to a fantastic 2016 that builds on these achievements and brings better lives to even more children. And as we finish a wonderful 2015, I want to say to everyone in the Coptic Orphans family: “Thank you, and may you have a blessed and Happy New Year!”