Coptic Orphans

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Coptic Orphans is an award-winning international Christian development organization that unlocks the God-given potential of Egypt's most vulnerable children through the power of education. Coptic Orphans works through grassroots partners and volunteer networks to strengthen local communities for sustainable impact. Since 1988, Coptic Orphans has touched the lives of over 45,000 children throughout Egypt. Coptic Orphans has offices in Australia, Canada, Egypt, the United Kingdom, and the United States.


Coptic Orphans incorporated as a US 501(c)3 nonprofit in 1992, when founder Nermien Riad began her work among orphaned children in the Cairo area.[1]

Dr. Jennifer Brinkerhoff of George Washington University, who has studied the organization as part of her work on Diasporas, describes these beginnings:

Riad organized family and friends to sponsor 45 girls in an orphanage when she returned to the U.S.; however, with the departure of the nun who oversaw the orphanage, Riad turned her attention to paternal orphans living with families. She recruited the "church servants" of local Coptic parishes who visited the families. This formed the core structure of Coptic Orphans' flagship program, which would later become known as Not Alone.

As the organization grew, it incorporated life skills workshops and other means of targeting educational, vocational, and personal potential.[3]

It also incorporated an array of programs and projects that complimented Not Alone.


Coptic Orphans' mission (last revised in 2016) is: "To unlock the God-given potential of the most vulnerable children in Egypt through the power of education."


Coptic Orphans Vision Statement (last revised in 2016) is: "A peaceful, prosperous Egypt where children thrive, and a vibrant engaged Diaspora."


Not Alone[edit]

Coptic Orphans’ flagship program is its Not Alone program.

Over 450 Church-based community leaders, the “Reps,” serve as advocates and mentors to the children. The Reps come recommended by bishops and priests from the Coptic Orthodox Church, and the staff in Egypt offers them regular trainings in how to support and protect the children. 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. Nearly 10,000 kids were enrolled in the Not Alone program in 2016 alone.

Sponsors outside Egypt support the program and correspond, provide gifts and special individual assistance, and visit children who participate in Not Alone.[4]

The Valuable Girl Project[edit]

Phoebe Farag Mikhail developed Valuable Girl Project in 2003 based on her work at George Washington University towards an MA in international education.[5] The program pairs "big sisters" in secondary school with "little sisters" for academic mentoring at a village or neighborhood center, often a church or a school. It later developed organically to create a safe space for girls to address and discuss a wide variety of issues affecting them, and to include home visits by center volunteers to reinforce the learning they gained during workshops and discussions they developed at the local center.

The Valuable Girl Project also gained international attention for bringing Muslim and Christian girls together despite rising religious tension in Egypt.[6]


B’edaya is a microfinance initiative designed equip women to do buisiness in a hostile economic and social conditions. It tailors small loans for mothers of orphans in our Not Alone program, allowing them to start a business in anything from animal husbandry to selling groceries. The aim is to help them secure an income, more ability to feed their children, and more control of their lives. [7]

Serve To Learn[edit]

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. Several of these trips were blessed by a private meeting with Pope Tawadros II, and to receive a spiritual orientation from Abouna (Fr) 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. [8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Brinkerhoff, J. M. (2008). Diaspora Philanthropy in an At-Risk Society: The Case of Coptic Orphans in Egypt. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly , 37 (3), 411-433.
  3. ^ 2007 Annual Report,
  4. ^
  5. ^ Brinkerhoff, J. (2009). Digital Diasporas: Identity and Transnational Engagement. New York: Cambridge University Press, 187.
  6. ^ For example, the Associated Press filmed a short news story about the program:
  7. ^
  8. ^ Brinkerhoff, J. (2009). Digital Diasporas: Identity and Transnational Engagement. New York: Cambridge University Press, 188.

External links[edit]