Dear Friends, It’s always a huge source of encouragement when someone spontaneously dedicates a sponsored run or similar event to Coptic Orphans. So it was great to hear from Andero Morgos, our friend in the UK, that he was taking part in the Nov. 15 Vitality WestRun London 10k. We’re grateful for his love for the children of Egypt… and I managed to catch up with him for the interview below!
PS Please support Andero’s commitment to the kids by making a contribution to his Indiegogo campaign!
What convinced you to run the Vitality WestRun London 10k in support of Coptic Orphans?
I have previously done four 5k, a 10k and a 1-half marathon run for local charities and one major charity being Cancer Research UK. At the moment the plan is to run alone, but I’m trying to get friends involved as I previously have done.
How long have you been training for this event, and how?
I run regularly and always try and keep fit but have been pushing myself in the last 3-4 weeks in training for this run and to keep up with my previous finishing times.
What experiences have you had in Egypt or elsewhere that make you want to connect your life with the lives of kids in Egypt?
I’ve seen and heard of a lot of the work that Coptic Orphans does and have always been interested in serving. I have done this before in Kenya and in Egypt with a charity that is based in my church at St. Mary and St. Abraam Orthodox Church in Brighton, England called A.C.T.I.O.N ( “Act Charitably Towards Incapable Other Nations”) and decided by the Grace of God I’d like to support this charity in a way that I can and enjoy and that is by dedicating a sponsored run to this charity.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about doing what you’re doing?
GO FOR IT! Don’t hesitate and push yourself to do it! Easier said than done, but going by the verse which said “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” never let anyone hold you back or make you doubt your abilities. It could be your first run or one in many but always keep the thought that you are doing this for a purpose and as a service to people who aren’t as fortunate you.
Dear Friends, This “a picture is worth a 1,000 words” entry is one of my favorites because it shows how Serve to Learn gives volunteers opportunities to use their talents to play with, empower, and love the world’s greatest kids! Play an instrument? Draw? Tell funny jokes? Come share the gifts God has given to you with the kids of Egypt. Applications for the Jan. 22 – Feb. 13 Serve to Learn trip are now available and are due by Nov. 15. For those of you who have never heard of Serve to Learn, it’s three weeks of service in Upper Egypt teaching English. You’ll offer the kids respect, hope, and love—and they will love you, and transform you. Now, here is Crestin Andrews on how she used her gift of music to connect with her kids. — Nermien
Who’s in this photo?
Me, my partner Nancy, and my kids, David, Mina, and Mark (I tried so hard not to pick favorites… but I failed!).
Where was it taken?
In the classroom after we did “taraneem” (spiritual songs) in class that morning.
What’s happening in the photo?
They were all just so excited about the guitar and everyone wanted to take a picture with it.
How did you feel when it was taken?
Pure joy. I was so excited that they loved music and I felt a sense of accomplishment.
Why do you want to remember this moment?
Each of the kids in this picture touched me in a very specific and unique way.
If you could help people understand one thing with this photo, what would it be?
You never know what it is about you that will resonate with these kids. I had music, and it was such an incredible feeling to share this with them.
Interested in learning more about Serve to Learn? Check out our page and video, which gives a snapshot of the program!
You may also enjoy these video interviews with Nadine, Peter and Mary. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Friends, To help build a worldwide network of advocates for the children, I visited South Africa June 24-26 to speak at the Annual Global Advocacy Forum of Compassion International. Below is my presentation. It was a great chance to explain our work in 55 dioceses with our amazing Church-based volunteer Reps. Best of all, I got to talk about the courage of the kids themselves, especially Marina, whose story I shared.
I’m grateful to Compassion for all of their work for the children, and for inviting me here today. It is really energizing to share the room with so many inspiring people and stories.
Coptic Orphans is an international NGO serving over 10,000 children all over Egypt. We focus on providing high-quality education to break the cycle of poverty, and we support the children in staying with family members and out of institutions. In 25 years, we’ve been able to touch the lives of over 30,000 kids.
But that’s too dry of a description. Before I go further, I’d like you to meet Marina, my friend.
Marina lives in the governorate of Sohag in the small town of Tema; in the South of Egypt — historically neglected by the centralized government in Cairo — the last to get roads, the last to get electricity, and so on. Poverty is highest in the South, with up to 40% living below the poverty line.
Marina faces a corrupt educational system where teachers are underpaid, and they make it up by forcing students to take private lessons from them. These lessons can eat up half of a family’s income. It’s become so bad that the poor can no longer afford the “free” educational system.
Marina is also a Christian. She faces discrimination. It’s only been in modern times that the jizya tax has been abolished. It’s a special tax on Christians not only meant to be a financial burden, but also one of humiliation. So you ask, “But if I don’t say I’m Christian, no one will know to be able to discriminate against me.” Well, the government has made it easy. Right on the government-issued ID, it states my religion. So at every traffic stop, and every occasion where I’m enrolling my kid in school, at paying my phone bill — it’s known what I am.
Marina is also a girl, which means she faces FGM, which has a prevalence rate of 92% in Egypt.
As if that’s not enough, her father, the only breadwinner, passes away. Her mother is left with no income, young children, and having to navigate for the first time on her own in a very male-dominated society.
Of course it can’t possibly get worse — but it does. While in the 2nd grade, Marina comes down with spinal meningitis. It takes two months for her family to take her to the doctor; by then, it has affected her eyesight. Marina will never be able to see again.
For two years, Marina sits at home in the dark. In comes Coptic Orphans. Tharwat, our staff member, knows that to enroll a child, they have to be enrolled in school. He asks her, “Do you want to continue your education?” Marina cries. “I can’t see, how can I continue my education?”
They were determined. Tema has no school for the blind. So Sister Madeline, the Coptic Orphans volunteer based in the Church, arranged to have her enrolled in a school in Sohag — which meant she would take her every week, and bring her back every weekend. Marina was terrified. She hadn’t been outside her home in two years, and now she was going to live far away, by herself. With words of encouragement and some prodding, Sister Madeline got her to go.
Sister Madeline even arranged for a Braille teacher for her over the summer. Marina is now 18, she has completed the 7th grade, and is at the top of her class.
When the church saw this, they asked her, “Marina, we need your help, can you teach Braille to the other kids who can’t see?”
Isn’t this where we want to be? To be needing our children to help us?
I remember Marina telling me, “I’m so lucky to have someone love me as much as Sister Madeline does.” And I truly felt that love — I was almost jealous.
It was the relationships — not money, not knowledge, that caused such a transformation.
Bottom line, the more in Christ and in His likeness we are, the more effective we become and see such remarkable transformations to literally move from darkness — to metaphorical light.
Powerful transformations can only happen in Christ, with the help of the Holy Spirit, for the glory of the Father.
So who are these volunteers?
They are servants of the church, and it’s imperative to work with the Church. When I speak of the Church, I mean the Coptic Orthodox Church with adherents of over 95% of the Christian population in Egypt. The bishops in the 55 dioceses where we work know that we emphasize bringing children and their families out of isolation and back to the liturgy, back to Church activities, back to serving the Church. We also help achieve their mission to serve the poor. The more we support the Church’s mission of tending to the flock, the more we find local Church leaders welcoming and embracing our work.
We give extensive training to our volunteers , who are also Sunday school teachers and youth ministers, so the training finds its way back to the Church. Some of the volunteers even become priests — our way of giving back to the Church.
God has blessed us with tremendous growth and success over the last 25 years. By the grace of God, today, if you walk into almost any Egyptian community from Assiut to Alexandria, the odds are good that you’ll meet families who’ve benefited from Coptic Orphans’ work.