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!
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:
Not 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.”
Valuable 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.”
Serve 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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Many thanks from us at Coptic Orphans Australia to Mariam and her guests, who are making a difference for the children of Egypt!