How it Started
In our travels through Ethiopia in 2005, my mom Abby and I, discovered a small village, called Weledi, with an overwhelming number of orphaned children. Our hearts were further shaken when we also discovered that many children were forced into servitude to help provide for their families. Girls, often as young as 12 years old, were being shipped to nearby Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia and Djibouti. These children were orphaned due to HIV, lack of medicine, the impact of water borne diseases, and abject of poverty. In this area it is common to find families responsible by children, grand parents, and female headed households. Some of the orphans were homeless and the community was trying to feed them and share their homes with meager food sources. The orphans were facing hunger, inadequate clothing without the ability to receive an education as they had to work to help to pay for food.
After returning from our trip and completing extensive research of the economic conditions in the area and the specific issues effecting the community, two of my girlfriends, my husband Dan, and I created, funded, and executed a plan to house, feed, and educate 111 orphaned children and feed 25 homeless elderly adults. We have been actively managing and funding this program since 2010 under our 501c3 non-profit organization called Outreach Ethiopia. To execute our plan “in country”, Outreach Ethiopia contracts with a local, legally registered NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) called ORDA (Organization for Rehabilitation and Development in Amhara). Our program supports a fulltime Social Worker for managing the day-to-day operations. ORDA was founded in the early 1980’s to provide humanitarian assistance during Ethiopia’s infamous famine.
It began with a cup of coffee While traveling through Ethiopia, the bus stops at a coffee shop in a small town called Weledi. We overheard the people discussing the situation in the town and the need for help to rebuild a bridge to their church. And so it begins…
The bridge A bridge that provided access to the local Ethiopian Orthodox church was destroyed in a flood. As a result, the people had to travel 19 miles to reach the nearest, safe river crossing during the rainy season. We provided financial and management assistance to the people of Weledi to construct a new bridge across the river. During construction, we discovered the need for assistance within the community: orphaned children, a disruptive food supply, inadequate shelter, diseases and lack of sanitation resulting in a high mortality rate.
Prayer and obstacles Through prayer we researched and evaluated options for feeding, housing, educating and caring for the children of Weledi, Ethiopia. The government and logistics became a huge hurtle.
Our findings In November 2009 our group conducted a fact-finding trip to Weledi to determine the best method for us to assist the orphaned children. We met with officials of the local Kebele (town officials) of Weledi, and discovered 166 orphaned children between the ages of 5 and 14 needed assistance. Based on our research, Outreach Ethiopia in conjunction with the Organization for Rehabilitation and Development in Amhara (ORDA), determined we could improve conditions by enabling the children to continue their education by providing food assistance and educational materials. We would assist the children through foster parents or extended families, provide food, clothing and shelter for the children and enhance the capacity of schools to improve the quality of education by purchasing library books, furniture, and laboratory equipment. We also needed to strengthen the community’s problem solving abilities through life skills training. We communicated our findings to the community leaders and presented the government our recommendation for supporting the children.
Outreach Ethiopia is official Outreach Ethiopia is officially created as a non-profit 501 (c) (3). A community committee selected the most vulnerable children (100 children) for participation in the Outreach Ethiopia program and the project began on September 1, 2010.
Initial funding and project beginnings Initial funding of 100K was provided to start the project. Provided 6,000 school books and educational materials (Amharic and English) for local schools and library including textbooks, literature, maps and other educational materials Supplied local high school with full laboratory equipment and procedures for physics and chemistry education Provided desks and other furniture for the library and laboratory Provided school supplies, uniforms, backpacks and food and shelter stipends for each child as well as a savings account for each child Created 10 community small groups of 100 people each that discuss 1x per week, educational seminars about sanitation, community issues, and provide food 1x/mo 111 kids with guardians to talk about issues, problems and how to help each other
Evaluation and review Traveled back to evaluate and conduct a review of the implementation of the program, confirmed distribution of supplies and assessed welfare of children Supplied funding for continuation of program (school supplies, textbooks, uniforms, 1 set of clothing, shoes and backpacks) Provided medical funding for special needs 3 of the children within the program ranked within the top three of their respective grade levels Added another 11 children and 25 homeless elderly (monthly stipend for basic necessities for food and shelter) to the program
Measuring success Made another trip to evaluate and conduct a review of the program and continued to provide funding 9 of the children within the program ranked within the top three of their respective grade levels First child in the program graduated from high school and continued her education. After getting her teaching certificate, she applied for a teaching position at the Weledi elementary school and out of 3,000 applicants she was selected for the position. She started teaching in 2015. Provided medical support for 3 children
Continuing to provide Outreach Ethiopia continued to provide for the Weledi community. Evaluation and improvements are made.
New initiatives Planning for new initiatives begin.