May 7, 2018

She Didn't Let Depression Stop Her from Doing Good

Maria teaching adult literacy classes
Maria teaching adult literacy classes

Recently, it seems like a women’s movement is taking over the world to empower women, safeguard their rights, augment their voices, and give them more chances to succeed. But while some women march for their rights or demand equal pay, others exists beyond the reach of this movement. Despite the changing times, women living in rural villages in Egypt belong to a generation and a culture that continues to value them as property, something to be owned, protected, and locked away by their male keeper. And when a woman is widowed, she loses her protection, her livelihood, even her right to provide for her family as she faces increased scrutiny and control from her community.

Yet despite all of these challenges, we have seen extraordinary women overcome insurmountable obstacles to start their own business, support their families, and reclaim their personhood. They become their own movement, armed with nothing but a sewing machine or bags of feed, and a little help from the B’edaya initiative. B’edaya projects range from raising and settling cattle, to running an ironing service or a photography studio. Your generous support is invaluable to helping us provide these microloans to these widowed mothers.

One of these extraordinary women I’d like to tell you about, is Maria. Maria’s husband died in a car accident 15 years ago, leaving her a widowed homemaker, with two children to raise. Her son graduated from technical high school and daughter is currently in her first year of general high school. Maria started a mini market project a year prior to receiving her B’edaya loan. She applied to receive a microfinance loan through us the following year, so she could purchase a deep freezer to expand her mini market and sell food such as fish and vegetables, to meet her clients growing grocery needs.

Because of your generous support, we were able to provide Maria with a microloan, so she could expand her mini market. But even with the financial support, it wasn’t always easy. At the start of her project, Maria suffered from acute depression, which lasted for several months, leaving her with many sleepless nights. During this time, her son and daughter helped operate her mini market. With the support and encouragement of her children’s Not Alone Volunteer Rep and Field Coordinator, Maria received the help she needed to move forward. Ever since, she has been doing her best to ensure her project succeeds. One thing that really helped her recover from depression and press on, was giving back to her local community. Maria, someone with no professional teaching background, started giving literacy classes to illiterate adults in her village. Maria was inspired to start this effort after seeing how much the Volunteer Rep supported her daughter throughout her education, encouraged her to get good grades to go beyond technical school, postpone her marriage, and get into general high school. Maria has taken on this voluntary initiative to teach 12 illiterate adults reading and writing, on top of running her mini market business, demonstrating not only her strong spirit of service, but her passionate desire to give back to others. And this is the story of just one woman your support has helped!

We are so proud of the self-made entrepreneurs of the B’edaya initiative who have become their own movement of empowerment, strength, and independence. Thanks to your unwavering support, Egypt’s women will thrive and secure a brighter future for their children through microfinance.

The deep freezer purchased for Maria's minimarket
The deep freezer purchased for Maria's minimarket
Apr 20, 2018

An Important Day to Celebrate Females

On March 8, women all over the world celebrated International Women’s Day. As the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated, “This year, International Women’s Day comes on the heels of unprecedented global movement for women’s rights, equality and justice. Sexual harassment, violence and discrimination against women has captured headlines and public discourse, propelled by a rising determination for change. International Women’s Day 2018 is an opportunity to transform this momentum into action, to empower women in all settings, rural and urban, and celebrate the activists who are working relentlessly to claim women’s rights and realize their full potential.”

And programs like the Valuable Girl Project aim to do just that—empower girls and women on several levels, as they face issues of social isolation, economic vulnerability, gender-based violence, and lack of access to health care and education. By supporting the Valuable Girl Project, you are taking an active role in empowering these girls to tackle and overcome these difficult issues they would otherwise face.

This year, on March 8, our Valuable Girls in Qena celebrated International Women’s day with a field trip to the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut; a woman who achieved military victories and explorations around the world! Her temple chronicles the greatness and emphasizes the capabilities of women since ancient times. Queen Hatshepsut’s Temple is a symbol of appreciation to the status of women during Pharaohnic times in Egypt.

In Cairo, the “Big sisters” of the Valuable Girl Project also celebrated International Women’s Day, by putting on a special performance for their “Little sisters” at the Community Development Association in Matrya.

Thank you for helping us honor girls and women, not just on International Women's Day, but throughout the year. It is only through God’s grace and your generous support which makes it possible for us to implement the Valuable Girl Project’s Big Sister-Little Sister mentoring initiative throughout many regions in Egypt. You are helping us provide hundreds of young girls with the chance to gain skills, understand their worth, stay in school, avoid early marriage, gain dignity in the classroom and at home, and ultimately become leaders in their local communities!

Feb 6, 2018

"My Son Was Very Proud of Me" - B'edaya Mother

Magda from Bani Suef
Magda from Bani Suef

Thanks to your support and generosity, 2018 is already off to a great start for many widowed mothers who are being empowered through our B’edaya project. They are beginning, or are expanding, income-generating projects through loans and coaching in entrepreneurial skills, to achieve economic independence for themselves and their children.

The first round of these loans was offered in 2011 to 70 mothers, followed by the second in 2013 to 30 mothers, and 40 mothers in 2016. The latest round of the program will end this May.

Magda from Bani Suef, is one of these entrepreneurial widows who runs a tailoring project I’d like to tell you about. Magda’s son attends a school which holds a celebratory annual Mother’s Day event for its students and their mothers. The event requires students to perform in costumes. Magda entered into an agreement with the principal at her son’s school, to tailor costumes for the students who were participating in the school event. Magda attended the event to network with other parents and to market her products at reasonable prices. The administration was so pleased with Magda’s work that they agreed to have Magda tailor the costumes for the upcoming academic years, even after her son graduates.

Another school principal who was present at the event was so impressed by the costumes, that he asked if she could also tailor costumes for the students at his school. He also asked Magda to tailor a blouse for his daughter.

Not only is Magda doing great things, but she is doing them while selflessly thinking of her son. When Magda saw one of the Coptic Orphans’ Not Alone Program youth photographing the Mother’s Day event, she said: “I believed that my son too would have a bright future…I recommended him to be the Master of Ceremonies for the next event, and was told he will interview one of the mothers and present it at the event. My son was very proud of me.”

We too, are proud of Magda.

Magda is just one of many B’edaya mothers who are all heroes to us at Coptic Orphans. It is by God’s grace and your generosity that we are able to provide her, and other widows, with loans and business coaching to develop their skills and discover their talents. Thank you for being part of Coptic Orphans’ work and for helping empower these brave women to move one step closer to self-sufficiency.

One Body in Christ,

Nermien Riad

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