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But in Cairo — some 62 miles from the desert oasis of El Faiyum — another Good Samaritan is trying to change that. The men and women at the Good Samaritan Orphanage, another home for children sponsored by the Coptic Catholic Church, want to satisfy much more than a child’s need for food, shelter and clothing. They are pouring their hearts out so these children may experience the love and guidance of a true mother or father figure.

The Rev. Kamil William, 62, takes a few visitors on a tour of the three-story building located in the middle-class El Massaken Cheraton neighborhood that provides a home for 37 orphans. Small children and teenagers alike step out of their bedrooms into the main hallway. Some offer to shake hands with visitors while others start plying the priest, who runs the orphanage, with requests. As he makes his way down the stairs, he addresses each one personally, teasing the older ones with affectionate nicknames while patting the face of a small girl clinging to his robes.

Father Hanna “felt that a child who lost a parent had a gap in his or her life, and he wanted to fill that gap,” says Father William, referring to the priest who founded Good Samaritan. Father Bishoi Ragheb Hanna, who had studied theology in Rome before serving as a parish priest for the Coptic Catholic community in New York City, always dreamed of starting an orphanage in his native Egypt. In 2004, financed in part with support from New York’s Copts, and with the blessing of his church’s head, the late Coptic Catholic Patriarch Stephanos II, Father Hanna converted a section of a center for disabled people into a home.

Cairo’s Good Samaritan is unique among Egyptian orphanages. Unlike other Christian institutions that are staffed by either priests or sisters, Good Samaritan includes both. “Father Hanna wanted children to have a father and a mother figure,” explains Father William. The orphanage’s mix of boys and girls living in the same facility is also highly unusual for a country with conservative attitudes toward gender such as Egypt, but Father Hanna believed the children would greatly benefit from having both brothers and sisters.

Each day begins with morning prayer, and then the children leave to attend Cairo’s free public schools. When they are ready to go to college or vocational school, Good Samaritan allows them to continue to live at the orphanage and pays their full tuition. The Divine Liturgy is celebrated twice weekly. Father William teaches the catechism to the children — who are all Christian — and a priest from outside the orphanage comes to hear confessions.

Most of the children have at least one living parent, but are placed at Good Samaritan because that parent cannot financially support them. Eight of the children have had a parent convert to Islam. Egyptian law considers children Muslim if a parent converts to Islam, and grants that parent sole custody. A Christian spouse who wishes his or her children to remain Christian in the eyes of the law has no choice but to place them in a Christian orphanage.

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