Tag Archives: Serve to Learn

‘The Love These Kids Give Is Indescribable’ — John Wassef Reflects on Serve to Learn

Serve to Learn volunteers say good-bye to the children in Armant.
Serve to Learn volunteers say good-bye to the children in Armant.

Dear Friends,
In January, 12 young people from around the world  spent three weeks in Armant, a rural village near Luxor, teaching children basic English skills and offering them character-building mentoring. They went to Egypt as part of Coptic Orphans’ Serve to Learn program. The volunteers came back bursting with stories… hence this series, based on the idea that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Each volunteer is sharing a photograph from the trip, accompanied by a few words about why that moment moved them. Today, I’m proud to share John Wassef’s words and photo. If you enjoy them, I invite you to read the “1,000 Words” posts by Ryan Wasson and Phoebe Azer. And just a reminder: The deadline to apply for the next Serve to Learn trip is April 15. We’d love to have you with us!
— Nermien

Who’s in this photo?

One of the kids from our class (Michael) and me.

Where was it taken?

Just outside of the school doors.

What’s happening here?

This was on our last day of school after a massive water fight. As I said good-bye to all of the kids in the courtyard, he came running towards with me a massive smile on his face. As usual I would walk to the gate and say good-bye to the kids and tell them to make sure they came the next day. I put my hand over Michael’s shoulder and told him I’d miss him as we were walking. Just then he started crying uncontrollably and wouldn’t let go of my arm. As we got to the gate I gave him a massive hug and he didn’t want to let go. I just kept telling him that I’ll be back as soon as I could to see him again.

How were you feeling when this was taken?

The feeling I had during this particular moment was really overwhelming. I never thought that the shy boy from day one who wouldn’t talk or want to answer any questions would have changed so much in three weeks. I could tell from the first day that his level of education was poor and he would be too shy to answer any questions. By the end of our time there he was so eager to answer every question and wouldn’t stop smiling. We brought these kids into an environment they had never really experienced before. During their school holiday if they don’t have a job they’re out on the streets with people who aren’t a good influence. During this moment it really started to dawn on me that these were our last moments together. The love these kids give is indescribable. So, I guess it was a moment of happiness and sadness. To know that we could have this effect on these kids and in return the massive impact they made on us. To sum up I felt happy, loved and so touched.

Why do you want to remember this moment?

I want to remember this moment so I can remind myself of how much love all these kids showed me. We gave so little but were rewarded with so much in return. It’s also a memory that I never want to forget.

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

Our main purpose travelling to Armant was to teach the kids English. In return they taught us how much a smile can change your whole day. All day we would hear the “Thank God” from the youngest child to the oldest adult. It really puts into perspective how appreciative these people are with the little they have. It was a really touching experience that is so hard to put into words.

The people in Armant are amazing. They appreciated our time with them. They have so much to offer even though they have so little. Something I learned looking back on my time there is that we really did make an impact on these children. Our daily program there was a safe haven for them. Somewhere they could laugh, play and learn in a safe environment. These people have no one to look after them so we need to do as much as possible to help. Some one said to me before I went to Armant, “You’ll learn more form these people than you’ll teach them.” It could not have been any more accurate than that. You really do serve to learn. They need to be reminded that the world hasn’t forgotten about them. I have been telling everyone from the moment I arrived home, if you’re thinking about serving go to Egypt. It was something that changed my life and I can guarantee if you go, you will have life long memories. The people in Armant will always be in my heart and I will definitely be back as soon as possible. In the words of his H.H. Pope Shenouda, lll “Remember those who have no one to remember them.”

*Names changed to protect the privacy and dignity of the children

____


Interested in learning more about Serve to Learn? Check out our page and our new video, which gives a snapshot of the program! Time is running out to apply for our July 3-25 session, and spots fill up fast, so please get your application in by the April 15 deadline. 

If you want to read other Serve to Learn stories, here are interviews with ToniJohnGabyMinaAndyVeronikaDavidBen, Kirollos, MariamAlex, and Mirelle.

‘These Kids Began to Love Education’ — Phoebe Azer Recalls Serve to Learn Stories

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Phoebe Azer’s students linger after class. “These kids never wanted to leave the classroom without us.”

Dear Friends,
In January, 12 young people from around the world  spent three weeks in Armant, a rural village near Luxor, teaching children basic English skills and offering them character-building mentoring. They went to Egypt as part of Coptic Orphans’ Serve to Learn program. The volunteers came back bursting with stories… hence this series, based on the idea that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Each volunteer is sharing a photograph from the trip, accompanied by a few words about why that moment moved them. Today, I’m proud to share Phoebe Azer’s words and photo. If you enjoy them, I invite you to read the “1,000 Words” post by Ryan Wasson.
— Nermien

Who’s in this photo?

From left to right — Mary, Mira, Michael, Mark, Yousef, Samuel and Kirollos*

Where was it taken?

In the classroom.

What’s happening in the photo?

This was after class one day. These kids never wanted to leave the classroom without us and so would wait until we had packed up and would walk down with them. Some of the best times in Armant were with these kids hanging out after class.

How did you feel when it was taken?

So happy! I just love these kids!

Why do you want to remember this moment?

Because it is a reminder of how much love we were shown by the people of Armant, in particular the kids of Armant.

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

Only one of the seven kids in this picture has a decent level of education. Three of them couldn’t read or write Arabic. However, throughout the Serve to Learn program, these kids began to love education and show an incredible amount of eagerness to learn.

Mary couldn’t read or write Arabic. However, this did not stop her from trying her hardest in class. I was so impressed with her determination and the confidence she had by the end of the program. It was also so incredible to see her become inspired by the program, as Serve to Learn not only introduced Mary to English, but also encouraged her to dream of becoming more. This proved true as she looked at me almost awestruck as we discussed dreams and opportunities.

Mira also had a very basic level of education despite being in year seven. At the start of the program, Mira refused to speak out loud in class and to interact with any of the boys in the class. However, by the end of the program she was confident enough to join in and was even laughing and hanging out with the boys!

Michael is such a loving boy who every day would insist on a photo with myself and his younger brother Michel. He is one of the kids in the Coptic Orphans program and I had the absolute pleasure of being welcomed into his home where we played pickup sticks, laughed, and drank the most delicious fruit cocktail made by his mother Marina. The love shown by his family and other families we visited with the volunteer rep, Mama Senaa, was immense. They even gave us gifts on the last day and just welcomed us with so much love into their homes.

On the second day of class I had asked the kids to write a sentence and I had instructed that those who knew how to write the sentence in English should do so and if they didn’t then they were to write that same sentence in Arabic and then beneath it I would write it in English. Mark then exclaimed, “Marafsh aktab araby wala english ya miss” (I can’t write in Arabic or English ya Miss). Mark, however, was never limited by this and was always the most excited student in the class. In our first week we were learning how to ask “What is your name?” Mark ended up taking over the class and started clapping to a beat and repeating “What is your name?” In no time the whole class, including Andrew and I, had joined in, and thanks to Mark, these kids in Armant will all know how to ask you what your name is in English.

Yousef and Samuel were always eager to get involved, especially when there was the incentive of a sticker. They, along with Mark and Kirollos, were the class clowns. When looking at the world map one day, Yousef asked us to show him where Kuwait was. When we pointed it out he excitedly exclaimed, “So that’s where my dad is.” I soon learned that a lot of the fathers in Armant have all gone to Kuwait for work to earn money for their families — another challenge these amazing kids faced.

Kirollos was one of the most loving humans I have ever met. He would come an hour before class to wait for the volunteers and leave at 3pm even though class ended at 12pm. He also came on the last day before we left and waited three hours to see us off. He was always smiling and loved class. Kirollos always bought joy to the volunteers and I learnt so much from his love and his joy.

*Names changed to protect the privacy and dignity of the children
____


Interested in learning more about Serve to Learn? Check out our page and our new video, which gives a snapshot of the program! Time is running out to apply for our July 3-25 session, and spots fill up fast, so please get your application in by the April 15 deadline. 

If you want to read other Serve to Learn stories, here are interviews with ToniJohnGabyMinaAndyVeronikaDavidBen, Kirollos, MariamAlex, and Mirelle.

‘They Had So Little, Yet So Much Love to Give’ — Nadine Roffaell Reflects on Serve to Learn

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Nadine Roffaell  and her students on the playground after class.


Dear Friends,

January 2015 was a special month in Armant, a small, rural village near Luxor. What made it so special was the meeting of 12 volunteers from around the world with Egyptian children — the world’s most wonderful kids! The volunteers spent three weeks playing, teaching, and learning with the children as part of Coptic Orphans’ Serve to Learn program. Today, I’m excited to share another post from that meeting of hearts, on the theme of “a picture is worth 1,000 words.” To bring you the real feeling of the Serve to Learn experience, each volunteer chose one picture and described what that moment meant to them. This is Nadine Roffaell’s picture and 1,000 words!

— Nermien

Who’s in this photo?

Children from my very first Serve to Learn class!

Where was it taken?

The photo was taken at the monastery in the playground.

What’s happening in the photo?

Someone called out “PHOTO!”.. Then all of a sudden they jumped all over me. The children absolutely loved taking photos with us.

How did you feel when it was taken?

It was taken on the first day of the program and I had only spent an hour with these children. I was so happy. I couldn’t stop laughing when the photo was taken. I’ve always loved being with children, but they were something different. They had so little, yet so much love to give. It was day one and I already felt attached. Although I wasn’t confident with my Arabic at the time, a smile was all it took. I didn’t want them to go home that day. Being with them was home. I felt like they were my own.

Why do you want to remember this moment?

I want to remember this moment so I can remind myself of the value of a smile. A smile was all they gave at this moment, but it was worth so much.

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

Look at the smiles on their faces. They were so happy. We say these children have nothing, or are less fortunate, but they have everything. They know simplicity, they have happiness and they are Love.

Interested in learning more about Serve to Learn? Check out our page and our new video, which gives a snapshot of the program! Time is running out to apply for our July 3-25 session, and spots fill up fast, so please get your application in by the April 15 deadline. 

If you want to read other Serve to Learn stories, here are interviews with ToniJohnGabyMinaAndyVeronikaDavidBen, Kirollos, MariamAlex, and Mirelle, as well as another 1,000 Words post by Ryan.