Coptic Orphans

Coptic Orphans is an award-winning international Christian development organization that unlocks the God-given potential of disadvantaged children in Egypt, and so equips them to break the cycle of poverty and become change-makers in their communities. Coptic Orphans works through grassroots partner and volunteer networks to strengthen local communities for sustainable impact. Since 1988, Coptic Orphans has equipped over 30,000 children throughout Egypt.
Dec 28, 2012

New Cycle Begins in Egypt's Changing Marketplace

Widows
Widows' businesses often focus on local staples

Inflation and insecurity have driven Egypt's markets to become more local, and more focused on the basics. The result has been hard-hitting for Egypt's widowed households, who already struggle for life's necessities. But the new, more informal local economies has also opened up new market opportunities for household businesses who could not compete with larger, more regional retailers before the current crises.   

 

The Problem: Inflation, Insecurity Drive Market Changes in Egypt

The government has already begun easing Egypt's heavy food and fuel subsidies. While so far only fuel has been first, the cost of food has also already gone up. Egyptians are beginning to hoard rice and other staples as a hedge against the future. The Egyptian pound has fallen to its lowest value in eight years, and imports on grains and other necessities are increasing.  

The soaring cost of transportation is putting local economies at an advantage by making it more difficult to ship goods across larger areas. Meanwhile, the lack of police presence in many Egypt neighborhoods and villages, and rising crime rates, are also shifting the economic advantage to neighborhood-based businesses. Local residents throughout the country have responded by blockading roads and forming neighborhood watches, making it even more difficult to bring goods to market from outside local areas.

 

The 2013 Opportunity: Widowed Mothers Strategically Positioned in New Neighborhood Economies

Inflation in the cost of food staples and fuel always hit the poor hardest, including widowed households. Yet as these changes unfold in Egypt, there is also an opportunity for widows.

Last year, B'edaya offered widows the opportunity to open small mini-marts from their homes or other places in their local neighborhoods. But it was difficult to compete with larger, more regionally connected merchants.

Widows in Egypt tend to travel much less than other groups, because of poverty and because of the social stigma of widowhood. Recent market changes in Egypt have turned this to an advantage for widowed mothers who start small grocery shops from their homes or sell livestock that they raise. These female-owned village shops are now poised to become neighborhood mainstays for daily goods in increasingly closed and self-contained villages.

 

Timeline for B'edaya 2013

January starts a new business cycle for B'edaya, (Arabic for "with my own hands") Coptic Orphans' microcredit program for widowed mothers in Egypt. 

We are accepting applications this month from widowed mothers who will benefit from Egypt's new, more local market space in order to break the cycle of poverty and finally reach the dream of self-sufficiency for their families. 

On March 25, 2013, we will choose finalist projects that will begin thereafter.

Dec 10, 2012

Project Coordinator Rescued from the Nile

Local Coordinators in Training
Local Coordinators in Training

Sherry served as a local coordinator for a Valuable Girl Project site. The experience of helping girls succeed in school and lfie who found themselves marginalized in their villages just for being girls--and some of whom had experienced the further marginalization of being fatherless, a serious circumstance in Egyptian culture--transformed Sherry's life. She decided to dedicate her life to work with paternal orphans as part of Coptic Orphans.

Late this September, was sitting at the back of an old microbus after spending a long day going from home to home, checking on the progress of orphaned children in Samalout, and delivering free health insurance cards to children.

The cards gave each child rare coverage for high quality medical care in a country where woefully inadequate government health systems often leaves children from poor families with debilitating chronic and terminal conditions.

She had cards for 250 more children in the bag she held tightly on her lap against the bustle of passengers stacked together—unbuckled—throughout the bus.

Just before they crossed a bridge to Mallawi, the bus’s breaks screeched. It hit the car ahead with a crunch and a jerk. Passengers slammed backwards and piled into Sherry as she felt the bus swing around. Their weight became crushing as the front of the bus tilted wildly. She knew they were falling in the Nile.

They hit the Nile with a smack. Glass shattered and poured into the bus with cascades of water.

She prayed and immediately thought: "The God who brought Jonah up from beneath the waters is my God, too." With that, she closed her eyes.

Men pulled Sherry out the window of the bus, and she emerged without broken bones or major injuries. Only the tenderness of minor bruises remained days later.

But the story doesn’t end here.

Two weeks later, the police called. They found a plastic envelope that had her name on it floating down the Nile. The envelope had the precious health insurance cards for the 250 children in her area who were still waiting for access to medical care.

Sherry draws on her faith when she reflects about what happened: “Because I am serving God’s children, He rescued me from drowning.  And because Coptic Orphans’ children are His own, He returned their health insurance cards safely – 15 days later, and from the bottom of the Nile.”

Aug 23, 2012

Program Effects Spread

B’edaya (Arabic for “with my own hands”) has gained sustainability in 2012 as the culture of entrepreneurship has spread from training workshops for widowed mothers into the very culture of 400 village-based volunteers who visit the homes of orphaned families.

So what does that mean? Here’s an example that should show how the effects of B’edaya are spreading beyond its implementation periods.

In the village of Deir Reefa in Assuit, village volunteer Mariam was a part of B’edaya during the 2011 cycle. Since then, she has kept her eyes open to find widowed mothers with the greatest potential to generate their own income.

One of those was Hala.  Through a Coptic Orphans partnership with the local NGO, Assuit Businessman’s Association, Mariam connected Hala to micro-credit grant funds beyond the B’edaya budget in her area. 

Hala got a loan for 1,000 Egyptian pounds to start a convenience store in her village. There were other stores in her area, but because of her strong relationships with others and shrewd eye for scouting deals around the village to create a wide-ranging inventory, she was able to overcome the stiff competition and attract more customers than the stores around her.

At the beginning, she began by selling candy bars and staples such as soap, sugar, and tea. Eventually, she was able to buy a refrigerator and freezer that enabled her to add meats to her stock. She also started selling rice, pasta, phone cards, and oil to the village.

Hala has paid back her loan in full, and now has 3,000 Egyptian pounds in capital. Her income  ranges between 400- 500 pounds every month, compared to the standard Government widow pension of 13 pounds, on which she struggled to feed her family before.

The most remarkable thing is that she has done all of this within nine months.

In a village culture that expects widows to wear black and stay at home, she has become a highly visible example of an industrious, independent business woman not only among other widows, but to all the women of her village. 

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