Coptic Orphans

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Coptic Orphans (CO) is a non-profit organization founded in 1988 with a focus on paternal orphans and their families in Egypt.


Coptic Orphans incorporated as a US 501(c)3 nonprofit in 1992, but cites 1988, when founder Nermien Riad began her work among orphaned children in the Cairo area, as its year of origin.[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.


On its internal identity statement, (last revised, December 2011) the organization's mission is stated as "to unlock the God-given potential of children in Egypt, and so equip them to break the cycle of poverty and become change-makers in their communities."


Not Alone[edit]

Coptic Orphans’ flagship program, Not Alone. According to Brinkerhoff,

"Reps" in Not Alone use notes from their visits that set individualized goals for each family to connect them to resources using their local expertise. Resources include emergency housing and medical needs, microcredit loans and small business training for widowed heads-of-household through B'edaya, another program of the organization, hygiene and nutritional coaching, assistance with legal documents such as national ID cards or pension requests, literacy and educational tutoring, and various workshops.

Participation in 'Not Alone is conditional on children staying in school, due to the organization's concerns to correct the phenomena of parents pulling their children out of school for child marriage[5] or child labor[6] in Egypt, along with high illiteracy rates.[7]

Brinkerhoff again writes,


Sponsors outside Egypt support the program and correspond, provide gifts and special individual assistance, and visit children who participate in Not Alone.[9]

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.[10] 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.[11]


B'edaya, Arabic for "with my own hands," is a no-interest microloan program for widowed mothers of Not Alone participants[12]

Serve To Learn[edit]

Serve to Learn targets Coptic diaspora youth, who teach a three-week English course at various cites in Egypt.[13]

International Volunteer Program[edit]

The International Volunteer Program targets those outside of the Coptic diaspora, those whose knowledge of Arabic is minimal, or those who wish to volunteer in Egypt at other times of the year besides the three-week window for Serve to Learn. It enables individuals or groups of volunteers to design their own project, which Coptic Orphans facilitates through local partnering NGO's in Egypt.[14]

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. ^ Brinkerhoff, J. (2009). Digital Diasporas: Identity and Transnational Engagement. New York: Cambridge University Press, 186.
  5. ^ See
  6. ^ see
  7. ^ Demographics of Egypt#Literacy
  8. ^ Brinkerhoff, J. (2009). Digital Diasporas: Identity and Transnational Engagement. New York: Cambridge University Press, 187.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Brinkerhoff, J. (2009). Digital Diasporas: Identity and Transnational Engagement. New York: Cambridge University Press, 187.
  11. ^ For example, the Associated Press filmed a short news story about the program:
  12. ^
  13. ^ Brinkerhoff, J. (2009). Digital Diasporas: Identity and Transnational Engagement. New York: Cambridge University Press, 188.
  14. ^

External links[edit]