Nov 26, 2019

Girl Bosses in Egypt!

2019 VGP Ceremony attendees pose for a photo.
2019 VGP Ceremony attendees pose for a photo.


Big Sisters from Coptic Orphans' Valuable Girl Project in collaboration with seven Community Development Associations (CDAs) in Assiut, Egypt joined forces on a street cleaning campaign in their villages this past summer. 

The story began on June 30th at the Awlady Community Development Association, El-Nikhela. It was time to assess the village needs before launching this great initiative. The Big Sisters extended an invitation to a group of official public leaders and representatives. The girls introduced the Valuable Girl Project and discussed the challenges, shortfalls and dreams they still have for their villages. The lack of a garbage collection system was the most pressing challenge they discussed. This apathy for the environment evidenced by garbage littered on their local streets, was something they wanted to change. 

In some areas, these girls received praise and support for their efforts and initiative, while unfortunately, in the village of El-Nekhila, their efforts were met with sarcasm and belittled. When voicing their concerns to the head of El-Nekhila municipality for not implementing a working system for sanitation for this village, his response to the girls was: “I see that one cleaning worker is more valuable than 100 useless girls.” The girls felt humiliated and requested an apology from him. He apologized, though he was still convinced that the girls were not serious about this initiative. Despite the criticism they received, the girls’ remained resilient.

The girls decided to divide and conquer; they facilitated roles, mobilized their resources and broke up into different groups, so that they could have greater reach in the village. Before launching their initiative, the Big Sisters visited the head of the municipality once more to share their plan of execution. He was impressed by their organizational skills and commitment to this project. They were, to their own suprise, met with encouragement. The Head of the municipality provided the girls with extra tools, tractors, hauling equipment and extra aide workers so they could remove all the garbage from the streets they identified and begin paving.

For two consecutive days, Big Sisters and Little Sisters engaged all the residents of the village to work side by side with them and lend a helping hand. People of all ages, from young children to the elderly, participated in cleaning up the streets. The girls ignited a subject that was formerly taboo in the area--and provided a wake-up call to all, that a woman's role in improving society in Egypt is vital. In response to these activities, the head of the municipality made a public admission that the girls played a positive role in the community and sent a video message to all the girls in this project acknowledging their efforts. 

Furthermore, when he learned that the CDA  where the Valuable Girl Project holds its activities was nearing the end of its contract, he designated a venue and fully equipped office in the municipality for them to continue their work. He remarked:  “I’m ready to help in any way you require. You made us work actively. There is nothing more uplifting than seeing the community change their negative attitudes towards women, not out of rebellion, but because of acts of kindness."

The Big Sisters in El-Nekhila implemented a call to action and a remarkable change in their community. We are excited by the prospects of a ripple effect that is to follow in other communities throughout Egypt.

Also on November 5, 2019, we celebrated the Valuable Girl Project in Assiut at a closing ceremony and event that was very successful. 

Sep 3, 2019

We're Excited to Announce the Next Round of Applications for B'edaya

A B'edaya mother stands in front of her store
A B'edaya mother stands in front of her store

Since 2011, Coptic Orphans' B’edaya micro-lending initiative has provided substantial assistance to widowed mothers whose children are enrolled in the Not Alone program.  According to our latest survey conducted in August 2019, we have found that our mothers have a higher than average success rate in maintaining their businesses long term, even in volatile market conditions.

Successful business ventures now include grocery, household supplies, livestock breeding and fodder supply, dairy production and distribution, as well as more high-end consumer-driven services that range from upholstery and garment care to cosmetic services such as hairdressing.

Through B’edaya, mothers apply their specialized skills and their knowledge of local markets to structure their businesses. With microloans from Coptic Orphans, they are equipped to provide unique products and services to their communities, and in the process, achieve financial stability for themselves and their families.

Nearly all participants surveyed have agreed on one thing: they've not only been empowered through this new financial independence, but they have also gained a new feeling of self-respect and sufficiency, not always afforded to women living in the rural areas of Egypt.

Given the higher than expected success rates in the last 5-8 years, Coptic Orphans has renewed funding for the B'edaya program again in 2019.  

The fourth cycle of Be’daya began in August 2019. Applications are being screened through a rigorous review of proposals as well as interviews with applicants. Additionally, B'edaya Mothers will have extended periods to pay back their microloans. By the end of this fiscal year, Coptic Orphans expects to have 80 mothers enrolled in the B'edaya program full-time as active business owners.

As always, updates will follow regarding special initiatives. Thank you again to our courageous mothers!

Aug 19, 2019

Making Learn Fun with the Valuable Girl Project

Valuable Girls Learn to Have Fun Doing Homework
Valuable Girls Learn to Have Fun Doing Homework

Several studies have proven that incorporating engaging and fun exercises in lessons increases the probability of students’ knowledge retention after class time. Unfortunately, methods aimed at increasing student retention are not part of the curriculums used in the Egyptian educational system. Due to overcrowded schools, limited resources, and outdated curriculums, Egyptian children typically do not expect to have any "fun" in school. Rote learning is all that is expected and enforced.

For this reason, the Valuable GIrl Project designs distinct activities aimed towards building a lively, engaging, and fun experience for its participants.

The Valuable Girl Project incorporates diversified tools and activities in Big and Little sisters’ mentoring sessions to make learning a truly enjoyable experience. First, the Valuable Girl Project cultivates and nurtures safe spaces where Big and Little Sisters feel emotionally secure, valued, and free to interact with their peers on a more personal level.

Second, all programmatic activities incorporate one-on-one interaction and are age apprioriate; activities include playtime, singing, arts and crafts, trivia, journal writing, special projects, team presentations etc.

Big Sisters, in particular, are always keen to find the next most engaging exercise or "challenge.". Together, Big and Little Sisters are comfortable enough to create their own world where they overcome artifical barriers and learn to be themselves. Valuable Girls discover their talents, improve their study and writing skills, acquire new abilities and internalize positive attitudes that will nurture their growth as women and as citizens. The changes observed in self-confidence and optimism levels have been widely observed and noted by family members and school teachers. 

For example, we bring to you Nemaa’s story and the changes her mother noticed after Nemaa joined the Valuable Girl Project as a Little Sister at the Qena site. Nemaa’s mother shared the story with Coptic Orphans in her own words:

“I’m Salwa. I have been a teacher for over 20 years. I teach Arabic at a primary school where my daughter Nemaa is also enrolled. Nemaa is my youngest child. Her grades were consistenltly mediocre to poor although I’ve tried every possible study method to help her improve. At the beginning of 2017 school year, I learned that the local community development center in our neighborhood hosted tutoring classes for free. I immediately enrolled her in the tutoring classes. Honestly, I thought Nemaa would most likely get bored from the activities and would quit like she had so many times before.

But I was surprised this time. I found her to be so committed and eager to attend each and every session on time, and never letting anything take precedance over her meetings/sessions with her Big Sister. I was so surprised by Nemaa’s improvement at school, and her new attitude at home that I decided to visit the CDA where Nemaa receives her tutoring. When I visited the CDA, I found an interactive and friendly learning environment. I met this intelligent, mature, and polite young lady who served as Nemaa's Big Sister. She walked me through their study exercises and discussed all the teaching strategies she would use to keep Nemaa engaged and focused, particularly in the areas where she was weak.

After speaking with her for over an hour, I immediatey recognized that so few of these advanced learning strategies were used in Egyptian classrooms; I know -- I am a teacher and had always been trained to use lessons that focused on rote learning. The lessons used by the CDA were entirely focused on bringing the child's focus to the lesson through a fun or engaging opener like a brain teaser, or trivia, or an icebreaker they could do with their peers.

So, believe it or not, I asked CDA's Management if I could borrow some of the lessons in their curriculum for my own use in the classroom. Most importantly, I was so grateful to the staff and to Coptic Orphans for doing something different in Egypt -- finding ways to motivate our girls to be the very best they could be."

In time, Salwa volunteered to become an Ambassador for the Valuable Girl Project in her district. She encouraged other mothers to enroll their daughters as Little Sisters, so they could receive the same academic support, personal mentoring, and self-esteem training. Salwa knew this program was not only vital for her daughter's growth but also for the girs who were her daughters' peers who also received the short end of the stick due to the deficiencies of the local school systems. 

Thanks to Salwa and her daughter and the hundreds of other girls who have participated in the program, the Valuable Girl Project continues to broaden its reach in Egypt, giving thousands of girls the opportunity to unlock their potential, fulfill their dreams, and in turn, garner respect from their families and communities.

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