Tag Archives: women

‘30,000 Children Empowered’? What Does That Even Mean?

Slogans: Fabulous for decorating, but too short for documenting 25 years of work.
Slogans: Fabulous for decorating, but too short for documenting 25 years of work.

Dear Friends,

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:

30K 1 NAPNot 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.”

30K 4 NAPValuable 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.”

30K 2 NAPServe 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.

30K 3 NAPTAMKEEN

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!

How to Eat Well by Doing Good in Australia… In 4 Easy Steps

A lovely table and generous table, Oz style!
A lovely table and generous table, Oz style!

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!

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Hats off (on, actually) to the children of Egypt!
Hats off (on, actually) to the children of Egypt!

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!

The youth crew - making a difference for Egypt!
The youth crew – making a difference for Egypt!

Many thanks from us at Coptic Orphans Australia to Mariam and her guests, who are making a difference for the children of Egypt!

By the grace of God, we are celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Coptic Orphans with Galas in Australia and the United States. We had the honored presence of His Holiness Pope Tawadros II at our Sept. 28 Gala in Canada, where he accepted the Leading by Example Award. Tickets to the Nov. 9 Gala in Lilyfield may be purchased online (where you can also get more details) or by contacting me at niskander@copticorphans.org or 02-9787-9777

Who’s Starting to Feel Empowered? These Young Egyptian Women

Young women involved with TAMKEEN perform a play tackling social issues, at the a meeting in Assiut on July 22, 2014.
Young women perform a play tackling social issues as part of their Tamkeen meeting in Assiut on July 22, 2014.

Dear Friends,
Today, I’m glad to share the thoughts of Magda Abdelmalak, who directs the Coptic Orphans office in Egypt. And I’m excited that we’ll be doing more work with these young women!
— Nermien Riad

Can you imagine an Egypt where young women feel safe enough to openly discuss social problems like sexual harassment?

I admit that this kind of thought experiment stretches many people’s brains rather painfully. But if you had been in Assiut on July 22, you’d have been relieved to find out that imagination isn’t always necessary, at least within the two-year-old Tamkeen project.

As part of the meeting held that day in Upper Egypt to mark the closing of the project’s first phase, a group of young women not only discussed sexual harassment — they performed a short interactive play about countering it.

Their play was woven into 90 minutes of songs, videos, and testimony presented by a much larger group of girls, all of whom had taken part in the project’s workshops and other activities. The combination of music, theater, and story-telling showed how they had become active in their communities and were seeking solutions to social problems.

The meeting played an important role in informing local media about the first phase of the USAID-funded Tamkeen project, which aims to build the capacity of community development associations that support over 3,000 girls and young women in Upper Egypt.

Tamkeen works to achieve its goal through cooperation with these associations, micro-grants, and capacity-building in these partners on the organizational level. The project also helps these partners share best practices and become more visible on the regional map of Egypt’s civil society.

The meeting celebrated Tamkeen’s work with 40 such associations in Assiut, Minya, and Sohag, whose representatives were honored guests. Coptic Orphans, the international development organization that runs Tamkeen, organized the event.

Tamkeen, whose name means “empowerment” in Arabic, involves 15- to 23-year-old women in activities carried out by the associations. 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.

Since I direct the Coptic Orphans office in Egypt, I spoke at the event. I explained the role of our staff in capacity-building at the community development associations.

I told our honored guests that Coptic Orphans was honored to work with them through training programs that include project planning and formulation of proposals and ideas. I explained how the trainings also cover how to turn these ideas into the real-life experiences “on the ground” in places where Tamkeen works, to achieve the greatest benefit for the girls and their communities.

In the areas in which Tamkeen is operating, poverty is rampant, and young women are at a particular disadvantage. Given our commitment to overcoming these challenges, Coptic Orphans will continue to work through Tamkeen and our valued local partners, the associations, to ensure that these young women and their communities are equipped with the skills to tackle their challenges through the democratic process.

After the meeting, it was bittersweet to hear some of the girls comment that they wished the project’s first phase wasn’t over.

However, I’m pleased that the achievements of the first two years of work have led USAID to approve a grant to extend the project for another two years. I look forward to working with our partner associations, to whom Tamkeen owes its success in the communities of Upper Egypt.

Many thanks to Ahmed Hegab for contributing his excellent reporting skills to this post. In my next blog post on Tamkeen, I look forward to covering more of the information we talked about in the closing ceremony, including a preview of the project’s second phase. Stay tuned!

PS By the grace of God, we’re celebrating our 25th anniversary with the honored presence of His Holiness Pope Tawadros II! We’re also growing and hiring — please share our job postings with all the skilled, passionate professionals you know!