(Smiling sponsorship students at our Dessie School project)
The blog post below was written by Barbara Patton, a long time AAI volunteer who has spearheaded the fundraising drive for “Dessie’s Dream,” our project to build a school in a town about 10 hours north of Addis in a very rural area. This project has taken almost two years and is our largest humanitarian effort to date. Recently we received a $10,000 challenge grant to complete the project and just this week that challenge grant was completely met by another generous donor.
We are very proud of being almost to our goal but donations are still needed and can be made at this link: https://secure.groundspring.org/dn/index.php?aid=4042. With your help, the doors of the new Menbere Tsehay School will open for good at the start of the next school year in September 2009.
The Good School Committee of Dessie
Consider one Ethiopian family’s contribution to Dessie’s Dream--- Samrawit and her family have to be careful with every birr, the national currency. They only eat once a day and new clothes are out of the question. But when the school committee of Dessie requested a birr a week towards the new school building, they gladly agreed to pay. Four birr a month (about 50 cents U.S.) doesn’t sound like much, but if your monthly income is 250 birr for a family of 6, every birr lost is a sacrifice. Samrawit, 9 years old and a good student, hopes that her education will eventually help her family improve their lives and they trust the local school committee with their hard-earned money.
I visited Dessie School and attended one of the school committee meetings on my recent trip to Ethiopia. As I waited for the meeting to begin, an elderly gentleman also sat patiently outside the school director’s office. He was greeted and returned greetings affectionately with the children of the school and the adults who passed by him. He is one of many on the Menbere Tsehay School committee who help make decisions and rally support for the improvements their school desperately needs. He knows that, despite the assistance of AAI on the project, they ultimately have to help themselves. The committee is an active group and they have accomplished quite a bit on their own.
(photo: School committee member reviewing student work)
The school director, Beletu Assefa, heads the committee. She is a good leader and a strong believer in decisions by consensus. There is also a women’s representative, Christian and Muslim representatives, representatives from the parent and teachers coalition, the kebele (local government), the education and training board chairperson, a parents’ representative, two committee association members and the assistant school director. These dedicated individuals come from diverse backgrounds and they are all tremendously respected in the community. They have met each month for over two years now to work on improving the Dessie school. They are truly devoted to helping all the children get the education and opportunities they deserve for the future of the town and the region.
I listened at the meeting as they discussed the progress on the new two story school building and I could see that they have worked together for a long time and developed a good rapport with each other. Each member seemed comfortable voicing an opinion even if it was not a majority one. As in most groups, some are very vocal and others say very little but receive respect and strong consideration when they do speak. This is a group with a mission, and they are not afraid to throw all their support behind causes they deem worthy. The bottom line for this group of respected elders is the good of the children. At the end of the meeting, when they were asked once again to provide help for the school, one of the members, said, “Well, it only makes sense!” They are there for the sake of the children and they will continue to be there. This is their school, their community and their future.
The children, their parents, the school staff and the entire community of Menbere Tsehay School are so thankful for AAI’s participation in the school construction project. We are giving them the tools they need to help themselves. We provided assistance when the scale of the project has been too daunting for the local families but it is still their school. We have yet to raise all the money needed to pay for the new classroom building, but Dessie and Adoption Advocates have faith that the money will come, the project will be completed and the children of Dessie will use their opportunities to make life better for themselves and their community.