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5 Moments I’ll Never Forget From Our 25th Anniversary Galas

140929_Canada Gala withHis HolinessDear Friends,

By the grace of God, and thanks to a spectacular team effort by volunteers, staff, and supporters, our 25th Anniversary Galas achieved everything we’d hoped and prayed for!

To everyone who helped create the Galas in Canada, the United States, and Australia — and to the more than 1,000 guests who came and supported the children of Egypt — please accept our heartfelt thanks.

The biggest accomplishment is that our guests sponsored 150 new children. This was an enormous leap forward, in just 7 weeks. It’s as if we were able to enroll over 20 kids each day — something unheard of!

But numbers alone don’t tell the 25th Anniversary story. So I want to share 5 specific moments when I said to myself, “Wow, this is really happening… we’re really doing this, thanks to God.”

  1. His Holiness Pope Tawadros II smiling as he tells us ‘Bravo for your service’

141124_HH smilingI got chills during the Canada Gala, watching His Holiness smile as he said these words to staff and sponsors: “Bravo for your service. And I’m not sure who’s happier — you, or the children you serve… you’re all happier. Say it loud! Yes… And I’m with you.”

I never imagined His Holiness would one day say such a thing, and with a big smile. After all, we started out so small — just a few volunteers and a dream. But there I was, listening, and later we even got to present His Holiness with the Leading by Example Award to show our gratitude.

It reminded me of feeling blessed and grateful on another occasion, when His Holiness said Coptic Orphans is “a good and outstanding example of a ministry with specific characteristics: Administratively, it’s excellent. 10 out of 10. From a practicality angle, and perceiving people’s unique needs, 10 out of 10.”

  1. Egypt’s Consul General in Washington, D.C., revealing his own experience of fatherlessness

141120_Egyptian Consul SquareGod has an astonishing way of connecting us to the right people, at the right time. This was made clear to me once more at the Gala in the United States.

Can you imagine a speaker revealing that he’d lost his father at an early age? And not just any speaker, but Mr. Ayman Aldesouky Youssef, Consul General of the Arab Republic of Egypt in Washington, D.C.

When he explained that to us, from the podium, I felt so grateful for his courage. It takes a lot to talk about a huge personal loss. He didn’t have to do that — I believe it showed a real love for the kids.

Most of all, I was shocked by the beauty of that moment. How God had, unbeknownst to us, sent us a speaker so deeply and personally connected with our work for fatherless children.

  1. The Canadians mobbing the sponsorship table

141120_Sponsorship Table CanadaMight sound odd, but at one point in the Canada Gala, it felt amazing to see people rush the table where you could sign up to sponsor a child. We’ve had lines at sponsorship tables before, but not like this.

I could tell that something incredible was happening, and it did. By the end of the night, over 70 children had sponsors. This means we’ve committed to providing those kids with years of love and support.

Why’d it happen that way? Because of God’s grace, I think, and the inspiration of His Holiness’ presence. Or maybe Canadians are in a class all their own. All I can say is, at that moment, I felt blessed and grateful beyond words…

  1. Egypt’s Ambassador to New Zealand congratulating the Coptic Orthodox Church

141120_Zayed SquareThe Church — the center of our community — leads the way for orphans. So you can imagine how great it felt to hear a top Egyptian diplomat express deep admiration for the leaders of our faith.

Here’s what His Excellency Mahmoud Zayed, Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt to New Zealand, said at the Australia Gala:

“Let me also take this opportunity to highlight the fact that  the work and achievements of Coptic Orphans were facilitated by a great church, which is the Coptic Orthodox Church, the largest Christian Church in the Middle East. The Coptic Orthodox Church is a pioneer church in reaching out to its communities both in Egypt and around the world and in bringing them together and safeguarding their values and their heritage. Therefore, I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Coptic Church for its achievements and to wish the Coptic Church continued progress under the leadership of His Holiness Pope Tawadros II.”

This was a wonderful message to hear!

  1. Thabet, a Coptic Orphans graduate, lighting up the future

141124_ThabetThis last moment really struck me, because I think it points the way for the future of our community.

Here’s the story: To show our Galas guest what we do — take them right into the midst of the daily work in Egypt — we had a video made. The first time I saw it, I was floored by one particular person, Thabet.

He’s one of “our” kids — someone who flourished as a child in our programs, made it through his education against great odds, and now has a good job. He seems happy. That’s huge, and makes it all worthwhile.

But something else really moved me. I know it moved many people at the Galas, too, because they came up to me after the video was screened and talked about how they felt. They told me they were moved — and I felt this way, too — because Thabet’s giving back. He’s gone from being one of our kids, to being a volunteer himself and working to improve the lives of his kids.

This is something extraordinary, even though I know Thabet’s story is not unique. Seeing him on the screen, visiting his children, I really understood why we do this work. It’s about more than helping kids survive. It’s about encouraging them to be transformed — by education, by love, by the Church — and to become people who give love back to our community.

That’s the future, I believe. That’s why I share this with you.

So those are 5 of the moments — by no means all of them, but 5 — when I felt amazed and moved during this 25th Anniversary. I’m so happy to recall them with you, to share the results and the joy.

And so here we are, 25 years into this work, together. We’ve empowered 30,000 children in Egypt, making sure they have access to higher education, providing them with better healthcare and housing, and meeting other needs as they arise.

All I can think is, we are the ones who are blessed. His Holiness knew of what he spoke when he said “And I’m not sure who’s happier — you, or the children you serve.” Thank you to everyone who was part of our 25th Anniversary, and thanks above all to God, who makes all things possible.

25 Years, 25 Images of Egypt — A Quarter-Century’s Worth of Memories

Dear Friends,

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!

Egypt, Leadership, and Putting Men on the Moon: An Interview With Dr. Farouk El-Baz

Our 25th Anniversary Gala in Reston, Virginia is now just days away! 

140923_Photo Green El BazI was excited to have the opportunity to ask Dr. Farouk El-Baz, who will receive our Leading by Example Award at the Gala on Oct. 11, about the experiences and perspectives that have shaped his life.

Dr. El-Baz, a former NASA scientist who was born in Zagazig, is one of the most influential modern scientists to hail from Egypt. He has a long and distinguished record of service to Egypt and humanity.

Today, Dr. El-Baz plays a prominent role in the world’s scientific community. He continues to inspire students through his classes and research at Boston University, and has put forth a vision for a powerful and transformative Development Corridor in Egypt. In addition, Dr. El-Baz is currently serving on the Advisory Council of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

Nermien Riad (NR): You’ve spent many years, in many countries, doing research and teaching. Yet clearly, you retain a strong love for Egypt. Why is that?

Dr. Farouk El-Baz (FB): Egypt is a country indeed, but it is also a notion  a thought that pulls you in. Once you feel belonging to Egypt, it remains in your heart and in your mind. It is said that “visitors who drink from Egypt’s Nile must return.” If that is true for foreign visitors, then it is much more to those born in Egypt.

NR: You played a key role in many of NASA’s Apollo lunar missions. What lessons in leadership did you gather from your work to put man’s first footprints on the Moon?

FB: The leadership of NASA in those days had one objective: to encourage each individual in the workforce to achieve “more than what they think they are capable of doing.” Each individual felt that his job was essential to achieving that momentous goal of reaching the Moon. I was neither educated nor trained in the things I did then. They were accomplished by self-learning, dedication, persistence, and very hard work.

NR: Like Coptic Orphans, you have a long-term commitment to a better Egypt. How is your research on arid climates, dersertification, and aquifers connected to that?

FB: Upon completion of the Apollo program, NASA enlisted my help in programs that applied what we learned to the study of the Earth. This was done through the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, Skylab, and Landsat programs. Through my inputs, these missions produced images of Egypt that explained things in a bird’s eye view. I began then to apply the new knowledge to help Egypt, especially upon my appointment as science adviser to the late President Anwar Sadat.

NR: You’ve put forth a plan for Egypt’s development that focuses strongly on innovative land use. Could you tell us a little about that?

FB: The “Development Corridor” was designed based on my geological knowledge of the landforms of Egypt and the potential of using them for the benefit of future generations. It opens over 10 million acres of land that is just west of the Nile for urban development, agriculture, industry, etc., close to the densely populated centers. Thus, it limits urban encroachment on the fertile land of the Nile and opens more vistas for innovation by younger generations.

The Development Corridor envisioned by Dr. El-Baz.
The Development Corridor envisioned by Dr. El-Baz.

NR: What do you miss most when you’re not in Egypt?

FB: When not in Egypt, I miss family members and my friends and colleagues. However, the “social media” ameliorates this somewhat, as communications are now much easier than in the past.

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!