By now you’re probably aware that this year marked our 30th anniversary, and you’ve have seen our logo, “30th Anniversary, Celebrating 45,000 Children Empowered.” But if you’re like me, you may have seen this logo on our website and social media and wondered: “Hmmm… ‘45,000 Children Empowered’ … 45,000? Exactly 45,000? 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 45,000 children? And “empowered” … you could define that lots of ways, right?”
So here’s how the figures add up:
Not Alone Program
Total children empowered: 26,000
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 our flagship Not Alone program which has been serving
the children since 1988. Just this past year, we expanded our reach
into 37 new areas and villages – now reaching over 700!
Our beloved sponsors and donors can tell you how Not Alone works. Over 500 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 extensive training 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 in 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: 6,090
The Valuable Girl Project aims to promote the academic retention, education, leadership 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 16 years and peaked at 16 sites around Egypt in 2018, 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, and therefore promotes peace building. 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: 6,910
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. 326 volunteers have served over the program’s 17 years of existence, teaching more than 6,900 young Egyptians basic English skills, health education, and girl empowerment. This year’s team was even blessed to meet with His Holiness Pope Tawadros II and to receive a spiritual word from him. 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 speaker. Knowledge is power, and English has become a global language with applications in everything from the local tourism industry to multinational corporations. The children also walk away from the program having learned the importance of developing healthy habits like proper nutrition, hygiene, exercise, disease prevention, and concepts like gender empowerment and civic engagement— no small thing in rural Egypt. By sharing this knowledge, Serve to Learn is empowering the children.
Total children empowered: 6,000
Though we ended our Tamkeen project in 2016 after implementing two phases, Tamkeen aimed to support girls and young women in Upper Egypt through work with 50 community development associations in Assuit, Minya, and Sohag. Tamkeen, whose name actually means “empowerment” in Arabic, mobilized 15-to 23-year-old women to become active in their communities. These activities ranged from discussion seminars to youth parliaments. Many of the activities exposed participants to the value of volunteerism. One key objective was 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, were vital to empowering these young woman.
So if you have to summarize what Coptic Orphans has accomplished over the last three decades, by the grace of God—as I’m often asked to do— then “30 years, 45,000 children empowered pretty much says it all!