Serve to Learn Frequently Asked Questions
Why should I volunteer with the Serve to Learn Program in Egypt?
Volunteering in Egypt is a unique experience, offering opportunities to gain new perspectives on child poverty and ongoing issues facing Egyptian communities. You will develop new skills, make friendships that cross borders, and be inspired on a daily basis. In addition, with Serve to Learn, you will also experience the blessing of serving God’s children, an exciting summer abroad, interaction with authentic Egyptian culture and a rewarding experience. And that’s just the beginning. Your contributions while in Egypt will help the community in which you are placed.
What are the selection criteria?
- You are 18 years or older.
- You live outside of Egypt.
- Strength of your letter of recommendation. Your letter must be written, signed, and dated by a clergy member or church servant (i.e. father of confession or other clergy member who knows you well). A clergy letter is preferred, but if one cannot be obtained, please submit a letter from a church servant or another individual who has seen you in a service capacity and can speak about your suitability for Serve to Learn.
- Your answers on your application form.
- Demonstrating a heart for children.
- New applicants are highly encouraged to apply – as are people who’ve done Serve to Learn before!
Are there age restrictions to participate in serve to learn?
You must be 18 years or older to attend Serve to Learn.
Families who would like to serve together are welcome. Children that are no younger than the age of 10 are welcome to participate in Serve to Learn as long as they are accompanied by a parent.
There is no upper age limit; however, Serve to Learn can be quite rigorous. Throughout the three weeks, you will be on your feet all day as you teach two classes in the morning, and play sports and games with the children. You will also be required to visit the children in their homes in the evenings during which you may be required to walk from one home to the next. In some of the simpler homes, you may need to sit on the ground. During the summer season, it gets very hot in Egypt, and A/C may not necessarily be available in the classrooms. We kindly ask that you assess your physical capabilities and consult with your doctor prior to committing to a Serve to Learn trip.
Do I need to have teaching experience?
Volunteers are not required to have teaching experience. However, previous teaching experience is preferred. Training will be given to all volunteers prior to their departure on classroom management and other helpful areas.
Do I need to be able to speak Arabic?
Volunteers are not required to be fluent in Arabic. However, those with a working knowledge of Arabic are more likely to have a more enriched experience within the Egyptian community. Those who speak little Arabic will be supported by other volunteers who are fluent in Arabic.
Can I apply if I am not from the United States?
Yes. Serve to Learn welcomes applicants worldwide, with the exception of those living in Egypt. We do require that all volunteers speak excellent English.
What are the program dates?
The three-week program runs once a year, towards the end of January. Program dates are set based on the academic schedule in Egypt and are subject to slight change. Dates for each session are announced and updated regularly on our website.
Do I have to attend the full three weeks?
It is mandatory for volunteers to participate for the full three weeks. This is due to the nature of the program. Serve to Learn is about building bonds with the children and from past experiences we have learnt that two weeks is simply not enough to achieve this. Additionally, you are partnered with another volunteer in the classroom and leaving early will affect this arrangement. Furthermore, as a volunteer, you are required to attend the mandatory debrief session which is held in person on the last day of the program, so it would not be possible to leave early. Please note that any deviation from the predetermined travel schedule may result in fines automatically charged to your card on file for any loss incurred by Coptic Orphans as a result of unauthorized travel alterations.
Can clergy members attend serve to learn with youth from their church?
All Serve to Learn activities are arranged in partnership with the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt and it would be a blessing to welcome clergy members on Serve to Learn. Large youth groups accompanying clergy members can be accommodated. To receive further information, please email email@example.com with the name of your church, the number of youth expected to attend, the trip that you are wanting to attend, and any inquiries you may have. The Serve to Learn team will be in touch to provide you with more information.
Why do I have to pay to volunteer?
While Coptic Orphans subsidizes a large portion of on-ground program expenses, volunteer fees help contribute to these program costs which include local housing, meals, in-country transportation, pre-departure and in-country orientations, administrative and logistical support.
How much does the program cost?
The application fee is $35 (waived for returning volunteers) and is due at the time of submitting a completed application. Upon approval of application, a program fee of $500 will be withdrawn. (Please note that program costs are subject to change due to the continuous rising costs in Egypt). This is in addition to the cost of flights to and from Egypt.
Where will I be in Egypt?
As a Serve to Learn volunteer, you will be assigned to one of our program sites in one of the villages somewhere in Upper Egypt in the governorates of Qena, Luxor, and Aswan. For security purposes, exact locations are revealed to those who apply and are accepted to Serve to Learn.
Should I bring any additional funds?
In addition to the program fee, volunteers will have to arrange for and pay their round-trip international air ticket, passport, vaccination fees, and visa. It is recommended that volunteers bring US$350 – 450 to cover incidental expenses including long-distance phone calls, medicine, taxi cabs, souvenirs, gifts, snacks and other non-program expenses related to in-country travel.
Do I need a visa?
If you do not have an Egyptian passport or Egyptian ID, you are required to get a visa by contacting the Egyptian Embassy in your home country. Because of the short duration of the program, you will enter the country on a tourist visa. Volunteers with American or European Union passports may purchase their visas at the Cairo International Airport or Luxor Airport after they land. The following links are to the Egyptian Embassies in Washington DC, Australia and Canada.
http://www.egyptembassy.net/ – Washington DC
http://www.egyptianconsulate.ca/ – Canada
When applying for your visa for Egypt, you will be asked to indicate an address – please indicate your family’s address in Egypt OR the Coptic Orphans Egypt Office address: Rafik Salah El Din, off Hegaz Street, Heliopolis, Cairo.
How should I dress?
Egypt is a conservative country, especially about the way women dress. Volunteers need to respect the prevailing customs by their attire. Bring clothing that is easy to wash and difficult to ruin. Light-weight, loose-fitting, all-cotton clothes are coolest and the most comfortable in the summer. Volunteers are strongly advised to bring ankle-length skirts, loose long pants, and loose blouses or shirts. Short sleeves are acceptable. Capri and crop pants are not recommended for men or women. Keep in mind that modesty is the best policy.
The following are not allowed:
Tank tops, spaghetti strap tops, low neck tops (no cleavage showing), halter tops, half or crop tops. Bare midriffs are not acceptable. T-shirts must not be offensive or display any slogan or artwork which includes alcohol, tobacco, or obscenities.
Will I be provided with food and water?
Volunteers do not have to cook as there will be a variety of food types provided by the host at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Local Diocese will do their best to accommodate volunteers with any special diets or allergies (vegetarian, allergic to peanuts, etc.).
We do not recommend drinking tap water. Bottled water will be readily available for all volunteers.
When should I book my flight?
How will we get to our assigned sites?
Volunteers are expected to arrive in Luxor at least 24 hours prior to the program start date. Shuttle pick up from Luxor International Airport/Luxor train station to the place of accommodation will be provided by Coptic Orphans. Following an in-country orientation, staff will transport you to and from your host site where you will serve for the duration of the program.
Coptic Orphans will arrange your transportation back to Luxor Airport/Luxor train station at the conclusion of the program. Debriefing is considered the last part of the trip and attendance is required. Please arrange your homebound flights after the end of debrief at 5pm on the last day of the program.
Please note, you are responsible for any costs incurred before and after the program dates.
What are “pre-departure,” “in-country,” and “debriefing” sessions?
There are pre-departure and in-country orientations before you begin Serve to Learn as well as a debriefing session at the end of the program. A pre-departure orientation will provide you with an opportunity to meet other volunteers embarking on the same journey and Coptic Orphans staff. Coptic Orphans staff will also answer any questions you might have, discuss what to expect on the trip, go over some ideas for activities in English, as well as review details specific to your site. At the end of the three weeks, you will brief Coptic Orphans about your experience in Serve to Learn. This debriefing will take place in Luxor (January trip) or Cairo (June/July trips) on the last day of the program. We use the information you provide and your feedback to further develop our program.
Where will I stay for the duration of the trip?
Your hosts will provide you with the cleanest facilities available to them. The sites where you will be staying have clean toilets, showers, beds, fans, a washing machine and a fridge. Your rooms will be clean upon your arrival, but volunteers are expected to keep their rooms clean throughout their stay. At schools, bathrooms are available, but their level of sanitation is not known. Your hosts will do their best to accommodate your specific needs. Wet wipes and hand sanitizers are recommended to be kept handy.
Will there be WIFI available at my host site?
WiFi will not be available at your host site. It is recommended that volunteers buy a sim card upon arrival at the airport. Orange and Vodafone stores are available.
How do we get around while at our sites?
Coptic Orphans arranges all transport for volunteers throughout the duration of the trip. Private cars and microbuses with trusted drivers are generally used for local outings and weekend trips.
Can I see my relatives in Egypt during my service?
Serve to Learn volunteers have a more positive and rewarding experience when they spend their entire three weeks at their sites and visiting children. In addition, hosts spend a great deal of time arranging weekend trips for the volunteers and would like to see you enjoy them. We therefore strongly advise that family time is scheduled before or after your Serve to Learn assignment.
Why do I need to keep a journal?
You are encouraged to keep such a journal for your personal benefit so you can keep track of what you have learned throughout your trip. We also encourage you to take photos and videos to document your trip. We would appreciate you sharing such videos and pictures so we can educate future and potential Serve to Learn volunteers about the program. We use some photos and videos in Coptic Orphans’ presentations and publications.
What will I be doing?
Most of your service will be spent with the children. Monday through Friday from 9am until 2pm you will be spending teaching in the classrooms, organizing activities, and playing with the children. In the evenings, you will have the opportunity to visit the homes of the children in Coptic Orphans’ Not Alone Program. Your hosts may also ask you to participate in informal activities with young adults in the community so they may practice their conversational English skills.
What are the volunteering dynamics?
As a volunteer, you will pair up with another volunteer and work together to teach classes as a team. Ideally, Coptic Orphans looks to pair up volunteers with some Arabic language proficiency with those who may have none. You will also be accompanying Coptic Orphans reps on home visitations to the children every evening.
Are we serving orphans?
You will be serving orphans that are enrolled in our Coptic Orphans’ Not Alone Program, but keep in mind that other Coptic children who are from the same villages may also be in your class as they are also invited to attend; though our children are given first priority to sign up for the program until the sites fill up.
What do I teach?
Coptic Orphans will provide you with a Teaching Guide and a suggested curriculum that will help you plan your own lessons. Our objective, however is not to teach English, but to use it as a mechanism to draw closer to the children, help them to open up, and create a bond of love and trust with each of them that would allow you to encourage, serve, and learn from them.
Who sets the curriculum?
Coptic Orphans provides you with a teaching guidebook that will help you and your teaching partner plan and organize your own lessons. This is a general guideline to provide you with a starting point, however you are encouraged to create new lessons and get as creative as possible. As the English education in Egypt focuses on reading and writing, we recommend that you gear your lessons toward speech and conversation. You might be the first native English speaker with whom these children have spoken.
How many classes will I be teaching and what age group will I be teaching?
You and your teaching partner will be leading two classes every day from Monday through to Friday. The first class runs from 9am to 11am and the second from 12pm to 2pm. You may be teaching an elementary school class (aged 6 -12 years), or a middle school class (aged 13-15 years). You will be seeing the same two groups of children everyday giving you the opportunity to build strong friendships with them.
How many children will be in each group and what proficiency levels will there be in the class?
Coptic Orphans will do its best to limit the number of children in a group to 20; however, you might have up to 25 children in each session. Additionally, children will be divided into classes by age, not by English proficiency. For this reason, volunteers should be prepared to instruct students at various levels—from early beginners to intermediate levels of English proficiency. Most of your students, however, will be at the beginner level. In some situations, you may have students who are illiterate in Arabic. Teaching them English will be a special challenge.
What kinds of supplies will be available? What should I bring?
Schools will have blackboards/whiteboards, but chalk/white board markers and erasers may not be available. You should bring all materials you plan to use for your activities including: chalk/white board markers, educational games, construction paper, glue, and scissors. You should also bring small educational gifts such as colorful pencils, erasers, stickers, and so forth as encouragement for the children.
As for home visits, we encourage that you bring a gift that can be an activity such as UNO cards, Connect Four, cards, Jenga, pick up sticks or any game that can engage more than two people. Such games help to facilitate conversation with the children during the visit, and serves a good gift for the family lifting the pressure to purchase one separate thing for each child in the home. Every volunteer will be visiting an average of 3 homes a night, 4 days a week.
Some basic materials are available in Egypt for purchase; however, if you wait and want to make your purchases in Egypt, please do so before the Serve to Learn In-country orientation. A list of other necessities will be provided in the Volunteer Handbook.
Will I be teaching only Copts? Is this a mission trip?
The schools where Serve to Learn classes are held serve Coptic children, and are administratively run by the Coptic Orthodox Church. Feel free to utilize Christian songs, verses, and activities in your classroom lessons. However, evangelizing to non-Christians is illegal in Egypt and has harsh repercussions. You can talk about Christianity with Christians only. Discussing Christianity with non-Christians can put you, and even more so, your hosts, at great risk.
What do the students understand about Serve to Learn?
The participants are told that Serve to Learn is a three-week school break activity in which they can take part in to meet people who have come from abroad to teach them English and spend time with them. The children who would otherwise be at home or possibly working are excited to come every day to be with friends and most importantly, you.
Is there any personal free time?
Yes. Aside from personal free time in the evenings, weekends are dedicated to leisurely trips that Coptic Orphans arranges so that volunteers spend more time in fellowship as they visit historical and cultural sites of Egypt. Volunteers must attend Holy Liturgy on Sunday mornings, but are not required to participate in the Sacrament of Communion.
What are home visitations?
A big part of the Serve to Learn experience is visiting your students that are enrolled in the Not Alone Program in their homes. Volunteers visit homes in small groups and are accompanied by Coptic Orphans field staff. Volunteers will visit 3-4 homes every evening, with visits ranging from half an hour to an hour at most. These visits are planned and arranged in advance so that volunteers know which home they will be going to each day.
During these visits, you will get the unique opportunity to meet your students’ families, see first-hand the environment that the students live in and the obstacles they face, encourage your student and their family about his or her progress, and form a deeper bond.
What is the purpose of these visits? What's expected of me?
Home visits make a big impact on both the children you serve as well as the volunteers themselves. Volunteers get to see first-hand the environment that their students live in, the obstacles they face, the overwhelming generosity of their hosts, and a side of Egypt they may not have seen before.
As for the children, they are so affected by the idea of someone caring for them so much that they would travel so far to come see them. This is why nothing is expected from volunteers during these visits except for love, humility, and understanding.
Is it safe to travel to Egypt right now?
There are inherent risks and dangers associated with all international travel. At Coptic Orphans, we take every precaution to ensure the security and safety of our volunteers, staff, and children we serve. Prior to the trip and for the duration of the program, our Egypt staff keep a close watch on the current events occurring in Cairo and the selected service sites. If any danger or threat thereof is perceived, the volunteers are notified immediately and the session is canceled.
Prior to arrival, Coptic Orphans notifies local security officials with the names, nationalities and locations of the volunteers and provide copies of their passports. During the program, security officials are informed of our movements and monitor activity in the area. Coptic Orphans staff and local staff do not leave any volunteers unaccompanied and do not allow participants to leave the program or diocese sites for their own safety.
To get up-to-the-minute information on Egypt, we encourage you to download the State Department Smart Traveller App.
What kinds of safety precautions should I and others take?
Individual volunteers should also take all safety precautions necessary; U.S. citizens may want to register their trip at the US Embassy in Cairo at http://egypt.usembassy.gov/consular/register.html. Canadian citizens may register here: http://travel.gc.ca/travelling/registration. Australian citizens may do so here: http://www.egypt.embassy.gov.au/caro/home.html. We also recommend that you notify any relative and friend in Egypt of your presence and whereabouts in the country and keep your phone numbers at hand.
Volunteers should also take note of the differing expectations of Egyptian culture and adjust to the changes. Examples of such precautions include, but are not limited to:
- Never leave the group or service premise alone at any time, unless it’s approved. Always make sure that a Coptic Orphans staff member or your Local Coordinator knows where you are heading. Even then, travel in groups.
- Avoid using public transportation such as buses, mini (micro) buses, or subway travel alone.
- Dressing conservatively. Women should wear long pants/skirts that come below the knee. Avoid tight and/or short clothing. No shorts, tank tops, or capri pants for both men and women.
- Avoid behavior that would draw attention to you, especially in the site or while traveling to home visits. Those who live there may never have seen a foreigner before. Blending in is always best.
Will there be mosquitoes and bugs?
Mosquitoes and flies are rampant in Egypt during the summer season. In the homes of some poor families you visit, you may also encounter fleas. Volunteers should come prepared with insect repellents and spray repellents for the room and clothes. Supermarkets in Egypt also sell mosquito repelling products. You are likely to find these in Cairo and should plan to purchase them before your volunteer tenure.
What COVID-19 precautions will Coptic Orphans take to ensure the health and safety of the volunteers during Serve to Learn?
Coptic Orphans treats the health and safety of the volunteers with utmost importance. While Coptic Orphans cannot guarantee that volunteers will not contract the virus during their time on Serve to Learn, program staff will endeavor to lower the risk of contracting the virus by taking the following precautionary measures:
- Program staff will select service locations with lower infection rates and follow the advice of the local Bishops.
- On-ground staff will continue to monitor the area leading up to the program start date and during the program. Contingency plans will be made to move volunteers to a different service location in the event that infection rates are too high in the area.
- Chosen accommodation will be spacious and sleeping quarters will be as separate as possible in order to lower the risk of infection among volunteers.
- Regular cleaning and sanitation of classrooms and the place of accommodation.
- The number of children in the classrooms will be reduced to half the normal capacity.
- Classes and home visits will be cancelled in the event that any of the volunteers, children, families, volunteer representatives or staff are showing symptoms.
- Disposable masks and hand sanitizer will be provided to all volunteers, children, families, volunteer representatives and staff. The temperatures of everyone will be taken each day prior to classes and home visits.
Note that Coptic Orphans is not responsible for volunteers’ health and safety outside the official program dates.
Am I allowed to travel to Egypt?
Travel restrictions are different from one country to another. It is the responsibility of the volunteer to understand their home country’s travel restrictions before applying to Serve to Learn.
Do I need proof of a negative PCR test in order to travel to Egypt?
Proof of a negative PCR test may be required by some airlines and upon arrival into Egypt in order to be granted entry. It is the responsibility of the volunteer to ensure that they follow the advice provided to them by the Airlines and by their local embassies in Egypt.
Do I need proof of a negative PCR test in order to return to my home country?
Proof of a negative PCR test may be required upon arrival back into your home country. It is the responsibility of the volunteer to ensure that they follow the advice provided to them by their local embassies.
If a PCR test is required, volunteers are responsible for arranging their PCR test in Egypt prior to their travel back to their home-country. This must be done after the conclusion of the program. It is the responsibility of the volunteer to make the appropriate travel and accommodation arrangements to get tested.
What if I contract COVID-19 while in Egypt?
If a volunteer contracts COVID-19 outside the program dates, it is not the responsibility of Coptic Orphans to make any arrangements. The volunteer must make their own arrangements to isolate and seek medical advice and treatment.
Contracting COVID-19 might also disrupt travel plans back to their home countries. Volunteers must be prepared and make fallback arrangements to cater for potential delays and an extended stay in Egypt.
What happens if I contract COVID-19 during a Serve to learn trip?
If a volunteer contracts COVID-19 while participating in Serve to Learn, program staff will seek the medical advice of a trusted local doctor. If the doctor advises that symptoms indicate that the volunteer has contracted COVID-19, the volunteer will be asked to isolate for a duration of 10 days (or as otherwise advised by the doctor). Volunteers will remain isolated in their rooms in the place of accommodation, and they will remain in the care of program staff.
What happens if my home country imposes a lockdown during Serve to Learn and I need to return immediately?
Volunteers are free to return to their home-courtiers at any point during the program if their home-country imposes a lockdown and the volunteer needs to return immediately. Coptic Orphans staff will aid the volunteer in making the appropriate travel arrangements to their home country. The volunteer will cover all incurred expenses.
Please note that program fees will not be refunded in this situation.
WHAT IS COPTIC ORPHANS’ REFUND POLICY?
Volunteers must be aware that trip cancellations are possible for a number of reasons at any point leading up to the program. If Coptic Orphans makes the decision to cancel a trip at any point before the program start date, volunteers will be provided with a full refund of their program fees.
If a volunteer chooses to withdraw from the program for any other reason, the following refund policy will apply:
|Withdrawal Notice Period||Application Fee Refund||Program Fee Refund|
|30 days prior to program start date||0%||0%|
|31 days or more prior to program start date||0%||50%|
If you have any questions that were not answered here, please feel free to reach out through email at firstname.lastname@example.org