Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July 2007, pages 45-46

Arab-American Activism

UNDP Goodwill Ambassador, Egyptian Actress Yousra, Honored at DC Gala

Nermien Riad (l), the founder and executive director of Coptic Orphans, gives Yousra her award (Photos Courtesy Amr Mounib).

“OF THE OVER 50 awards that I have received, this one is the most touching,” said Egyptian celebrity Yousra as she accepted the Coptic Orphans 2007 Leading by Example Award. Yousra, a United Nations Development Program (UNDP) goodwill ambassador, was awarded for her philanthropic and humanitarian work at the Coptic Orphans’ fourth annual gala and awards ceremony held April 28, 2007 at the William F. Bolger Center in Potomac, MD.

Coptic Orphans is a non-profit organization founded in 1989 and based in Merrifield, VA, whose primary purpose is to serve and enrich the lives of orphans and other disenfranchised children living in Egypt. Through their main programs—Not Alone, Valuable Girl Project and Serve to Learn—Coptic Orphans hopes to provide basic necessities and education for children who “have the potential to become productive members of society.”

The theme of the gala was “An International Passport to Change,” and each speaker emphasized the importance of “transforming a generation that will have the courage to change the next one.” Father Bishoy Andrawes set the tone by leading the audience members with a Spiritual Blessing. Emphasizing the importance of serving others, he stated that “true greatness is not measured by the number of people who serve you, but by the number of people you serve.”

Following Fr. Andrawes’ address, Ben Marcos, a Serve to Learn alumnus from Australia, shared his experience as a volunteer in Upper Egypt. Along with eight other Serve to Learn volunteers from the UK, United States and Canada, Marcos lived in Upper Egypt for three weeks, teaching orphan children English. Through his experience in Egypt, Marcos said, he realized that “it was just not about teaching English,” but rather giving “children hope instead of hopelessness.”

Concluding the evening, the Egyptian star Yousra took the stage to receive her award in recognition for her work as a UNDP goodwill ambassador. She thanked Coptic Orphans for including her in their endeavors, noting that “it is because of the work that is being done by Coptic Orphans, bringing Muslim and Christian children together, that Egypt will be great again.” From her experience with the UNDP, she has become an active supporter of the Cure for Breast Cancer Foundation and an advocate for women judges in Egypt, as well as being one of the first donors to contribute to the construction of a children’s cancer hospital in Cairo.

Assisted by Yousra, Coptic Orphans founder and executive director Nermien Riad honored over 20 Serve to Learn volunteers for their “example of leadership.” Riad thanked Yousra and all the volunteers for contributing their time and effort in helping the children. “They’re angels,” exclaimed Yousra, “and they can’t lie. If children love you, they love you.”

For donation or volunteer information, visit <www.copticorphans.org>.

Nadya Saber