Your friends are fundraising. Don't miss out, opt in.

Raised: 54%

Target: £31,060.00
Raised so far: £16,683.00

Project run by

Coptic Orphans, Merrifield, United States

Projects provided by global giving

Projects on JustGiving are provided in partnership with GlobalGiving UK. Donations to projects are subject to the same 10% fee as they are on GlobalGiving. Find out how this works.

Financial Inclusion in Egypt - Empower 8000 women

Our B' edaya (pronounced Beh-uh-day-uh) "With My Own Hands" microfinance initiative provides interest-free loans to female-heads of households, who are particularly disadvantaged in rural Egypt, to start income-generating projects. Upon the successful se

What is the problem the project is addressing?

Most of the mothers we meet want to provide for their children but don't have the ability to do so. Without a husband widowed mothers and their children are often ostracized in Egypt. Once the family is fatherless the mother is usually unable to work because of the social stigmas which forces them to either remove their children to work and leave school, or go to an orphanage. Our programs goal is to eliminate these negative outcomes and help families stay together via financial empowerment.

How will this project solve the problem?

Once a mother is selected and her project is funded she can use the profit to improve the quality of life for herself and her children. Mothers are required to put at least 20% of their profit into a savings account. Once the mothers project becomes successful she repays the interest free loan to Coptic Orphans and it is given to another mother to make her project a success. This cycle continues allowing your donation to make many families independent.

What is the potential long-term impact of this project?

The 20% of profit generated in a Savings Account gives the family a sense of security when it comes to the finances of a household. Mothers will be able to better handle emergencies financially without being totally dependent on the Church or any organization. Other widowed mothers also see the potential success the program generates and know that it is also possible for them to succeed.

Sep 19 2022

Thousands of Bank Accounts Opened for Mothers

Marina Shafik

We have amazing newsCoptic Orphans has just formalized our partnership with Banque du Caire this past month, paving the way for thousands of women to own and control their own bank accounts for the first time! 

The partnership allows Coptic Orphans to open over 8,000 bank accounts for single and widowed mothers, empowering them by granting them financial independence and boosting financial accessibility and literacy for women in Egypt. 

Founded in 1952, Banque du Caire is one of Egypt’s oldest and largest banks. 

Sadly, the level of financial inclusion in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is among the lowest globally, standing at 29% overall, and 24.5% among women. Many women in Egypt, especially poor women, do not participate in the formal financial system. Only 9.3% of women are banked compared to 19% of men. Low levels of financial literacy, coupled with the fact that many women—particularly in rural areas—do not have a national ID, make it difficult for them to access formal financial services. 

Increasing women’s awareness and participation in such services is essential to their economic empowerment. “Through this partnership, thousands of women will be ushered into the 21st century” stated Dr. Maged Ragaie, Coptic Orphans’ Director of Strategic Engagement. 

Banque du Caire CEO Mr. Tarek Fayed commended the agreement, saying the partnership “will have a great impact for women as it aligns with Egypt’s desire to increase financial inclusion for women in the country.” 

Thanks to your support, these incredible women are on their way to complete financial independence. 

Jun 01 2022

Taking it to the Bank

Marina Shafik

For mothers to succeed in their income-generating projects, they need a strong foundation in financial literacy. Otherwise, we’re asking them to handle a sizable responsibility without demonstrating sound financial management. 

Our new financial literacy initiative launched a pilot run just a few weeks ago. Our staff held a training day for volunteer Reps to learn about the concept of financial inclusion, the purpose of the system, and how to implement the initiative’s procedures with our mothers. These training sessions are especially important because Reps provide one-on-one mentorship for the mothers, making sure they each have a committed support system as they navigate Egypt’s banking system.  

Reps’ training sessions also serve to create a system of problem-solving and communication between Reps and the banks with which we work. If a problem arises along the way for any mother, their Rep will be able to guide them through it. Smooth sailing all throughout! 

The following day, mothers who participate in the program across Egypt were invited to workshops explaining the financial inclusion system. We received positive feedback from mothers and Reps – all were enthusiastic about this new initiative! 

This project grants serious empowerment for women. Mothers become more independent and gain the ability to enact change in their communities with a bank account. Women are learning critical skills like budget management, how to use an ATM card, and other principles of financial literacy. For many of our mothers, this is the first time they have had an ATM card and unmitigated access to their own finances. 

As always, thank you for your support in helping more of Egypt’s widowed mothers become fully capable of managing their household’s finances. 



Jan 24 2022

Be'daya Expands Its Program Services

Marina Shafik

We’re thrilled to announce that Be’daya is expanding its program services!  

Through Be’daya, Coptic Orphans will now be able to provide over 8,000 widowed mothers with financial inclusion. This will amplify the skills they need to harness opportunities offered by the fast-arriving digital economy. That means more women will have access to microfinancing, mobile money, bank accounts, and other financial services.   

The level of financial inclusion in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is among the lowest globally, standing at 29% overall, and 24.5% among women. Many women in Egypt, especially poor women, do not participate in the formal financial system. Only 9.3% of women are banked compared to 19% of men. Low levels of financial literacy, coupled with the fact that many women—particularly in rural areas—do not have a national ID, make it difficult for them to access formal financial services.   

It’s not surprising that Egyptian women account for only 10% to 20% of bank borrowers. Increasing financial inclusion for women in the formal financial system is essential to their economic empowerment. 

Since the adoption of the National Strategy for the Empowerment of Egyptian Women 2030, Egypt has taken wide strides to promote financial inclusion and economic empowerment for women. One example of such efforts is the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Central Bank of Egypt and the National Council for Women. This initiative will raise women’s saving rates, encourage their entrepreneurship by boosting their access to banking services, and increase financial awareness among female school and university students.   

This is where Coptic Orphans steps in. Our expanded services will allow Coptic Orphans’ widowed mothers to take advantage of government policy initiatives and economic change in three areas.   

First, it will assist the 93% of widows who currently do not have a bank account to open an account, thus paving the way to receiving the benefits and services offered in the digital economy. Second, it will educate mothers on financial literacy and how to increase their savings and skillfully manage micro-loans. Third, it will contribute positively towards generational change by training mothers on how to model sound financial judgement and communicate financial literacy to their children.   

This expanded initiative will bring all of Coptic Orphans’ widowed mothers into the 21st century. By making the female heads of households fully capable of managing mobile money, opening bank accounts, and handling other financial fundamentals, they will have taken a giant step to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.

Sep 30 2021

Family Photography Business Empowers Widowed Woman

Marina Shafik

Vera* started singlehandedly running her family’s photography business after her husband passed away unexpectedly. She was left with old equipment, which presented a real challenge to Vera and her business. She didn’t have the funds to buy a new camera to meet the modern photography expectations her customers had, but she relied on the business to provide for her and her two children. 

After being awarded a loan through B’edaya, Vera took action to make every cent count. She bought a digital camera, choosing to purchase a used camera over a brand-new one to save as much as possible. With the remaining amount, she bought a CD copier and specialized graphics software she could use to create photos and videos. 

Vera’s B’edaya loan helped her to improve her studio and made the studio’s work stand out in her area. From the generated revenue, she was then able to buy a color printer, an instant photo maker, a new computer, and the digital camera she had always wanted. 

She is now well known by locals for her high-quality photo and video production! 

Stories like this show us how important micro-finance loans are to widowed women, many of whom just need an extra helping hand. We are blessed to see women like Vera thrive after getting the encouragement and support they deserve. 

With your help, more widowed women in Egypt can find the independence they need to unlock their God-given potential and serve as admirable examples to their children and their communities. 


*Name and image changed to protect the privacy and dignity of the individual.

Jun 08 2021

A Small Loan Makes a Successful Business

Joseph Flynn

Mary*, a widow from Upper Egypt, didn’t have many opportunities in the local job market after her husband died. Still, this mother was determined to work to support her children.

Mary ran a grocery store out of her own home for the next 10 years, but times were tough. She couldn’t afford to stock the shelves with many different goods, and her profit margins were incredibly slim. She needed financial assistance to turn her home business into a stable, profitable enterprise.

The Be’daya project provided Mary with the loan she needed to move her business out of her house and into a true shop. She used the leftover money to buy a refrigerator and a display for her goods. She even made her own shelves for her new shop.

Soon, Mary’s small shop transformed into one of the finest grocers in her small town. She was able to buy the seasonal goods that were in demand. Word of mouth spread throughout the town about the quality and variety of her merchandise, and her customer base continued to grow.

Mary never forgot the Be’daya project’s role in helping her succeed. “The money I received from Be’daya helped me feel it was finally safe to expand my business,” she said.

Egyptian widows with Mary’s entrepreneurial spirit aren’t hard to find; they simply lack the financial means to achieve their business dreams and provide for their families. With your help, the Be’daya project can help these widows lift themselves out of poverty and create a new generation of Egyptian businesswomen.


*Name and image changed to protect the privacy and dignity of the individual. 

Feb 12 2021

A Widow Embraces Her Talent in Handcrafts

Joseph Flynn

Life wasn’t easy for Merna*, a 46-year-old mother from Alexandria, after her husband died. Fortunately, she had a great talent for tailoring and handcrafts such as crochet and sewing. Over 14 years of practice, her reputation for sewing grew, and she was even tasked with making robes for the local clergy.

But Merna’s budding tailor business had a problem: She lacked the overlock sewing machine needed for seam finishing. Because of this, she had to take her work to another tailor’s workshop to do the finishing for her.

The Be’daya project provided Merna with the loan she needed to buy her own overlock sewing machine, which meant that she could finish the clothes herself and keep all the profits. Her business flourished almost immediately. She continued to make robes for the clergy, and now she has several contracts with local schools to make uniforms for the students.

“My work is sold at several different shops throughout the village at high prices because of its quality and finishing compared to my competitors’ products,” she said.

Now Merna has enough money to provide for her children, which is sadly not often the case for widowed mothers in Egypt. She remains determined to pay back the loan despite the economic turmoil of the past year. She is also committed to giving back to her community by teaching handcrafts to girls through a local nonprofit organization.

There are many more widows like Merna throughout Egypt: Women with God-given talents and the drive to provide for their families, but who lack the resources to do so. Coptic Orphans remains committed to providing these women the seed money to start a business, whether it be in retail (grocery, household supplies, cattle fodder, livestock breeding); production (dairy products), or services (upholstery, ironing, photography, hairdressing, etc.). With a bit of help, there’s no limit to what these women can accomplish.


*Name and image changed to protect the privacy and dignity of the individual. 

Oct 19 2020

The Widowed Mothers of Egypt Return to Work

Joseph Flynn

The COVID-19 pandemic in Egypt has been gradually improving since mid-July. The numbers of COVID cases and deaths has been decreasing and the number of recoveries has been increasing. The government has eased lockdown restrictions, and people are returning to work and school.

However, Egyptians are only just beginning to come to grips with the staggering economic toll this crisis has taken upon families of all walks of life. This is especially true of families who have lost the father, the traditional breadwinner in Egyptian society.

The B’edaya mothers – many of whom operate small businesses out of their own homes -- handled the lockdown in a variety of ways. Some were able to close down temporarily, while some of those who operated essential groceries stayed in business. Now the time has come for those who waited out the lockdown to return to work. Fortunately, they have a dependable partner at their side in the form of Coptic Orphans. The Coptic Orphans field staff is now contacting the B’edaya mothers to assess each case individually, while providing guidance and support.

The worst of this crisis has hopefully passed, but it is crucial that each family maintain their finances in these difficult economic times. The resilient, hardworking mothers of the B’edaya project have shown time and again that they possess the strength and skills to weather any storm that comes their way.

Jun 23 2020

The Difficult Choice Faced by B'edaya Mothers During COVID

Joseph Flynn

As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads throughout the world, millions of people are faced with a difficult choice: to stay home and avoid infection or go to work and earn money for the family.

The widowed mothers of the B'edaya program, however, face even more obstacles. They have already lost their husbands, the sole breadwinner in most Egpytian households. But they have soldiered on, starting small businesses to help provide for their children. Oftentimes they operate these businesses in their own homes.

When the virus reached Egypt, and the country locked down, some mothers closed down their shops for the safety of their families. Other families - particularly those operating groceries - remain in business. Not only are they earning money for their children, they are providing an essential service to local families.

The B'edaya project has postponed operations for the immediate future out of concern for the safety of participants and administrators. But the micro-loans already given to widowed mothers are still lifting up communities during this time of crisis. Families have more money to weather this storm, and essential small businesses are able to stay open. The strength of these mothers will continue to support and inspire Egypt. 

Feb 27 2020

It All Began With One Sewing Machine

Joyce Lancen

Madiha,* a Cairo widowed mother of two longed to make something of herself after years of struggle following her husband’s death. With two children enrolled in Coptic Orphans’ Not Alone program, Madiha began thinking of what resources she could provide to help in raising her children and taking care of their educational expenses.

Madiha passed several tailor shops in her village and as she walked by often wondered to herself whether she could ever become a business woman, utilizing her sewing skills with the one sewing machine she owned.

Through the visits of the field staff to Madiha’s home, she learned about the Be’daya project. She discussed with the staff how she was thinking about developing a tailoring project of her own. The staff were curious to see if Madiha could follow through with her plans and obtain customers. In fact, Madiha wanted to prove she was capable, so put her idea into action by sewing bedsheets and clothes that would be ready for the staff to see by their next scheduled visit. Because of her determination and follow-through, the staff were impressed and Madiha’s application for a micro-finance loan was approved. Madiha now had the resources to purchase two brand-new sewing machines.

Madiha not only was able to produce more items out of better quality with the help of the extra machines, but she also created a new line of products for sale. Madiha sewed blankets, bed-coverings for children, and bus and car chair-covers. Although she had more sewing machines than when she first began, Madiha especially valued the quality of her work over the quantity of production.

Within 4 years, Madiha had networked with whoever she met and marketed her business throughout town. Her new customers were happy with the quality of items they purchased from Madiha, and with time, she grew in popularity and referrals. Madiha also reached out to bus companies in the tourism industry and various clothing factories to expand her clientele reach.

Madiha is currently doing well for herself and has grown into a self-sufficient business woman due to the success of her sewing project and her determination to succeed. Her children are also no longer in need of the Not Alone program’s support as Madiha is able to provide for all their financial needs.

Since the inception of the Coptic Orphans Be’daya program, around 50% (78 out of 117) of participating widowed mothers have continued to maintain their businesses. Businesses are classified as: retail (grocery, household supplies, cattle fodder, livestock breeding); production (dairy products), and services (upholstery, ironing, photography, hairdressing, etc.).

A fourth round of Be’daya was announced during the Coptic Orphans Reps Summer Conference in July 2019. 156 mothers submitted applications and proposals for projects. From this number, 92 mothers were shortlisted, and 47 projects have been selected to receive the micro-finance loans for 2020.

*Name and image changed to protect the privacy and dignity of the individual. 

Dec 02 2019

B'edaya Update: Fourth Round Launches in 2020!

Joyce Lancen

Since our last report, we were happy to announce that preparations for a fourth round of our B’edaya initiative began in August of this year. This fourth cycle will officially launch beginning 2020 and is expected to end in May/June of 2022.

For those of you who are not familiar with B’edaya, it is a unique initiative which empowers women to become agents of their own development and make sustainable progress helping them to overcome their poverty and loneliness. We do this by empowering these widowed mothers of children from our Not Alone program, to act as entrepreneurs curating and managing their own projects, in order to increase their income and in turn, financially sustain themselves and their families. A secondary goal of the initiative is to assist these mothers to become role models for their children by enhancing their welfare. In doing so, we hope that this will instill a sense of leadership in these women, and as a result increase their children’s’ awareness—so that they too, will follow their example and grow into being responsible adults.

Since our last update, we reported that applications were being screened through a rigorous review of proposals and interviews with the applicant widows.

Here’s where we are now:

162 applications have been received, revised, and are now being analyzed in order to determine which projects will advance to the second stage of screening. Our B’edaya Project Specialist has begun to conduct field visits to all the selected areas in order to determine the 80 final projects that will be chosen as recipients. These visits will be conducted until January 2020. The Project Specialist has also prepared a training curriculum and is conducting business training workshops with the mothers on budget and project management.

The Decision Making Committee, which consists of the Project Specialist, the Area Program Manager, and the Not Alone Program Manager, will reach a final decision concerning the projects that will obtain funding based on their evaluation of the Project Specialists’ field visits. The Project Specialist will then organize an opening ceremony where the widows will receive their funding, and begin executing their planned projects. At the end of the round, the mothers will be celebrated at a closing ceremony, where they will have a chance to exchange their success stories.

Since we first launched the B’edaya initiative, we have seen projects being divided among areas of retail, production, and service. Retail projects include anything from grocery, clothing, livestock, household supplies, and cosmetics. Production projects include sewing, livestock and dairy. Lastly, Service projects include hairdressing, photography, ironing, and upholstery. From the 7 years where we’ve implemented three rounds of B’edaya, 1,141 projects of these kind have been implemented. We have found that the outcome of these projects have exceeded our expectations. The net profit of the projects within the initiative demonstrated excellent results and mothers learned budget control and project management.

  • The projects helped around 40% of the mothers meet their monthly basic needs such as food and water.
  • 26.67% of the mothers profited and were even able to help their daughters/sons in expenses of marriage, education, etc.
  • 33.33% of the mothers could get their homes renovated; examples include plumbing and wall plastering.
  • 60 families have provided positive feedback on the impact of the projects on their lives.
  • The income of 50% of the mothers increased beyond 1000 EGP.
  • The awareness of project management and budget management increased for 70% of the mothers.
  • 80% of the beneficiaries’ children are committed to attending their classes.
  • 70% of the projects still run successfully after the B’edaya Initiative cycle ends.
  • 20% of the mothers coach and assist other mothers to start their own project.

We are so proud of these audacious women and grateful to all the donors who help fund this initiative!

Sep 03 2019

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

Angie Henein

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!

Jun 03 2019

Financial Independence: A Reason to Feel Empowered

Suzanne Toma

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Many of us are familiar with this old adage. But to many B’edaya widows, it's not just a saying -- it’s an expression of a new strategy in life.

Heba, a B'edaya mother, who was widowed in 2005, at the age of 30, found herself in a crisis. Her husband, who worked as a driver, was the primary source of income. Without him, she could not support her family. Heba had only received an elementary education and finding any form of work was very difficult in her village. 

Living with her children in a small house with only basic utilities, Heba needed to devise a strategy for supporting her family.

She noticed her village's rising demand for animal feed. Many of the villagers desperately needed grains for their livestock, particularly chickens who were used to supply the village with poultry.

Heba quickly realized she could start her own business by making animal feed for these villagers. Heba decided to use legumes, which were cheap and relatively easy to harvest. At first, Heba struggled to get her business off the ground. However, after three years of hard work and steady demand, she received a microloan from the Coptic Orphans B'edaya program.

With this seed funding, Heba finally had the capital to buy enough supplies to meet demand. B'edaya staff also visited her and offered their support as she faced the typical challenges associated with starting a new business.

Soon Heba’s business built its own reputation in the village. Villagers came to trust her product as well as Heba’s expertise. With the success of her venture, Heba expanded her offerings by using additional revenue, to harvest different legumes and create different types of feed for different livestock.

Moreover, although Egypt’s market volatility impacted other businesses in the area, demand for Heba’s feed continued to grow.

To those who did not know her, Heba may have seemed like just another widower in one of Egypt’s poorest villages. But to the Coptic Orphans reps who believed in her, she was so much more: she was a model of self-sufficiency -- proof that women in Egypt, (even widows who are considered the worst off) could gain financial independence, and in the process, claim a sense of empowerment that they had never felt before.

Heba’s growing confidence in her own skills also changed her outlook on life. She now exhibits focus and leadership and proudly describes her experience “I’m the only provider to my neighbors in the village. Everyone knows me well. I feel different about myself. B’edaya microloans helped me to increase my revenue and invest that revenue back into the business. Now I can pay my bills, cover my household expenses, save money for the future, and continue to run my business without a lot of risk.”

Heba is one of many confident entrepreneurs in the B’edaya Microloan Program sponsored by Coptic Orphans. Through microloans, women come to see themselves as more than just widows, but competent and talented individuals equally capable of caring for their families through the creation of unique business ventures that serve their community.


Mar 08 2019

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

Angie Henein

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

Jan 02 2019

From a Vulnerable Widow to a Self-Confident Business Owner

Nermien Riad

By the grace of God, and the generosity of our donors, B’edaya micro-lending initiative is transforming widowed mothers from helpless, house-bound widows into self-sufficient businesswomen, role models for their children, and assets to their communities. Be’daya is funding 37 micro-businesses of different types and across all of Egypt—from raising livestock to offering services and selling goods.

 All of the 37 mothers are showing a high level of efficacy and commitment in running their projects and overcoming both market and personal challenges. Fouada*--one of the diligent mothers who stood strong for her project—had become a widow in her late 30s and lived with her little family in her parents-in-law’s house. Fouada made bed sheets and sold them in churches and public exhibitions, but wasn’t able to produce more beyond the capacity of her existing equipment. After qualifying for a B’edaya micro-loan, she took the business to another level; she did not stop at making bedsheets but extended the business to making curtains and backpacks from recycled fabrics. Fouada achieved huge success, and retail stores allocated special shelf space in their shops for her products. “I spend most of my time in my working room. The feeling of owning my business inspires me to dream of one day having a workshop or a factory of my own.” Fouada said. She added that her relationship with her children improved; instead of perceiving her as an illiterate mother, they started to think of her as a successful business owner and a strong woman. 

B’edaya doesn’t only transform the widowed mothers’ financial conditions but also helps change the way they are perceived within their families and within their communities.

We are grateful to God for His abundant grace and provision for the mothers and their businesses. We also thank our donors who are passionate about our work, and through their donations, Be’daya is able to reach more mothers to support.

 *Names are changed to maintain the privacy of our mothers. 

Aug 02 2018

37 Widowed Mothers Honored for their Successful Business Projects

Nermien Riad

By God’s grace and your generous support, we have been blessed to be an instrument in the transformational journey of many widowed mothers through our B’edaya microfinance program. Through your generosity, we have witnessed remarkable changes in many mothers lives—turning from desperation to optimism and frustration to faithfulness. This year, the B’edaya program enabled 37 widowed mothers turn their dream projects into realities.

On July 7, 2018, Coptic Orphans celebrated the conclusion of our third round of the B’edaya microfinance initiative, by honoring the mothers who were awarded loans and received their final project disbursements. The ceremony took place in Upper Egypt, and we were honored with the presence of a number of dignitaries and high officials from the government and other development organizations who joined us to celebrate the mothers and their achievements. The mothers shared their success stories, including how they were able to overcome obstacles faced during the implementation of their projects, and spoke of their future dreams and hopes to see their businesses continue to thrive.

At the ceremony, many of the mothers shared how their B’edaya loans helped change their circumstances and lives. I’d like to share with you a story about Nabila, one of our strong B’edaya mothers.

Nabila is a diligent woman; she was ardent to provide her five children with a decent life after their father’s passing seven years earlier. Two years after her husband’s death, Nabila began selling livestock feed to recover from their financial hardship without her husband’s main support. Nabila used to sell livestock and split the profit with the merchant who supplied her with the goods. She gained a lot of experience in this field and wanted to continue independently in this business by making her own profits.

B’edaya empowered Nabila to purchase the necessary quantity of livestock goods in order to launch her own independent business. After starting her business, through the net profit she received from her project, Nabila was able to pay off all of her family’s debt! She was also able to save money for her children’s future. Nabila described her success by saying “I now feel like I am smart and have learned to be a successful manager. I know when to buy new goods, and when it’s time to sell them. My children are so proud of me and even help me during their free time.”

We are so proud of the mothers and their successes! Thank you for your generous support, prayers, and for believing in our work and mission. Your support has encouraged these mothers and made them feel valued, respected, and enabled them to be confident women in their communities, and supportive mothers to their children!

May 07 2018

She Didn't Let Depression Stop Her from Doing Good

Nermien Riad

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.

Feb 06 2018

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

Nermien Riad

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

Nov 08 2017

B'edaya Mothers Challenge Barriers to Women

Nermien Riad

Dear Friend,

Because of your love, prayers, and support, 2018 will be brighter for dozens of widowed mothers who are using B’edaya loans and business coaching to advance towards economic independence for their families. Thank you!

Manal from Assiut is one of the brave widows whose faith, perseverance, and hard work God is rewarding.

Manal had always dreamed of buying a high-quality iron capable of doing a professional job. She hadn’t always had that aspiration. In fact, at one time, she had been embarrassed at even the thought of opening up a business.

But in March 2017, when Manal went to an event to honor the entrepreneurial widows involved in B'edaya’s Round III, she heard them describe their efforts and successes. After that, she didn't feel as crazy for wanting to start her own business.

In fact, after hearing the other mothers’ stories, Manal felt embarrassed at how small her idea was. She widened her vision, and she learned from one of the mothers that the best way to improve her business was to constantly keep improving.

Today, professional-quality iron in hand, Manal has put her business well on its way. She is happy that she doesn't have to wait around for someone to give her money now, and she isn't afraid that one day, someone will decide to stop giving her income.

As Manal is fond of saying: "Money that you've earned with your own hands has a different flavor."

The B’edaya mothers are heroes to all of us in the Coptic Orphans family, from the staff to the Church-based volunteers to their own children. It is only by God’s grace, and through your generosity, that we’re able to provide them with both loans and coaching in entrepreneurial skills. These are simply ways to develop the determination, ingenuity, and business-savvy that these mother bring to the table.

Being a poor, uneducated widow in Egypt means facing seemingly insurmountable barriers. We’re grateful to the mothers of B’edaya for proving that, for God, nothing is impossible.

Thank you for being part of the Coptic Orphans family, and for helping to empower these courageous women to feed their families and move towards independence.

One Body in Christ,

Nermien Riad
Founder and Executive Director

*Names and details changed to protect the privacy and dignity of B’edaya participants

Aug 07 2017

B'edaya in 2016: Giving Widows Reasons to Smile

Nermien Riad

Dear Friend,

Thanks to your love, prayers, and support, 2016 marked a year of celebrating the truly inspiring mothers of the B’edaya initiative, and witnessing God reward their faith, perseverance, and hard work.

These mothers are heroes to all of us, and by God’s grace, we’re blessed to provide them with both microloans and coaching in entrepreneurial skills to develop their inborn determination, ingenuity, and business-savvy.

Imagine the insurmountable barriers a poor, uneducated widow rooted in the conservative traditions of Upper Egypt must face. How she dresses, who she talks to and what she says, where she goes — all of these are subject to scrutiny and control by her community. Frequently, she can’t even leave the house to work, even if her children are malnourished. She is forced to accept a fate of destitution in the name of honor. But where is the honor in helplessness and handouts?

B’edaya was designed to counter these hostile conditions that most disadvantaged widows in Egypt face, particularly those in remote villages. The small loans are tailored to give a widow the opportunity to generate income, have control over her own life, and be an example of resilience and a source of pride for her family.

Several of the mothers were receiving B’edaya loans for a second time, after running and expanding their income-generating projects. The projects ranged from raising and selling cattle and selling livestock feed, to running an ironing service and styling hair.

B’edaya in 2016 provided an opportunity for the mothers to take part in basic financial training, network, and share their experiences and hard-earned wisdom with other participants.

B’edaya microloans are offered at 0% interest for 26 months, with the first six months considered a grace period for repayment, followed by six equal installments spaced four months apart. The loans disbursed to each recipient vary in size according to the amount requested and assessment by the B’edaya selection committee. Along with their loans, these entrepreneurial mothers receive support through quarterly home visits by Coptic Orphans staff and volunteers, who monitor the progress of the projects and provide regular coaching.

Today, B’edaya mothers run businesses of every kind in their own communities. B’edaya shows what women can do when set on the path of self-sufficiency — not dependence on charity.

Better still, B’edaya’s impact is more than material. The key outcome is the widows’ frequently expressed sense of increased self-worth and dignity.

No one expresses this better than one of the participating mothers, Nahed:

“From the income I generated, I was able to pay back my first loan, and renovate my kitchen, bathroom, and living room. For the first time, I feel proud of myself.”

Thanks to the generous support from donors all over the world, in 2016 the Coptic Orphans family moved closer to the goal of empowering Egypt’s women through microfinance!

*Names and details changed to protect the privacy and dignity of B’edaya participants

May 09 2017

The Real Meaning of Dignity

Nermien Riad

You might be surprised to know that whenever I think of the mothers in B’edaya, the first thing that comes to mind is not money, but dignity.

In fact, dignity was the first thing I noticed about Menrit, a mother I met recently in Egypt.

From her home in Assiut, using B’edaya funding and coaching, Menrit has grown a large sewing business. Sheets, pillow cases, quilts, and furniture covers are all part of her product line.

Success hasn’t gone to her head – in fact, she’s remained a very humble person. I witnessed how she sought advice about good parenting from Coptic Orphans’ Church-based volunteer Reps.

She was very focused on becoming a better mother to her four children, and everything she did, she did with dignity.

Menrit recalled for me a Coptic Orphans workshop about the Five Love Languages, in which she was offered perspectives on how to verbalize the affection she feels for her children.  

Her memory of the workshop was so vivid that she was able to recount how five Reps with five partially full glasses of water (representing the five love languages) poured all their water into one glass, filling it to the brim.

“It represented the need for all five love languages for raising children,” she told me.

Menrit brought such a kind and dignified presence to each encounter with others, making me feel honored that Coptic Orphans, through B’edaya and other programs, has been able to add to her knowledge and experiences.

It’s for people like Menrit that B’edaya exists. All the microfinance initiative does is help bring out the strengths and talents that these widowed mothers already have.

Thank you for your role in ensuring that people like Menrit get support to achieve their dream of financial independence for their families.

As anyone who’s ever stood on their own two feet knows, independence is the root of dignity. We’re grateful that, by God’s grace and through your support, B’edaya can support that for women like Menrit.  


*Names and details changed to protect the dignity and privacy of B'edaya mothers.

Feb 06 2017

Cashing in on Henna: An Innovative Mother's Story

Nermien Riad

As a supporter of B’edaya, you’re the reason Coptic Orphans is able to extend microloans, business coaching, and other support to the proud mothers of the fatherless children we serve.

These widows may have gotten start-up funding from Coptic Orphans, by God’s grace and through your generosity, but we’re 100% clear that the most valuable capital lies inside each of them. Courage, tenacity, and creativity — these are things no outsider can supply.

So when one of the mothers in the B’edaya program comes up with an amazing tactic to boost her business, we’re excited to share the news.  

Here’s a good example that just came my way, from speaking with a staff member who just got back from Middle Egypt. Mariam, who runs a hair salon, informed her:

“I didn’t have any customers after Eid El Fitr. Meanwhile, I got to know a Sudanese woman who makes henna tattoos for women. She didn’t have a workspace, so I offered to let her come to my store and tattoo my customers, without me taking any money in return.”

How did this innovative marketing technique, which hinges on the Middle Eastern custom of women getting temporary tattoos for weddings, work out? As Mariam recounted:

“Lots of girls and women started coming into my hair salon to get a henna tattoo, and I’ve been doing their hair while they wait for their turn. Then these customers tell others about my business.”

This is the spirit B’edaya seeks to encourage, and that your support allows to flower. It’s how B’edaya has gotten the following results, collected during a fall 2016 monitoring and evaluation trip:

  • 100% of mothers paid off the first microloan installment on time
  • 88% of mothers gained net profit, after paying off the first installment
  • 73% of mothers reinvested their income to expand their projects
  • 25% of mothers were able to improve their standard of living thanks to their profit

Of course, all this good news doesn’t mean the B’edaya mothers face no challenges. Our staff also found that 55% of mothers said their major challenge was coping with rising prices brought about by economic instability. 

This is where Coptic Orphans is counting on you to continue your support, so that when the time comes, we can give these entrepreneurial mothers — and others like them — the credit and coaching they need to make their ideas profitable.

B’edaya, at the end of the day, is about dignity and achieving as much economic independence as possible.  The best way to do that is together, as we are with your help, by unleashing these mothers’ innovative spirits.

Thank you, and may we make 2017 an even greater year for these business-minded widows!

— Nermien

*Names and places changed to protect the privacyof B'edaya participants

Nov 07 2016

She's Making Dignity a Family Tradition

Nermien Riad

Ireney doesn’t seem to know the meaning of the words “take it easy,” which may explain how she’s built her business into a source of family pride and dignity.

You last heard about Ireney in 2014, when I visited her in Samalout. She overwhelmed me with hospitality then, and things hadn’t changed a bit around her livestock feedstore when I saw her this summer.

Except – that’s not strictly true. Since I last saw Ireney, she’s converted her hard work, intelligence, and B’edaya loans into more progress. She has expanded her line of animal feed, flour, and fertilizer.

There in the cool, cavernous “warehouse” that’s connected to her home, she meets customers and neighbors, closes her deals, and does one more extremely important thing: she passes on her values.

Ireney is very clear: She wants her kids grow up to be hard-working in their lives and occupations. To that end, she’s begun involving her young son in accounting and helping her with the business.

It’s important for her kids to have role models, because they’re already missing one. Ireney’s husband passed away many years ago, so her guidance is all the more crucial.

Together with a specially trained Coptic Orphans volunteer — a Church-based “Rep” who comes recommended by his bishop — she’s putting her children on the path to a quality education and solid values.

Ireney’s success demonstrates what widowed mothers can achieve with access to this type of microcredit initiative. Her goal is to grow her business because "the more I can buy, the more I can sell.”

B’edaya funds these women’s income-generating projects from the ground up until they become self-sufficient. Donations cover all aspects of the loan process from beginning to end, and the money is reinvested over and over to help multiple families.

But beyond this, there is the foundation that’s being laid for a new generation. B’edaya mothers model the behaviors that give their family dignity and their children the keys to success.

To those who’ve never been there, it’s hard to grasp what Ireney is overcoming. In Samalout, and in Upper Egypt in general, traditions severely limit widows. Many end up taking charity for life.

But Ireney is breaking this mold, with your help. Two years from when I last visited her, she’s going strong. Her kids can see it, and you can feel it — in her manner, in her frequent laughter, in the prosperity of her household.

And it’s not only her household. In March, Coptic Orphans held ceremonies around Egypt honoring 42 widowed mothers. They received a total of LE243,500 (US$27,400) in microloans for their income-generating projects.

All of us at Coptic Orphans see these mothers as heroes. By God’s grace, and through your generosity, we’re honored to provide them with both microloans and coaching in entrepreneurial skills to develop their inborn perseverance, ingenuity, and business-savvy.

This is a great blessing to be part of, and the Coptic Orphans family is grateful that you’ve chosen walk with families like Ireney’s.

* The name of the B’edaya participant has been changed in this instance to protect her privacy

Aug 05 2016

A Mom's 'Stability, Self-Confidence, and Opportunity to Prove Myself'

Nermien Riad

I wanted to share an inspiring story I just heard from one of our staff, who is visiting the villages in Egypt where your support is enabling widowed mothers run their own businesses. He told me:

I met a woman named Marina from a village near Sohag. When she was widowed three years ago, she was left alone to support four daughters.

Before her husband's death, she had been taking odd jobs tailoring clothes for friends and acquaintances. After her husband died, she started doing it full time.

In 2014, her daughters became enrolled in Not Alone, the Coptic Orphans program that works to remove every obstacle between fatherless children and their education. While the program focuses on offering the children love, encouragement, and mentoring aimed at meeting their specific needs, especially with regard to education, it also benefits the entire family.

One of the key benefits for mothers is the opportunity to become part of B'edaya, the Coptic Orphans microfinance initiative tailored specifically to widows' needs.

Marina was able to join the second round of B'edaya and obtain a loan to boost her small business. In her words, being part of Not Alone and B'edaya gave her a feeling of "stability, self confidence, and an opportunity to prove myself."

The B'edaya loan helped her to avoid having to reach out for handouts. It also meant she didn't have to work for someone else. In fact, for Marina, B'edaya "isn't just about the loan, it's about the advice, the follow-up, the guidance."

Today, two of Marina's daughters are in college. One is studying graphic design and the other studies business. Her advice for her daughters now is, "Learn a trade along with your degree; in Egypt's unstable economy, having a trade is something to fall back on."

Marina's dream is that her little home business grows into a small factory where she hopes to one day teach tailoring skills to young women, and then hire them.

This spring, Coptic Orphans held ceremonies around Egypt honoring 42 widowed mothers who received LE243,500 (US$27,400) in microloans for income-generating projects in B'edaya's third round.

These mothers are heroes to all of us at Coptic Orphans, and by God’s grace, we’re honored to provide them with both microloans and coaching in entrepreneurial skills to develop their inborn perseverance, ingenuity, and business-savvy.

Thank you for your continuing support, and for helping these mothers escape poverty and put their families on the path to economic self-sufficiency!

May 09 2016

Good News! Your Impact for Widows in Egypt

Nermien Riad

I’m excited to share this important news: Thanks to your generous support, Round III of the B’edaya microfinance initiative for mothers has officially launched!  

Coptic Orphans recently held ceremonies around Egypt honoring the 42 widowed mothers who will receive LE243,500 (US$27,400) in microloans for income-generating projects.  These mothers are heroes to all of us at Coptic Orphans, and by God’s grace, we’re honored to provide them with both microloans and coaching in entrepreneurial skills to develop their inborn perseverance, ingenuity, and business-savvy.  

An Egyptian woman who wants to start a business faces barriers that would make Donald Trump cry. But Egypt’s widows face even huger challenges. How they dress, who they talk to, where they go — all of these are subject to scrutiny and control based on tradition. Frequently, they can’t even leave the house to work, even if their children are malnourished.  

It’s exactly these hostile conditions that B’edaya is designed to handle — the everyday life of some of the most disadvantaged widows in Egypt, particularly those in remote villages. It tailors small loans to the needs of the mothers of orphans. The aim is to give them an opportunity to generate income, more ability to feed their children, and more control of their lives.  

The 42 mothers were selected from among a pool of 143 widows whose children are enrolled in Coptic Orphans’ education-focused Not Alone program. Seven of the mothers are receiving B’edaya loans for the second time, after running and expanding their income-generating projects, and one is receiving a loan for the third time.  

“When my husband died, I felt alone and helpless. I was about to sell his photography studio, because according to the traditions in my village, as a widow, I can’t run the business and deal with the public,” one B’edaya client from Kom El Dab’, Menoufeya said at the ceremony.  

“After I enrolled my kids with Not Alone, Coptic Orphans representatives encouraged me not to sell the business, but instead to stand up for my right to work and raise my kids with pride and dignity,” she said. “So I re-opened the studio and ran the business to ensure a dignified life for my kids. With this new loan, I’m going to buy a digital camera so I can photograph weddings, which is very profitable in our area.”  

Coptic Orphans launched B’edaya Round III in March, in order to honor International Women’s Day (March 8) and Egypt’s Mother’s Day (March 21), with the following three ceremonies:  

• Ma3adi, March 4, to honor 12 mothers from Lower Egypt and Greater Cairo
• Bani Mazar, Minya, March 11, to honor 18 mothers from Middle Egypt
• Luxor, March 18, to honor 12 mothers from Upper Egypt  

The ceremonies represent the culmination of nine months of preparatory work to ensure proper planning, training, and an effective selection process. At the events, loan recipients received their checks, took part in basic financial training, and were familiarized with additional details about B’edaya. The events also provided an opportunity for the mothers to network, share experiences, and trade contact information.

Previous loan recipients appeared onstage to present their advice and experiences to the Round III participants.  “This is my second time taking out a B’edaya loan,” said a client from Ezbet El Nakhl, Cairo. “I started my first project two years ago with a B’edaya loan to sell bedding and bed sheets.”  

“Back then, I was so shy and afraid to take the risk, but the Coptic Orphans representative encouraged me and I succeeded in overcoming my fears and establishing a strong network of clients,” she said. “From the income I generated, I was able to pay back my first loan, and renovate my kitchen, bathroom, and living room. This made me feel proud of myself for the first time. I’m taking out the second loan to expand my business by adding the sale of women’s accessories. I’m much better now at marketing and communicating with my customers, so they’ve ask me to sell them these things.”  

B’edaya microloans are offered at 0% interest for 26 months, with the first six months considered a grace period for loan repayment, followed by six equal installments spaced four months apart. The loans disbursed to each recipient vary in size according to the amount requested in the application process, up to a maximum of LE7,000. The amount is also subject to the assessment of the selection committee, which is made up of the Coptic Orphans program management team.  

The LE7,000 ceiling is a significant increase compared to Round II, when the total amount of loans dispersed was LE91,000 disbursed to 29 mothers, with a maximum sum of LE4,000 and a 14-month repayment period.  

B’edaya Round III encompasses 13 types of projects ranging from selling livestock feed (4), selling groceries (11), selling women’s accessories (2), selling fabrics, bedding, and sheets (1), selling cleaning products (1), raising and selling cattle (5), raising and selling poultry (3), selling machine-sewn products (8) running a photo studio (1), selling upholstery (1), selling shoes and accessories (2), running an ironing service (1), and styling hair (2).  

B’edaya Round III activities in 2016 and beyond will include quarterly home visits to the entrepreneurial mother by Coptic Orphans staff and volunteers, who will monitor the progress of the projects and provide regular coaching.  B’edaya shows what we can do when we pull together, as a community, and set our minds on achieving dignity and self-sufficiency — not dependence on charity — for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Children who grow up in a household where B’edaya is working can see their mother in a whole new light, as a creative, hard-working businesswoman. This can make a huge difference for the whole family. I’ll keep you posted as B’edaya unfolds further, and once again, thank you for making this work possible.

All of us are grateful to God for the blessing of working alongside these strong, determined mothers. They are role models for their kids! 

Feb 09 2016

Microfinance: When Preparations Replace Desperation

Nermien Riad

“This [microfinance project] has had a big impact on my life; it makes me feel that I'm not a burden on my kids, and I'm able to manage my household finances and prepare for my daughter’s marriage.”
When Shereen, a budding small businesswoman and micro-loan recipient, said these words to our staff, what stood out was her mention of preparing for her daughter's marriage. 

As Coptic Orphans looks ahead to launching a new round of micro-loans in March, I'm struck by how her words show that just a bit of capital can change the life of a female entrepreneur. Her family members also feel the positive impact, with potentially life-changing results.

Shereen's observation particularly sticks in my mind because, with economic hardships rising sharply in Egypt, Coptic Orphans field staff have noticed a serious increase in young girls being married off early. They usually end up in that situation because families - particularly those without male heads of household, whom this project serves - can't cope with feeding "extra" mouths.

Early marriage, as anyone who's familiar with it knows, can devastate the life of a child. The repercussions for a girl's health, education, economic security, and happiness can be impossible to overcome. 

As just one example of early marriage's traumatic outcomes, a 2014 study by the American University in Cairo’s Social Research Center, in partnership with the Ford Foundation, found that 27% of women who were married before they turned 18 had been physically abused by their husbands.

So the ability to prepare for a daughter's marriage, as Shereen points to with pride, is hugely important.

Widowed mothers who are able to start or build up their small business with the micro-loans you're helping to provide are able to do something that's almost impossible without financial stability: prepare for the future.

In Shereen's case, that translates into being able to prepare for her daughter's marriage, rather than being pushed headlong into arrangements that her whole family may later regret.

These are the kinds of results we count on from the micro-loans. As important as they are to filling stomachs with food and bank accounts with savings, the biggest changes often become apparent over time. The girl who doesn't get forced into early marriage, the mother who feels her own self-worth - those are the real payoffs.

We've had fantastic applications for the upcoming round of this project, and we plan to disburse these 0% interest micro-loans to coincide with Mothers Day and International Women's Day in March. I look forward to sharing details of some of the new business projects we'll be supporting in the months ahead.  

For now, we're grateful for your support, and we continue to count on it to achieve the results Shereen speaks of. We believe in mothers who can prepare for the future, and in freeing young girls from early marriage!
Nov 10 2015

Two Blankets in Wintertime (Aren't the Most Wondrous Thing)

Nermien RIad

Imagine the sense accomplishment you'd feel at being able to buy blankets for your children when before they'd shivered on chilly nights. Furthermore, imagine being able to buy your kids a new mattress to keep them off the cold tiled floor of your home.

That's the sense of accomplishment that Salma has — and she's a widow who's never before experienced economic empowerment.

Salma, a mother of two young children, lost her husband eight years ago in a traffic accident. Her troubles were compounded by health problems.

I met Salma in the Upper Egyptian city of Sohag, where up until recently, she and her family endured the brief but chilly winter nights as best they could. Her sense of what she had to put up with in life, though, has changed since six years ago. That's when she got involved with B'edaya.

Using a small loan provided by the project, she started a hairdressing business in her home. B'edaya allowed her to develop her enterprise by buying modern equipment. With that boost, she went from having to travel to her clients, to having them come to her house for appointments.

"The equipment is what attracts the ladies to come to me," she told me, showing off the neat wooden shelves where she stacks her hair dryer, combs, and hair care supplies.

"Salma is very wise in how she manages the profits from her business," said Susan, the Coptic Orphans staff member who oversees Salma's loan. Indeed, the money from styling her neighbors' hair has purchased the new mattress and blankets that keep Salma's kids warm at night.

This is all part of the B'edaya strategy, which emphasizes empowerment over handouts. For all of the widows who take out loans, the capital and the income it helps generate are good things. But the loan is only a catalyst — a means for Salma to harness her inner drive and latent abilities, and in the process, be transformed.

It's especially important to focus on transformation in the society where Salma is from, because traditions about widowhood in Upper Egypt are piled on top of other patriarchal constraints. The end result is that widows are often house-bound and kept helpless. To see a widow in this situation evolve into a businesswoman, therefore, is quite extraordinary. The blankets and mattress, in this context, are the smallest wonders I can see in Salma's home.

As is proper, B'edaya can't take credit for this transformation. That credit goes to Salma herself. And that's how it should be.

*Name changed to protect the privacy of B'edaya participant.

Aug 14 2015

A Woman Who's Not Waiting for Handouts - And Proud of It

Nermien Riad

A giant drawing of St. George looms over visitors to Susan's home, but she's not waiting for heroes on horseback to save her family. She's taking her fate into her own hands — she's had to, since the artist, her husband, passed away two years ago.

When I first met Susan this August, she was still grieving for her husband. But, as she says, the time came when she had to decide how to support her 8-year-old daughter.

It wasn't going to be easy, there in her marginalized neighborhood on the outskirts of Minya in Upper Egypt. From an already hardscrabble existence, her husband's death dropped her down even farther on the economic ladder. For Susan's family, some necessities quickly became luxuries.

Added to the economic blow of widowhood came the restrictions imposed on her by Egypt's male-dominated society. Expectations are that widows will stick to the home and rely on charity to survive.

Certainly, the last thing anyone in Egypt expects a widow to do is to go into business. Better, the thinking goes, that they live on handouts. Yet, says Susan, "I knew I had to do something productive."

It was an uphill battle to scrape together what remained of her savings, borrow bits and pieces here and there from family and friends, and turn a room of her house into a dry goods store. But Susan did it.

Today, people from the neighborhood pop in for their bags of detergent and other household needs. Their small purchases earn a thin margin of profit that helps put bread on the table for Susan's daughter.

Talking to Susan, I came to understand the pride she takes in this achievement, and the depth of her drive to succeed despite huge, huge obstacles.

It's for people like Susan that B'edaya, Coptic Orphans' microfinance project, exists. I'm proud that we've begun the process of selecting a new group of 50 mothers to receive B'edaya loans of up to 7,000 Egyptian pounds (around US$1,000).

For those who have already started a business, the money may foot the bill for improvements that offer a competitive advantage in the market. For others, the loan may be the first step towards financial self-sufficiency, and fund the foundation of the enterprise they're envisioning.

B'edaya mothers — all of them the widowed mothers of orphans in our program — have successfully run everything from feed stores to photography studios to home furnishings outlets.

This next round of B'edaya builds on the achievements of 30 mothers in Sohag, Minya, Alexandria, Monofiyya, and Cairo who received the most recent round of loans in 2014. So thanks to generous support from all over the world, we're getting closer to our goal of empowering 200 women through microfinance!

The next round will begin in March 2016, and the widows selected to participate will receive ongoing coaching and skills-building to ensure that they can use their loans to best effect.

We hope that all of the Susans of Egypt will apply for B'edaya's next round, and we're encouraging them to do so. Because as she can tell you, there's a difference between waiting for a handout and being your own boss.

The difference is pride.

May 14 2015

It's Made My Daughter Proud of Me

Nermien Riad

Money, money, money. It's easy to think of microfinance only in those terms.

But the surprising thing is how your support for B'edaya changes lives in ways that go far beyond money and material benefits.

No one explains this better than Salma. She's one of the widows who was able to start an in-home grocery store thanks to a loan that your support makes possible.

Being involved with B'edaya, she told me recently, has "meant the world" to her.

"It's made my daughter proud of me," were her exact words.

Salma's words echo what I've heard from many others among the 30 mothers in Sohag, Minya, Alexandria, Monofiyya, and Cairo who received the most recent round of B'edaya loans in 2014.

Over and over, their descriptions of B'edaya reflect wider impacts on their lives: stronger family unity, greater self-worth, an increased sense of confidence and direction.

Salma reminds me that when you and I partner to equip these smart, strong mothers with the tools to break the cycle of poverty, the least we should hope for is financial success.

The ultimate outcome, God willing, is widowed mothers who — perhaps for the first time in their lives — feel fulfilled, valuable, and in control of their destiny.

In March of 2016, we will kick off a new round of B'edaya loans. We want to reach even more mothers in this round — a total of 50. Will you help us gear up for that round, so that we achieve our goal of empowering 200 women through microfinance? A good surge of support this May will put us over the halfway mark of our fundraising effort!

Thank you, as always, for your support. As Salma says, it means the world.

Feb 10 2015

The Next Big Reality TV Show? Real Businesswomen of Egypt!

Nermien Riad

Some days, in Egypt, you just wish the TV crews were there to record what you're looking at. Great material for reality shows is everywhere. Who needs the Kardashians when you have real live Egyptians doing the most amazing stuff, often while talking on their cell phone and driving 77 mph?

The most amazing Egyptian I've met lately is Samah. She's perfect for a reality show in the style of The Apprentice, that goopy drama where Donald Trump eliminates his protégés by shouting "You're fired!" Samah is an up-and-coming businesswoman herself — although she's a widow raising a young girl, she's paying her bills by retailing blankets, bathmats, and other household goods.

But really, Samah could have a show of her own — Real Businesswomen of Egypt ? — because she needs no Trump to hire or fire her. She's doing it her way, with the help of a loan from Coptic Orphans' B'edaya microfinance initiative.

In fact, the closest person to a Donald Trump in Samah's life is the Coptic Orphans "rep" who works with her. Reps, you'll remember, are the Church-based volunteers who guide and mentor the orphans in our Not Alone program, and who support their mothers in acquiring life skills. This particular rep, whose name is Isis, has been a source of inspiration and coaching for Samah.

From the moment you meet Isis, you know she's no Trump-style caricature of what a mentor should be. She's not looking to create a money-making empire; instead, Isis is all about building strong, faithful, self-sufficient families by serving the Church and "her" orphans. She exudes patience and kindness, qualities she has used to walk Samah through the process of starting her business. She's also got two other essential ingredients: determination and business savvy.

With Isis's help, and lots of hard work, here's the enterprise that Samah has gotten up and running. After looking around her neighborhood to see what her customers really need, Samah buys a load of household goods from a wholesaler. These, she sells out of her own home, which doubles as a showroom. The income she generates is of enormous benefit to raising her daughter, and allows her to keep them — and her home — in a healthy state. She's even sewed new curtains for her windows.

Samah, who credits part of her success to good people skills and strong business ethics, is a "graduate" of B'edaya now. She's paid off her loan, yet she continues to receive income from the business she's built. It's steady money — something she can rely on. Not only that, she reports that her income from the business has increased sevenfold since 2010. For B'edaya, that's right on target, because the goal is to foster family independence and self-reliance.

Things have not always been so rosy, especially in 2004, when Samah's husband died after five years of battling liver cancer. The illness was emotionally and financially draining; the family spent every pound they had and borrowed more to pay off medical bills. It has taken a long time to get past the initial stages of mourning and recovery.

But handling these challenges, and encouraging a move to family self-sufficiency, is what B'edaya is all about. It's a microfinance initiative that tailors small no-interest loans to the needs of widows in our Not Alone program, giving them an income, more skills to feed their children, and more control of their lives. In the second round of loans, from the beginning of 2013 through January 2015, B'edaya disbursed US$14,067, with 29 of an initial group of 37 mothers seeing the process through to fruition. The loan recipients are in Sohag, Minya, Alexandria, Monofiyya, and some less well-off areas of Cairo.

When I visited Samah this month, I met her daughter Amira. She's at the top of her 12th-grade class and doing exceptionally well, with all kinds of honors. She's well-positioned to be accepted into a competitive university.

"She's the angel who God has sent me," Samah tells me.

I have to think: Wouldn't that be a much better ending for a reality TV show than Donald Trump yelling "You're fired!"?

Nov 25 2014

Ambition vs Tradition: Egypt's Widows Stand Up

Nermien Riad

Every day in Egypt, smart women — aspiring entrepreneurs — face challenges that would shred most people like a dry leaf in a wood chipper. For starters, most women there contend with crushing sexism and soaring inflation.

But Egypt's widows face even huger challenges. Traditions restrict how they dress, who they speak to, where they go. Often, they can't leave the house to work for a living. That's even if their children are malnourished.

B'edaya is a microfinance initiative designed to handle exactly these hostile conditions — the everyday life of a widow in Egypt. It tailors small loans to the needs of the mothers of orphans. The aim is to give them an income, more ability to feed their children, and more control of their lives.

Of the 30 women currently taking part in B'edaya, from mid-January to October 2014, only one (because of severe illness) was unable to make her monthly loan repayments. In the harsh climate I just described, how is that possible?

In answering, I want to share the story of one of these women. Some details of her life are unique among the B'edaya widows. But her fighting spirit and will to secure a better future for her children are not.

Warda is a 30-year-old who lives outside the city of Sohag. In this region, where the searing-hot desert is split by the Nile's waters, her husband died on the roads while transporting stone.

Since 2012, she's run a grocery out of her house — since tradition dictates that she can't leave it. She feeds her two children with the profits she makes selling sugar, rice, cheese, oil, and some canned goods to her neighbors. 

Warda started her grocery with a loan of 1,700 Egyptian pounds that predated B'edaya. It came through Coptic Orphans, with the encouragement of the volunteer representative who mentors her children.

So far, the income she sought is arriving — not all she hopes for, yet, but enough to put food on the table. Today, she's part of B'edaya, and makes regular repayments on her loan through the program.

Why has her business succeeded so far? Warda attributes it to her own:

  • Courage and lack of fear of the situation surrounding her
  • Ability to take into consideration the culture of the people and their needs
  • Selection of a project that fits the nature of the restrictions imposed on widows in her region
  • High ambitions and desire that the project become her main source of income
  • Basic knowledge about reading and writing
  • High level of organization and awareness of her business environment

Michael, the B'edaya staff member who works with Warda, says her success is a function of her:

  • Drive to secure a sustainable monthly income
  • Courage and determination to change her status as a widow
  • Ambition to use her personal abilities to become self-reliant
  • Flexibility in the face of shifting conditions
  • Ability to search out alternatives and solutions
  • Awareness of how to properly manage her project

To these factors, Michael adds the encouragement Warda has received from both him and the Coptic Orphans "rep" who helps meet her children's education, health, and other needs.

Lastly, mixed into Michael's list, among many other factors, is the B'edaya loan. In other words, this is so much more than "take one entrepreneur, add loan, watch the results." The widow herself must bring positive qualities to the table.

At the end of the day, this last aspect of B'edaya is what sets it apart from so many other approaches to charity and development.

Unquestionably, the loan and the income it generates are good things. But the loan is only a catalyst — a means for Warda to harness her inner drive and latent abilities, and in the process, be transformed.

This aimed-for transformation from helpless, house-bound widow to self-sufficient businesswoman is the opposite of traditional charity, which (even if well-intentioned) creates a dependency on handouts. 

Which brings me back to the question posed at the beginning: "How is that possible that 29 out of 30 widows made their B'edaya loan repayments over almost a year?"

I would say the critical answer is this: The loan program does not focus on these women's weaknesses — instead, it harnesses their strengths. It unlocks what's within them. And that's the key to success.

*Image and names changed to protect the privacy of B'edaya participants

Aug 27 2014

She's Not on the Cover of Forbes. Yet

Sherry Samuel

Ice-cold orange juice crackles through my taste buds like lightning, taking the edge off the fiery Egyptian heat. Thank goodness for our relentless host, who's deaf to our protests of "No, please don't bother... no, really, we just had something to drink..."

Defeated by Egyptian hospitality, I settle back comfortably in a folding chair as our host, Ireney, explains how a widow like herself could beat the odds to become a prosperous trader.

It's a vast, shady room attached to her house here on the outskirts of Samalout. All around me are great, heaped-up sacks of animal feed. A heavy handful of pellets trickles through my fingers and tickles my nose, sweet and musty.  

Standing by the street door, her children bustling underfoot like loose chicks, Ireney describes how a microloan from B'edaya gave her the boost to get started as an entrepreneur.

It's been a lot of work to break into the animal feed business, she concedes, and it's taken her time and sweat and persistence to stay afloat. She started small, built up her inventory in the last few months, and has begun to welcome more customers. Now she sees a monthly profit - not a huge amount, but enough to cover some of the costs racked up by her three small kids.

I listen and contemplate what Ireney's been up against. Traditions are strong here in Upper Egypt, and while some of them promote community and cooperation, others box in widows, limiting their options and even their ability to leave the house. Many mothers, lacking a male breadwinner, end up taking charity for life.

But Ireney has politely but firmly refused to follow the script: stay hopeless, stay helpless, stay house-bound.

What does she hope to do instead? Grow the business. 

This is what B'edaya was meant to do.

"With my own hands." That's the meaning of "B'edaya,"and the program demonstrates what the hands of widowed mothers can accomplish if they have access to start-up money. As a microcredit initiative, B'edaya funds these women's income-generating projects from the ground up until they become self-sufficient. Donations cover all aspects of the loan process from beginning to end, and the money is reinvested over and over to help multiple families. 

As I listen to Ireney, I can run the numbers in my head. In the last six months, of the 29 mothers who've taken out loans, only one hasn't been able to turn a profit. Bad luck with the livestock she bought. The other 28 mothers generated about 40,165 Egyptian pounds (US$5,617) as a net profit.

What were the widows able to do with their profits? I know that our team in the field has asked that very question, and the answers have come back: Buying new goods to build up inventory. Paying their kids' expenses. Socking away cash in savings accounts.

And this in the face of power failures, soaring inflation, and other challenges. Can you imagine? These women are overcoming things each day that would give Fortune 500 CEOs various kinds of cold sweats. They're not on the cover of Forbes. Yet. But for courage and ingenuity, they could be.

I turn my full attention back to Ireney, who's been providing some details on the animal feed market. Probably nuances I can't begin to grasp, but that's OK. What's happened here is not an organization taking responsibility for Ireney's life. On the contrary, she's taken responsibility for her own family, her own fate. I get a kick out of that. It's an incredible thing to see. It's transformative. 

In my next report to you, I look forward laying out some of the obstacles that have faced widows in the B'edaya project, as well as some of the training needs they've expressed.

* Image and name of B'edaya participant have been changed in this instance to protect her privacy.

Jun 10 2014

You Reap What You Sew

Sherry Samuel

Microfinance is truly one of those things where you get back what you put into it. That's what makes it part of a transformational approach to development, as opposed to a "handouts" approach. This kind of approach is critically important when it comes to widows in Egypt. Historically, these women have experienced charitable approaches that have met their immediate needs without empowering them to break the cycle of poverty.

Every business-starting widow who takes out a loan with the B'edaya initiative commits to paying back the money so it can be ploughed back into the community. They also agree to save some of their profits to build a stable foundation for their family. In that sense, each entrepreneur is also agreeing to steer her own future, and that of her community.

Madame Nadia is one of the widows who's taken out a B'edaya loan, and she's out to prove that the headline of this update is not a typo. She's a seamstress. For the past 20 years, Madame Nadia has been supporting her family and caring for her ailing husband using a small sewing machine that she operates on the floor. She learned her trade by sewing her children’s undershirts and eventually their clothing. When her neighbors caught on to her work, she began to accumulate customers and has been making clothing for others ever since.

When her husband passed away, Madame Nadia continued to be the main provider for her family. Life didn't get any easier with the loss of her loved one, and since then she has been looking for ways to break the cycle of poverty.

That's where B'edaya comes in. With her micro-loan, Madame Nadia has purchased a new and larger sewing machine, one with a table. She has high hopes that her small business will grow.

And of course she has high hopes - otherwise, she wouldn't have taken out a loan of US$377, a large sum in her hometown of Minya in Upper Egypt. But this is the dynamic of B'edaya. It allows widows without any capital to mobilize resources for business projects that would otherwise be out of reach. It allows them to aim for a better life, in defiance of a world that arrays immense forces against them. 

She's showed that she works hard and is not afraid to take calculated risks. Those are key ingredients of a successful entrepreneur. We're confident that Madame Nadia will reap what she sews, and we'll keep you updated.

Feb 28 2014

Determined to Beat the Odds

Carolyn Ramzy

My husband use to have a photography studio together with his brother and I used to work with him. Now the brother wants to break up the partnership and open a new [studio] in a different city. He wants a sum of 4000EGP and the photography studio will only be for me.”

These were the words that widow Madame Nahed put in her Coptic Orphans Micro-Finance Project application. It was a simple plan to save her husband’s life work, and in September 2013, she was accepted for a loan and got her first check. 

When our Area Program Manager met Madame Nahed two months later, she was busy. She was cutting the portraits of a young man, a customer she had photographed the previous day. As she handed him the neatly cut small square, he smiled and paid her the 10EGP ($1.44) before he was on his way. Around her, new equipment hummed: a new digital camera, an upgrade from her previous film camera, and a brand new computer screen.

While official data estimate that 16% of Egypt’s breadwinners are women, Mona Ezzat of the New Woman Foundation, says that independent sources put the figure closer to 30%.  And these women brave a fierce economic market in Egypt today. Still, like Madame Nahed, so many are determined to beat the odds.

With the micro-loan from Coptic Orphans, Madame Nahed not only paid off her brother-in-law for complete ownership of the studio, but she also registered shop in her kids’ names. She even moved the studio to a better location, upgrading it with a new paint job to entice customers. Finally, she hung banners of her photographs outside of her shop as proof to her customers that she was up-to-date in her field, using programs like Photoshop. When the Area Program Manager asked her why she decided to apply for the loan, Madame Nahed replied that she was inspired because she saw an opportunity for herself to grow and to support her family. Despite the challenges --- a far commute from her home, a slumped market, and running the studio entirely along since her husband passed away four years ago--- she carries onward, forward, ready for the next customer.



Dec 13 2013

It begins like this

Carolyn M. Ramzy



“I will buy 100 hens that weigh 1KG, two sacks of corn and five drinking containers. I will let the veterinarian [oversee] my poultry but I will buy the medications. The hen lays eggs after two months so I will have at least 50 eggs every day. I will sell the eggs for 25 EGP per day. That is 750 EGP per month. [My family] Mariam and Samiha will help me and I will sell the eggs to the merchant.”     ----Ekbal

It begins like this: a dream, a plan. In their applications to our B’edaya Program, each mother outlines her project idea. She imagines the kind of change this small business will bring to her life and the kind of support it will bring to her family. At Coptic Orphans, we empower each participating mother to bring her dream to reality: by providing an interest-free, micro-finance loan and helping her to develop a sustainable form of income. As of this month, Ekbal’s project is underway. She has already purchased the chickens, their medicine, and containers for them to drink. She’s consulted a veterinarian. And, she has already separated the larger chickens from the smaller ones to protect them and elongate their life. Now she waits for them to grow, produce eggs, and finally, make a profit! It is a small beginning to another beginning.

In September 2013, Coptic Orphans began another 18-month cycle of the B’edaya Program. Despite security concerns and Egypt’s contemporary political turbulence, a total of 30 mothers have received their loan checks and started their businesses. In Upper Egypt, 12 projects are up and running; Middle Egypt boasts 9; and both Greater Cairo and Lower Egypt proudly host another 9 small businesses combined. The projects include a photography studio, a small upholstery services, 5 grocery kiosks, two beauty salons, and 6 others like Ekbal’s ambitious enterprise: raising small farm animals for profit.

All it takes is some seed money. That is it. And that is how change begins.




Sep 16 2013

The Choice

Hanan Baky

Shadia had no savings and only seven Egyptian pounds (about $1 USD) in her pocket. She was an illiterate widow living with her only son in Alexandria. What could she do with that money?

For seven Egyptian pounds, she could buy bread for four days. Or, she could spend it all on one meal of beans or lentils.

But Shadia had her eye on something much more valuable: she wanted to educate her son. She needed that money —and much more — to pay his school fees.

So here is what she did.

She applied for a microcredit loan to start a mini-mart in her small village. When her application was approved, she gained access to resources that empowered her to start and run a successful business. Shadia can't forget the first day villagers swarmed her store to to buy their staples. Through this small project,  Shadia took her first sturdy step towards financial independence earning about 200 pounds a month.

This project turned life around for Shadia and her son. It was the perfect choice. 

The truth is that there are countless widows in Egypt barely scraping by. Many have the creativity to do a lot with a little, but they still need that extra bit of help that will lift themselves and their children out of poverty.



Jun 20 2013

A Widow Gains the Advantage

Hanan Baky

In Iman’s village near Assuit in Southern Egypt, it is not considered acceptable for a woman, let alone a widow to start a public business. But for Iman, depending on someone to support her family was not an option.

Since her husband’s death, Iman had struggled to provide the basic necessities for her family. She rarely had money left for the books and uniforms that her daughter, Mary, needed for school. When Iman applied for a loan to start her own project and began participating in the trainings offered things changed. She started gaining the skills and resources she needed to become a self-sufficient provider. Soon, she was ready to start her own business.

Iman set up a makeshift stand with crates for selling vegetables in front of her house. One by one, Iman’s neighbors started to accept the situation. Soon, she was earning enough income to support Mary’s education. But it wasn’t long before Iman recognized an opportunity for growth.

Her strategy involved a simple blue wheel-barrow that she purchased with the support of Coptic Orphans. Now she doesn’t sit around waiting for customers to come to her. Each day, Iman walks the small streets of Manfalout, pushing a load of fresh coriander, tomatoes, cucumbers, turnips, and other vegetables. Her door-to-door service gives her a strong advantage in the local vegetable market.

Iman started saving money to use for medical expenses and other needs. Having savings means that Iman and her daughter, who previously lived hand-to-mouth, are now better prepared for whatever life hands them.

Through your support, many widows like Iman, are gaining financial independence.


Mar 19 2013

Success Stories from Widowed Businesswomen

Nathan Hollenbeck

Our B'edaya* projects help fatherless households gain self-suffiency they lost with the death of their provider, in a country with little support for female-headed households. 

Here is a story from one mother we have helped take charge of her family's livelihood. 

Om Youssef

In 2001 Om Youssef’s** husband died of Meningitis leaving an illiterate wife with 2 helpless children. Om Youssef vowed that her children will get an education no matter the cost. She was willing to do whatever it takes, but did not know where or how to start. B’edaya helped Om Youssef start raising livestock, and to date she has made 450 Egyptian Pounds in income all while paying back her loan in full. That's about 6 times the government widow pension that Om Youssef and her family had to live on before. 


*"B'edaya" is Arabic for "with my own hands."

**"Om" is Arabic for "mother of." In Egypt, it is common to refer to women by the name of their oldest sons. 

Dec 28 2012

New Cycle Begins in Egypt's Changing Marketplace

Nathan Hollenbeck

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.


Aug 23 2012

Program Effects Spread

Nathan Hollenbeck

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. 


Jun 13 2012

B'edaya Annual Cycle 2011 Final Report

Mary Guirguis

The project year started in December with 74 active projects in Assiut, Minia, Monofiya

and some slum areas in Cairo. Projects funded were in one of three categories: 1) Services such as a beauty salon; 2) Livestock such as raising poultry and cattle and 3) Retail such as a grocery store or a retail store selling shoes and outfits 
following the unrest in Egypt, some projects faced challenging times due to the decrease in demand for services and products and the rocketing prices for animal feed.
Nonetheless, B’edaya’s Portfolio at Risk--Total outstanding balance of loans past due, divided by the active portfolio--stayed at 0.7% -- a record low. The repayment percentage for all projects is 99.3%.
Here is a story of one of the women this project helped during the previous period:
Awatef Kamel Abdel Messih, Monofiya (Lower Egypt)

Awatef's late husband worked in a grocery store before he died of a heart attack in 2001. He left Awatef behind to care for their five children. Unlike Hoda who at least had a pension to live on, Awatef and her family did not have any income before she started her B’edaya project. The family lived in a one-floor house made of bricks with barely any furniture.
Awatef started a poultry-raising project. She bought chicks and ducklings as she knew how to care for them and also had space available. When starting her project, she was smart enough not to invest all the money in buying birds; she kept a portion of the money to buy food. As the cycle of the project was fast, she quickly brought in income. This was key to the continuation of the project particularly because buying food for her chicks and ducklings was getting expensive day by day. Another challenge was the winter season which was taking a toll on the birds. Awatef did her best to keep them healthy by seeking veterinary care and keeping them in a warm place. To expand her project, Awatef started raising pigeons. She is now planning on having a little farm where she can raise birds as well as rabbits. In terms of repayment, she maintained a 100% repayment. Her project made a total net profit of EGP 2,350. Awatef said she was now able to give her children an allowance to buy what they liked. In addition, the project
brought in enough money for Awatef to financially support her son’s familyAttached is a fully transparent report that includes budgets and actuals, lessons learned, results, and five stories among the widowed mothers that the project supported. 
May 29 2012

Shenouda's Water Buffalo

Nathan Hollenbeck

It has been a tumultuous year for many in Egypt. The price of cooking fuel and food have both skyrocketed. Meanwhile, the streets of many villages remain unsafe. Both have been especially hard on widowed families. This made microfinance projects funded by Coptic Orphans life-saving for many widows throughout Egypt.  

Shenouda, a 13-year-old boy from the town of Manfalout in Upper Egypt, recently became the proud father a new calf buffalo. The buffalo is not only a point of pride for Shenouda, but a real means of livelihood for him and his widowed mother.

Prudent savings from Coptic Orphans contributions enabled him to purchase the buffalo. “I bought it to help us in our life,” he says proudly as he strokes the animal. His mother has also been inspired to raise a water buffalo herself to help support the family, embodying the purpose of B'edaya.

Shenouda's mother then lead the way in their family. When she realized she could provide, she helped Shenouda become more self-sufficient, too. 

He says today that he has a deeper sense of responsibility and integrity after these experiences.

Grateful for this means to earn a living for his family and more, Shenouda plans on sharing the butter and cheese that he produces from the buffalo with others in his village.

Mar 06 2012

B'edaya Annual Cycle 2011 Final Report

Mary Guirguis


The project year started in December with 74 active projects in Assiut, Minia, Monofiya
and some slum areas in Cairo. Projects funded were in one of three categories: 1) Services such as a beauty salon; 2) Livestock such as raising poultry and cattle and 3) Retail such as a grocery store or a retail store selling shoes and outfits
following the unrest in Egypt, some projects faced challenging times due to the decrease in demand for services and products and the rocketing prices for animal feed.
Nonetheless, B’edaya’s Portfolio at Risk--Total outstanding balance of loans past due, divided by the active portfolio--stayed at 0.7% -- a record low. The repayment percentage for all projects is 99.3%.
Here is a story of one of the women this project helped during the previous period:
Awatef Kamel Abdel Messih, Monofiya (Lower Egypt)

Awatef's late husband worked in a grocery store before he died of a heart attack in 2001. He left Awatef behind to care for their five children. Unlike Hoda who at least had a pension to live on, Awatef and her family did not have any income before she started her B’edaya project. The family lived in a one-floor house made of bricks with barely any furniture.
Awatef started a poultry-raising project. She bought chicks and ducklings as she knew how to care for them and also had space available. When starting her project, she was smart enough not to invest all the money in buying birds; she kept a portion of the money to buy food. As the cycle of the project was fast, she quickly brought in income. This was key to the continuation of the project particularly because buying food for her chicks and ducklings was getting expensive day by day. Another challenge was the winter season which was taking a toll on the birds. Awatef did her best to keep them healthy by seeking veterinary care and keeping them in a warm place. To expand her project, Awatef started raising pigeons. She is now planning on having a little farm where she can raise birds as well as rabbits. In terms of repayment, she maintained a 100% repayment. Her project made a total net profit of EGP 2,350. Awatef said she was now able to give her children an allowance to buy what they liked. In addition, the project
brought in enough money for Awatef to financially support her son’s familyAttached is a fully transparent report that includes budgets and actuals, lessons learned, results, and five stories among the widowed mothers that the project supported.