Frequently Asked Questions
WHY IS THE MINIMUM AGE 18?
In most countries and in Egypt, the typical age of attaining legal adulthood is 18. Due to the nature of the program, we are unable to accept minors on The 21.
WHY IS THE TRIP NAMED THE 21?
The program was named The 21 as a tribute to the 21 martyrs of Libya, who embody the fortitude, faith, and courage that is the Coptic victory and pride.
WHAT IS COVERED BY THE 21?
Flights, accommodation, meals, admission to cultural sites, and transportation are fully covered and organized by Coptic Orphans.
You will only be required to pay for the following:
- A non-refundable $75 application fee at the time of submitting your application.
- A $500 security deposit (in your local currency), which will be reimbursed at the conclusion of the trip, provided that you participate in all aspects of the trip.
- Visa expenses if required.
- Travel medical insurance (highly recommended).
- It is also recommended that you bring US$350 – 450 to cover incidental expenses including long-distance phone calls, medicine, souvenirs, gifts, snacks and other non-program expenses related to in-country travel.
WHAT IS THE 21?
The 21 is a trip to Egypt that is independently funded and freely gifted by Coptic Orphans to young Coptic adults between the ages of 18 and 23. The purpose of this program is to help diaspora Coptic youth discover their Coptic heritage, serve the children, unite with their people; and in doing so, transform the future of Copts.
Our fellows return from their trip with a desire to get more involved in the Coptic community, go back to Egypt, or explore other aspects of their Coptic identity. Of course, that’s up to them!
DO I NEED TRAVEL MEDICAL INSURANCE?
It is highly recommended that you purchase travel medical insurance in case you have any medical emergencies during your stay in Egypt.
HOW IS THE 21 FUNDED?
By God’s grace, The 21 is a gift that is funded independently through various sources, including but not limited to mandatory fees paid by the fellows, and generous donors that have chosen to direct their donations towards the funding of this program. Rest assured that any donations directed to serve our precious children are not used to fund The 21.
AM I ELIGIBLE?
The 21 trip is open to all Coptic young adults who meet the following eligibility criteria:
- Aged between 18 and 23*;
- One or both parents are Coptic;
- Be of Egyptian origin;
- Reside outside of Egypt;
- Must not have participated in a Serve to Learn trip in the past;
- Must not have lived in Egypt past the age of 12.
* Fellows must be between 18 and 23 years old on the first day of the trip.
Not eligible for The 21? Apply for Serve to Learn instead!
WHAT ARE THE SELECTION CRITERIA AND IS MY ACCEPTANCE GUARANTEED?
Acceptance to The 21 is not guaranteed and is based on the following:
- Committing to attend the full length of the trip.
- Strength of your reference letter.
- Your answers on your application form.
- Demonstrating a heart to serve the vulnerable.
If qualified applicants exceed the number of spots available, selection will be based on a first-come first-serve basis.
WHAT DOCUMENTS DO I NEED TO APPLY?
To apply for The 21, you will be required to upload the following mandatory files. Please have them prepared and saved on your local desktop before starting your application. Failure to submit any of these documents will disqualify you from being considered. Please do NOT submit an incomplete application.
1. Your father’s Egyptian ID or Egyptian passport or Egyptian birth certificate (if he has one);
2. A scanned coloured copy of the photo page of your passport. Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months after the planned date of return. Please make sure that the picture you submit is clear or your application may not be considered;
3. A video answering a question(s) as instructed on the application form;
4. A copy of a signed fellowship agreement. The agreement is available to download on the application form. Please do not edit the formatting of this document if you choose to sign it electronically as it is a legal document;
5. A letter of recommendation that is written, signed, and dated by a clergy member from the Coptic church (i.e. father of confession or other clergy member that knows you well); and
6. Your credit card/debit card details to pay a non-refundable application fee. Due to a large number of applicants, your application will only be reviewed after your application fee is received by Coptic Orphans.
If you choose to submit your application after 11:59 pm (EST) on the given application deadline, your application will be placed on a waiting list.
Please see the application form for further instructions.
WHEN WILL I BE NOTIFIED ABOUT THE RESULT OF MY APPLICATION?
Only those who are selected to participate in The 21 will be notified of their acceptance via email approximately two weeks after the application deadline. Those who are notified of their acceptance will be required to accept their spot on The 21 within a given timeframe or their spot will be offered to someone else.
I AM UNABLE TO ATTEND THE FULL DURATION OF THE TRIP. CAN I ATTEND PART OF THE TRIP?
It is mandatory for all fellows to attend the full duration of the trip. Due to the high demand, only fellows who are committed to the full duration of the trip and are able to participate in all aspects of the program will be selected. 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.
IF I AM NOT ACCEPTED, CAN I APPLY AGAIN?
You are most welcome to submit a new application for a future trip as long as you still meet the eligibility requirements.
WHAT ARE THE PHYSICAL REQUIREMENTS TO PARTICIPATE IN THE 21?
This trip is physically demanding and will require you to be on your feet all day, climbing many flights of stairs, playing games with the children, visiting them in their homes, and at times sitting on the ground with them. On the weekends you will go on outings which might require long bus rides and a lot of walking around. Due to the rigorous nature of the trip, it is important that you take this under consideration before applying.
DO I NEED TO BE ABLE TO SPEAK ARABIC?
You are not required to be fluent in Arabic. While those with a working knowledge of Arabic are more likely to have a more enriched experience within the Egyptian community, those who speak little, or no Arabic will be supported by other fellows who are fluent in Arabic, so you are highly encouraged to apply.
WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY A SECURITY DEPOSIT?
Due to the high demand, paying a $500 security deposit (in your local currency) is important to secure your spot on the trip once you have been notified that your application has been accepted. This security deposit will be returned to you after successful completion of the program, and you return to your home-country.
Where will I be in Egypt?
As a fellow, you will be assigned to one of our program sites in one of the villages in Middle Egypt. You are likely to serve in the governorates of Minya, Assuit, and Sohag. For security purposes, exact locations are revealed only to those who apply and are accepted to The 21.
Do I need a visa?
While flights are organized by Coptic Orphans, you are responsible for purchasing your own visa to Egypt if one is required.
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. If you have an American or European Union passport, you also have the option of purchasing you visa at the Cairo International Airport or Luxor Airport upon arrival.
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, you will be asked to indicate an address – please indicate your family’s address in Egypt OR use the Coptic Orphans Egypt Office address:
3 Rafik Salah El Din St
Merryland, Heliopolis, Cairo
How should I dress?
Egypt is a conservative country, especially about the way women dress. We kindly ask that you respect the prevailing customs by wearing appropriate 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. You 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?
You 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 fellows 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 fellows.
CAN I PAY TO MODIFY MY FLIGHTS AND STAY LONGER IN EGYPT?
Fellows who are selected to participate in The 21 must understand that they will not be allowed to modify their trip in any way as they will be a part of a larger group booking, which does not allow for this level of flexibility, even if they are willing to cover the difference in price. Fellows must therefore be committed to travel to Egypt for the sole purpose of The 21 trip, and must have the flexibility to arrive and depart at the times arranged by Coptic Orphans.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I DO NOT COMPLETE THE PROGRAM?
If you do not complete the program for any reason after being accepted, you will forfeit your security deposit and will be charged the difference in price for any non-recoverable costs incurred by Coptic Orphans, which may involve paying for the cost of your unused round-trip ticket.
WHO WILL BOOK MY FLIGHTS TO AND FROM EGYPT?
If you are accepted, your roundtrip flights will be arranged and paid for by Coptic Orphans. Airline tickets are issued based on the first, middle, and last name that you put on your application, which must match the full name on your passport. If there’s a discrepancy, the airline has the right to deny you passage or charge to reissue the ticket (in which case you may need to forfeit your deposit). If you entered your name incorrectly or changed your name, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible.
MY PASSPORT IS EXPIRED. CAN I STILL APPLY?
Coptic Orphans is unable to book group flights with expired passports. All passports must continue to be valid for at least 6 months from your last day in Egypt. If you are in the process of renewing your passport, please wait and do not submit an application until you have a copy of your new passport, otherwise your application will NOT be reviewed or taken under consideration by the selection committee.
WHAT HAPPENS IF COPTIC ORPHANS CANCELS THE 21 TRIP?
If the trip is cancelled by Coptic Orphans after booking roundtrip flights, Coptic Orphans will incur the full expenses and return your $500 deposit.
CAN I SEE MY RELATIVES IN EGYPT DURING MY SERVICE?
Unfortunately, we are unable to accommodate this request. Due to the nature of the program and flight arrangements, fellows are required to participate in all aspects of the program and will therefore not have the time to visit their families.
WHAT IF I MISS A FLIGHT OR A CONNECTING FLIGHT?
If you miss your flight (including a connecting flight), it will be your responsibility to arrange replacement flights and cover all incurred expenses with the airline directly. The contact information of a travel agent will be provided in case you require any assistance.
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 you are expected to keep your rooms clean throughout your 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 may not be available at your host site. It is recommended that you buy a sim card from Orange or Vodafone from the airport upon your arrival.
HOW DO WE GET AROUND WHILE AT OUR SITES?
Coptic Orphans arranges all transport for fellows throughout the duration of the trip. Private cars and microbuses with trusted drivers are generally used for local outings and weekend trips.
WHAT WILL I BE DOING?
Before you make your way to Egypt, Coptic Orphans will arrange for fellows residing in the US and Canada to travel to Washington DC for an in-person workshop at the Coptic Orphans Headquarters. Those residing outside of the US and Canada will receive the same workshop online and will travel directly to Egypt.
During the trip, you will be provided with the unique opportunity to discover your Coptic heritage through organised weekend activities that include visits to historical, cultural, and religious sites.
However, most of your time will be spent with the children. During the week you will be 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.
Fellows will also be able to attend Holy Liturgy on Sunday mornings but are not required to take communion.
* While previous teaching experience is preferred, fellows are not required to have teaching experience. Guidance will be given to all fellows during the in-country orientation on classroom management and other helpful areas.
WHAT ARE THE TEACHING DYNAMICS?
You will be partnered up with another fellow and you will work together to teach English classes. Ideally, Coptic Orphans looks to pair up fellows with some Arabic language proficiency with those who may have none.
WHAT DO I TEACH?
Coptic Orphans will provide you with a suggested curriculum 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, yet, you are encouraged to create new lessons and get as creative as possible. English education in Egypt focuses on reading and writing, so 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.
With that said, your primary objective is not to teach English, but to use your time with the children as a mechanism to get to know them, and create bonds of love and trust with them.
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 during the week. 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.
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. It is also recommended that you bring small educational gifts such as colourful pencils, erasers, stickers, and so forth as encouragement for the children.
As for home visits, we encourage that you bring a gift such as UNO cards, connect four, 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 item for each child in the home. Note that you will be visiting an average of 3 homes per night, 4 days a week.
WILL I BE TEACHING ONLY COPTS? IS THIS A MISSION TRIP?
The classrooms where The 21 classes are held are administratively run by the Coptic Orthodox Church. Feel free to utilize Christian songs, verses, and activities in your classroom lessons. Note that due to proselytizing laws, 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 ARE HOME VISITATIONS?
A big part of The 21 experience is visiting your students that are enrolled in the Not Alone Program in their homes. You will visit homes in small groups and will be accompanied by Coptic Orphans field staff and Volunteer Representatives. You 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 you will know which home you 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 forge deeper bonds.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THESE VISITS? WHAT IS EXPECTED OF ME?
Home visits make a big impact on both the children and the fellows themselves. As a fellow, you will get to see first-hand the environment that students live in, the obstacles they face, the overwhelming generosity of your hosts, and a side of Egypt you may not have seen before.
As for the children, they are so affected by the idea of someone caring for them that they would travel so far to come see them. That is why nothing is expected from you 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 safety and security of our fellows, volunteer reps, staff, and children. 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 fellows are notified immediately, and the session is cancelled.
Prior to arrival, Coptic Orphans notifies local security officials with the names, nationalities and locations of the fellows 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 fellows unaccompanied and do not allow participants to leave the program or diocese sites for their own safety.
To get up-to-date information on Egypt, we encourage you to download the State Department Smart Traveller App.
WHAT KINDS OF SAFETY PRECAUTIONS SHOULD I AND OTHERS TAKE?
Fellows 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.
Fellows 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 behaviour 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. You should come prepared with insect repellents and spray repellents for your room and clothes.
WHAT COVID-19 PRECAUTIONS WILL COPTIC ORPHANS TAKE TO ENSURE THE HEALTH AND SAFETY OF THE FELLOWS DURING THE 21?
Coptic Orphans treats the health and safety of the fellows with utmost importance. While Coptic Orphans cannot guarantee that fellows will not contract the virus during their time on The 21, program staff will endeavour 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 fellows to a different service location if infection rates are too high in the area.
- Chosen accommodation will be spacious and sleeping quarters will be as separate as possible to lower the risk of infection among fellows.
- 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 if any of the fellows, children, families, Volunteer Representatives, or staff are showing symptoms.
- Disposable masks and hand sanitizer will be provided to all fellows, children, families, Volunteer Representatives, and staff.
Note that Coptic Orphans is not responsible for fellows’ health and safety outside the official program dates.
DO I NEED TO BE VACCINATED AGAINST COVID-19 TO PARTICIPATE IN THE 21?
It is mandatory to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to participate in The 21. Proof of vaccination will be required upon acceptance into the program.
AM I ALLOWED TO TRAVEL TO EGYPT?
Travel restrictions are different from one country to another. It is the responsibility of the fellow to understand their home country’s travel restrictions before applying to The 21.
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 to be granted entry. It is the responsibility of the fellow 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 fellow to ensure that they follow the advice provided to them by their local embassies.
If a PCR test is required, Coptic Orphans will help facilitate for fellows to do a PCR test in Egypt prior to their travel back to their home-country.
WHAT HAPPENS IF MY HOME COUNTRY IMPOSES A LOCKDOWN DURING THE 21 AND I NEED TO RETURN IMMEDIATELY?
You are free to return to your home-country at any point during the program if your home-country imposes a lockdown and you need to return immediately. Coptic Orphans staff will aid you in making the appropriate travel arrangements. In this situation, you will cover all incurred expenses for an expedited return trip. However, the $500 security deposit will be returned to you.
If you have any questions that were not answered here, please feel free to reach out through email at email@example.com