Sponsorship: Frequently Asked Questions
What Not Alone – Our Child Sponsorship Program – Does
1. Do you help children in orphanages?
While Nermien Riad, Coptic Orphans founder, began her efforts by supporting 45 girls in an orphanage during the late 1980’s, she quickly discovered that it was not enough to address the root causes in orphaned households. When mothers brought their children to the orphanage in hope that the children would have better prospects there than in their own homes, Nermien realized that she needed to reach children in the context of their own families and communities. Today, Not Alone works through a indigenous network of hundreds of volunteer Reps nominated by their local bishops who identify children in particular need and give those children the tools not only to overcome their circumstances, but become change-makers in their communities. The Reps work with each child on an individual basis in his or her own home, according to his or her own needs. Our children often live with their widowed mother and siblings, and sometimes if they have lost both parents, with one of their extended family members. Learn More About Us.
2. Can I adopt a child from Egypt?
We have no means of facilitating adoptions. More information regarding adoption in Egypt can be found on the website of the US State Department.
3. Do you help only Coptic children?
In Not Alone, we partner with the Coptic Orthodox Church to work with children under the spiritual care of each bishop. We cannot presently accept children from families who are not under the spiritual care of the Orthodox Church. Nevertheless, in our Valuable Girl Project we are able to welcome all girls to participate, regardless of religious affiliation.
4. How you identify the children who participate in Not Alone?
In Not Alone, each Rep in our network of hundreds of grassroots volunteers identify children from their local communities who have lost at least one parent through death or abandonment and who are in particular need of mentorship, literacy, and basic necessities. Most of the time, a Rep identifies the children from “The Brethren of the Lord” lists of local Coptic parishes, lists that keep track of those in the parish who are in particular need. This way, even identifying children is a grassroots process.
5. Why is it that some children do not matriculate to the university even after becoming part of the program?
Our goal is to open up access to the fullest spectrum of choices that will help children succeed most and the personal development to transform their families, communities, and future generations. Education is holistic and embraces life beyond the classroom as well as within it. Learning how to learn and develop, the goal of Coptic Orphans’ non-formal approach to education in our programs, equips a child to face life in all of its facets and aspects, whether that child matriculates to the university, becomes an entrepreneur as an adult, or becomes a homemaker for a family. Unfortunately, economic realities are such in Egypt that many who graduate from university remain unemployed. As a result, many children choose to matriculate to technical school instead of university to gain practical skills that are much more marketable in the Egyptian job market. Also, the Egyptian school system puts children on a particular track from very early. Coptic Orphans aims at taking each child where he or she is and lifting that child to fulfill his or her potential.
The Role of Our Egypt Church Partners
6. What is your relationship to the Coptic Orthodox Church?
We have a very close working relationship with the Coptic Church. At the time of writing this, we work in 44 out of 45 dioceses in Egypt, and the bishops of those dioceses have blessed us to work in partnership with their indigenous clergy and church servants, who we train as Reps. We keep in frequent touch with those bishops, and they are very supportive of our work. They also advise us as of specific geographic areas that may require more assistance.
7. Do the children you support receive any spiritual support from the local churches in Egypt?
Each child receives spiritual direction and support from his or her local church. Reps are also servants and leaders in their churches, but a Rep’s mentoring for a child focuses on the child’s overall development rather than on their spiritual development in particular. As a lay-led organization, we give absolute respect to the teaching authority of the Church hierarchy. We leave the spiritual and doctrinal development of our children to their hands, though occasionally we support that by, for example, providing Arabic picture bibles to children.
8. How do my contributions make an impact?
Your sponsorship contributions allows your child to receive opportunities that s/he otherwise may never have been given. Your contributions support the entire program from which children receive access to basic rights such as food, clothing, and adequate and healthy shelter. They also support the training and support of local Reps as they serve as advocates and mentors for children, and help them provide special tutors for children in areas that they need special attention. Also, your support helps field staff and Reps make available workshops, seminars, and other events that teach children valuable skills, unlock their talents, and expand their horizons. Some workshops also help their mothers to become providers by teaching them skills like household management and income generation, as well. Your contributions support the entire program so that not only your sponsored child, but many others may benefit, as well. The difference between sponsoring a child and giving a regular recurring donation is the relationship that sponsors and their sponsored children form. This relationship proves tremendously rewarding for both sponsor and child, and provides opportunities for gifts directly to that sponsored child, as well.
9. What about the other children in the family?
Even if you sponsor just one child in a family of more children does not mean that the children are not being helped. The money that you donate to your child will help both your child and the others because your donation is pooled to help all the children as well as the child you are sponsoring, and support the overall program from which they all benefit.
10. Can I sponsor more than one child?
Certainly! Keep in mind, though, that the difference with sponsoring a child is the relationship that you have with each sponsored child. If you think you might not have time to dedicate to building that relationship with more children through letters, visits, and gifts, we encourage you to also consider increasing your monthly contribution so that we can reach even more children just like the one you sponsor.
11. When I sponsor a child, will my contribution go to that individual child?
Since only about 30% of the children in our program have individual sponsors your donations help support our entire program from which all children–sponsored or not–benefit. The difference between sponsoring a child and giving a regular recurring donation is the relationship that sponsors and their sponsored children form. This relationship is rewarding for both sponsor and child, and provides opportunities for gifts to be given directly to that sponsored child, as well. Sponsors often designate contributions directly for their sponsored children for special occasions in addition to the monthly support for the program that opens opportunities for their sponsored child.
12. Can I send you a check every month and still sponsor a child?
No. In order to keep our administrative costs to a minimum, and to ensure that your sponsored child receives a regular and reliable contribution, we ask that you make your donation as a recurring gift through either a credit card or direct debit of a checking account. If you feel most comfortable writing checks, you may still contribute to any child who is in greatest need at the time of each donation.
13. If I must discontinue my support, what happens to the child I support?
If you need to discontinue your support, we will cover the needs of your child from our general donations and continue that child’s support without interruption. Your commitment can be terminated at any time, but it’s tremendously rewarding to walk with a child during their entire journey to adulthood. The day that your child graduates and enters the world ready and confident as an adult is a satisfying day, indeed.
14. What’s the difference between making donations and sponsoring a child?
In both you support the program through which children receive so many benefits. The difference is in the relationship that you have with your sponsored child. There is more of a commitment when you sponsor a child. You will get his/her picture, learn more about that child and exchange letters and prayers with that child. No other person will sponsor this child, only you. Also, we encourage you to visit your child when you travel to Egypt.
15. Do I have to sponsor a child to contribute to Coptic Orphans?
No. Many of our supporters choose to make general donations. Whether you decide to simply donate to Coptic Orphans as a whole or to specifically sponsor a child, assistance to the children is based on the individual and family situation of each child.
16. What does Coptic Orphans do to ensure financial efficiency and accountability?
Coptic Orphans utilized volunteer manpower, including hundreds of local volunteer “Reps” who share our passion and vision for service and who are the backbone of our work in Egypt. Because they are as committed to the children as we are, they make sure that the funds are used effectively. Reps live in the same village as the children they care for. In addition, we train and equip our Reps so that they understand effective child development and good financial management. Coptic Orphans is totally committed to earning the trust of our donors and sponsors. Integrity is not only a commitment; it is a value that drives our whole organization. Besides an annual audit of Coptic Orphans by an independent auditing firm, we regularly conduct our own audits to make sure that funds are properly received, dispersed, tracked, and managed in every project for every child. We rely on many donated supplies and services, and cut corners wherever we can, such as using scrap paper for internal correspondence.
17. Are my donations tax deductible?
Yes. In the US Coptic Orphans has 501(c)3 status and the Employer Identification Number (EIN) is 54-1637257. Contributions in Australia are tax deductible through a partnership with the Australia Council of Churches. Canada’s tax ID number is 879517712RR0001.
18. What are your administrative costs?
Less than 10% on average. We work very hard to keep the administrative costs to a minimum. See how we accomplish this. An audited financial statement is available upon request.
19. Are you part of consolidated campaigns?
Yes, Coptic Orphans participates in the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) for Federal government workers in addition to other state government campaigns. Our CFC number is 12153.
20. What non-monetary support can I offer?
We appreciate volunteer help in any form. Telling your friends and acquaintances about Coptic Orphans is a good start. And we love to hear from you. Even a little feedback can help us improve and expand our services. See more on how you can contribute by donating items or on how to become a Serve to Learn volunteer in Egypt. We also have various opportunities for volunteering in our country offices. Please visit the “Take Action” section of the website to learn more about what you can do to help.
Communicating with Your Child
21. How can I send a letter to my child?
Any correspondence between a sponsor and his or her child must go through our office. This is to protect the child and the sponsor from inappropriate requests or contact. Please send all letters to your regional Coptic Orphans office. We then translate each letter—if needed, transfer it to Egypt as cost-effectively as possible, and hand-deliver it to your child wherever he or she may live. Sometime this process takes time, as we hand-carry all letters to each village where we work throughout Egypt, and the same goes for letters from your child to you, only in reverse.
22. Can I still write a letter to my sponsored child if I don’t know Arabic?
Yes. You may write your sponsored child in English, and we will deliver your original letter along with an Arabic translation. Your child might even be learning English, so having the letter and a translation will be all the more valuable.
23. Why can’t I write, call or visit my child directly?
We must first and foremost protect the children from any possible harm. As our children often don’t have anyone in a position to protect them, we as an organization must take steps much like a parent would to supervise their contact with the outside world. Coptic Orphans is responsible for managing sponsorship relationships with thousands of children. This also protects sponsors from inappropriate requests from the child’s extended family, who may seek to use the sponsorship relationship for personal gain. We cannot take the chance of anything inappropriate happening between our children and the sponsors, as it would threaten the entire program. For that reason, unannounced visits to the child or their family by the sponsor are strictly prohibited. All visits must be arranged through Coptic Orphans.
24. How can I send a gift to my child?
We ask that any gifts you may want to send to your sponsored child be done through our office. Our address is P.O. Box 2881, Merrifield, VA 22116. We have found the mail system to be unreliable, so we rely on the generosity of friends of Coptic Orphans traveling between the US and Egypt.
25. Can I send my child an extra gift for Christmas or Easter?
By all means! Both occasions are a time for giving and thinking about others. Please never hesitate to send gifts to the children. They are all very much needed.
Visiting a Sponsored Child in Egypt
26. How is transportation arranged?
Sponsors accompany the APMs to the child’s home using public transport. Part of the sponsor experience is to see what the Rep has to go through to get to the child’s home and to realize the costs of transport. Coptic Orphans can provide automobile transportation for Cairo sponsors IF the sponsor is a senior or has medical reasons.
27. Can I visit my child outside the child’s home?
If a sponsor wants to take his/her child out for the day, he/she must first go to the child’s home and then leave from there. Also, the sponsor must get permission from the child’s mother and must take all the other children into consideration. It would be very unfair to take one child out and leave the rest and this should be pointed out to the sponsor. We are unable to bring the children to meet sponsors elsewhere besides their homes out of respect for the dignity of the children involved.
28. Who can I bring with me during my visit?
The only people allowed to accompany the sponsor on the visit are fiancé(e)s, spouses and/or children – only immediate family. There are no exceptions to this rule.
29. Why is the family still so poor even after I helped them?
The money that is provided for the family is not spent solely on material items. There are many things that are not material that the family needs. There needs to be food on the table, there are private lessons that the children need in order to succeed at school, there are small improvements made to the house to make it livable, and more importantly, there are valuable skills that a child and his or her family needs to overcome poverty: skills such as household management, planning nutritional meals, life skills for academic success, etc.. In every case, the state of the family improves tremendously because of the sponsorship relationship even if the family still appears poor by western standards.
30. They don’t appear to be poor. Why do they need help?
When the father was still alive/here and providing, the family had everything it needed, and most of what you see was purchased by the father. They have a television now because it was bought by the father back then. What they don’t have now are the basic needs such as income for food, clothing, school supplies and the like.