May 21, 2019

Valuable Girl Celebrates the Holiday Season in Egypt

Valuable girl sisters make Palm Sunday crafts
Valuable girl sisters make Palm Sunday crafts

The Valuable Girl Projects aims to build a culture of tolerance and appreciation by celebrating the days of observance / religious holidays for members of both faiths.  

Themes of religious tolerance and engagement have been central in international development, particularly in the Middle East, where minorities are still at risk of being targeted.. Despite global efforts to create safe spaces for all religious affiliations, communities still suffer from gaps in knowledge about people of an alternate faith and few opportunities exist for positive engagement.  The lack of civil society actors sponsoring community events focused on dialogue and celebration of share identity also contributes to an environment where prejudice against minorities prevails.


On this point, the Valuable Girl Project stands out as an innovative program in Egypt, a part of the Middle East where religious tensions are still high. Based on a mentoring relationship that pairs Little and Big Sisters (of both faiths), Valuable Girl incorporates the critical theme of celebrating the identity of the other. Site teams use religious occasions, including Christmas and Ramadan, to teach the girls how to learn about their sisters’ faith and develop a true bond of affection with each other.

For example, in April and May of this year, both Christian and Muslims sisters celebrated major holidays with each other. Just recently, Copts celebrated Palm Sunday and Easter. On Palm Sunday in particular, Copts collect the leaves of Palm trees to decorate their homes and their churches in honor of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem. Parents and children typically make crafts together and have them blessed during Palm Sunday services.

This year, we were pleased to see all of our sisters, at each of our 16 sites, make beautiful crafts with their Muslim sisters. One of the Muslim Big Sisters said “It’s the first time I’ve ever used palm leaves to make handicrafts. Every year, I used to see the palm leave decorations in the street but never really understand why they were there or how they were made. Now I know and it was really a lot of fun.” Our sisters made necklaces and bracelets for each other and genuinely enjoyed the opportunity to be creative.

Similarly, just this month, all 16 sites are celebrating the month of Ramadan. During Ramadan, the streets of Egypt are even more animated, with decorations, bright lights, and joyful gatherings at every corner. Our Valuable Girls joined in the festivities. Together, they celebrated Ramadan’s Iftar (a meal that breaks the day’s fast at sunset) and also participated in acts of service to benefit the more needy members of the community.

For example, the Big and Little Sisters (Muslims and Christians) took it upon themselves to use their saved allowances towards the purchase of food supplies for poor families who did not have enough for an evening meal. This exercise showed that the Girls, rather than concentrating solely on their own enjoyment, used the holiday to bring relief to neighbors of both faiths. Moreover, our Valuable Girls refused to take any photos of their service activities during the month, in order to protect the identity of recipient families and prevent any awkwardness or embarrassment.

One of our Muslim sisters said “My father passed away 5 years ago. Since he died, I’ve haven’t really felt the joy of Ramadan,  but now with Valuable Girl, I feel happier and some of the joy I used to feel when he was around.”

In closing, we’re grateful that more than 450 of our girls participated in Ramadan Iftar meals, and we still have many more gatherings planned.

Also, local newspapers covered Valuable Girl’s Ramadan Iftar meal in Assiut. Community religious leaders also praised the Valuable Girl Project impact and the role the program played in unifying communities.

Together, these young girls have shown adults in their community that it is very much possible to honor neighbors of different faith and use Days of Observance to celebrate shared identities, not only as Egyptians but also as children of God.

We’re continually grateful to our sisters and their families. We’re also grateful to the partners who make the creation of this safe possible. Of course, we believe God, who loves all His children, has blessed our work and made real progress possible in a social issue that many believe to be intractable.

Valuable Girl sisters say grace before Iftar
Valuable Girl sisters say grace before Iftar
Mar 8, 2019

Honoring B'edaya Mothers in the International Women's Day

B'edaya mother during working in her business
B'edaya mother during working in her business

March is designated to celebrate women all over the world. Mothers, sisters, girls, daughters, companions, friends, coworkers, entrepreneurs, professionals; regardless of the title or the role, their part in moving life forward is indispensable. However, while there were three women honored in 2018 by winning Noble prize for their achievements and contribution to humanity, there are women wrestling to barely afford a decent life for their children. In B’edaya, we aim to empower widowed mothers to pursue their dreams and support them in their life-long struggles. Throughout your donations that served as micro-loans for the mothers, some women started the business of their dreams, while others grew their existing businesses.

In this report, we honor our mothers who stood strong while simultaneously taking care of their households and small businesses despite the harsh circumstances that surround them. In the 3rd round of B’edaya, some of the mothers encountered market challenges that threatened their businesses. Against all odds, their will was stronger than any struggle.  Here we honor Naila*. As a widowed mother, she had to take care of her 5 daughters, and fulfill their needs, while keeping up with her kidney medication She had no source of income except her skills in tailoring. She began to tailor women’s clothes in a small room in her apartment where she lives with her daughters. She made women’s clothes with old equipment which was not efficient. All what she hoped for was to purchase newer equipment to improve the finishing of her production. B’edaya micro-loans empowered Naila to buy the required equipment and boost her clientele. However, the time that her reputation grew in the market, four other businesses started in her area which affected her business for a while. That didn’t stop her! On the contrary, she made an alternative marketing strategy. She sold her production for lower prices than her competitors and searched for different areas to market her products. Her determination parted the waters for her. Naila’s strategy helped her retain her customers and increased her income. Moreover, she was offered to partner with others to start a tailoring workshop. Along with her project in B’edaya, Naila started the partnership and became a well-known business owner. Naila made 80 graduation robes for the church and won a tender to supply the Mothers’ Day gifts in her area. Naila said “The difficulty that I am facing now is to be able to finish the requested work! I’m thinking of buying another sewing machine and hiring another person to assist me”.  Despite of her health condition, Naila is very committed to her business and pays the loans installments on time. Furthermore, she realized her self-worth as an independent woman and a resilient mother.

It is not the story of Naila only. It is the story of heroine mothers who fight daily challenges and conquer one challenge at a time. Through B’edaya, the mothers unlock their potential and are capable to run their business the way that made them feel independent, productive, powerful and strong pillars in their families and communities. Let’s extend honoring Naila and the rest of B’edaya mothers through donations to acknowledge their efforts, and continue helping them to have the decent life they deserve.

 

** Names changed to protect mothers’ privacy

Feb 22, 2019

"In the past, the girls were barely passing their exams. Now they are pursuing excellence"

Fr. Abanoub & the LS after a VGP activity
Fr. Abanoub & the LS after a VGP activity

“Education is the premise of progress, in every society, and every family” Kofi Annan. Transforming children’s attitude towards the importance of education is one of Coptic Orphans main goals for the children participating in its programs. The Valuable Girl Project works on encouraging girls to embrace education as essential to their personal prosperity and development. Girls in Egypt, especially in high poverty areas, encounter daily challenges that stand in the way of their academic advancement. The harsh economic conditions, social oppression to women and girls, and the general societal inclination to support boys more than girls in education are deep-rooted issues that VGP tries to remedy one day at a time. In this report, we bring to you some testimonies about VGP’s role in changing the girls’ performance at school and self-growth in one of the villages in Upper Egypt.

In one of our field visits, we met with Father Abanoub Ibrahim, the CEO of the Better Life Association for Community and Sustainable Development, in Assiut governorate. Fr. Abanoub told us about the huge transformation that VGP made in the village where it is implemented. “The project achieved positive results and surpassed all my expectations,” said Fr. Abanoub. The story he told was of a little girl in primary school called Magda who used to hate going to school. Magda’s mother used to have a very hard time encouraging her to study, and the best she could hope for was for her daughter to pass her exams with no ‘F’ grades.  After being a participant in VGP, Magda was able to pass her exams and came in first place among her classmates. This is very impressive. Can you believe it?! From a girl who didn’t want to go to school to a passionate student pursuing the highest grades!

Not only was the impact of VGP evident in the academic advancement of girls, but it also showed in their general demeanor and outlook on life and towards themselves. Fr. Abanoub said that the families are impressed by the positive change they see in their daughters who look happy, clean, proactive, and creative in implementing the project activities. “Girls became expressive, optimistic and passionate about their future and themselves. I’ve never seen their potential before, but now I can testify to their talents and capabilities” said Fr. Abanoub.

Witnessing such significant impact is what drives us to keep working on and pushing for girls empowerment in Egypt. We believe that education is a fundamental tool to equip our children with the skills and characteristics to become proactive and successful in their communities and society at large.

Thank you for your partnership with us, donations to our cause, and trust in the impact we can make in the lives of those precious girls and young women.

Fr. Abanoub with some of the BS in a VGP activity
Fr. Abanoub with some of the BS in a VGP activity
 
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