Dear Friends, I hope this letter finds you all well.
As you all know we have been running children’s programs in Ethiopia targeted at finding individual sponsors for children from destitute families; and raising funds to finance after school assistance to these children and finance our small group for orphaned children.
Our organization that was started in 1999 continued operating strongly until a couple of years ago when we at Messert Ethiopia felt that not enough was being done to assure that the programs set out to assist these children to reach their full potential were as effective as we hoped they would be. At the same time we realized that there was a communication and expectation gap between us and our local partner in Ethiopia, St. Stephen’s Charitable Center, which was responsible for implementing the programs as Messert Ethiopia was not licensed to operate locally. We grappled with what the right course of action should be for us moving forward in order to promote, plan, and execute effective programs.
Hence, we set out to review what has been done so far as we have now one of our own on the ground in Ethiopia, and what we have come to realize is that much has been done with regards to ensuring that children in our program are provided with access to education, school fee, school uniform, transportation money for those travelling far to school, after school assistance including a nutritional meal and tutoring, and a small monthly stipend to their families to help them with food expense. Members of our partner organization, the group home’s housemother and the program director for the Teklehaimanot programs have all provided the children with a family-like relationship, where the children felt that they could look at them as their aunties and uncles and go to them with their problems.
A number of our children have graduated from college, others have completed vocational trainings, and even those that left the program did so at their own cognizance. At the same time a lot more needs to be done to guarantee that the evolving nature of the children’s needs and challenges are addressed accordingly; that mentor ship, internship opportunities are facilitated for them; that career advisers are provided for them, and that counseling for those who are in need of such service is readily available. Moreover, we need to be sensitive of their families’ continuous struggle to make ends meet in this fast growing economy that is leaving so many urban dwellers behind. There needs to be a concerted effort to make the work done by our organization more visible and garner additional support, especially in country support.
Hence, through our self-examination, we were reminded of what we set out to do when we first started our work: to make “A child’s dream, a child’s reality”, and my friends I am a witness to that as I have seen these past three years the children’s optimism and their parent’s gratitude for what has been provided for their children. Our esteemed supporters, I am happy to tell you we are once again fired up and geared to face challenges and grab opportunities that could strengthen our organization and the work it is doing.
In order to increase in-country and regional fund raising and sponsorship, we have established an advisory group. So far we have been successful in finding 8 individual sponsors and have held two annual fundraising events in Ethiopia; the events have provided us with opportunities to widen our work’s visibility and garner financial support from corporations and local businesses. At present we are working on the following issues:
1. Conscious of the fact of the unreasonably high cost of food, the organization has started seeking for grant money from businesses and corporations that would go towards the provision of monthly nonperishable food items in lieu of the small stipend that the organization at present gives monthly to supplement their monthly food provision.
2. Realizing the importance of the after school program in terms of providing after school tutoring and hot meal to the children and recognizing the need to improve the structure of the center which is in bad condition, a fundraising event was held on Friday 25th January at the Ras Amba Hotel. The proceeds from the event will go towards renovating and refurbishing the center. At the completion of this project it is expected the center will have bright rooms that the children will study in, a spacious library and recreation room, working kitchen with all its amenities, separate toilets for boys and girls, shower rooms, water tank, working plumbing system, a more organized office space.
3. As the high school age children go to schools farther afield and are unable to attend the after school program at the center, the organization would also work on making sure that they do well in school by enrolling them in special tutoring classes in their respective high schools so that they get the necessary support to successfully compete for admission into higher education institutions of their choice.
4. To offer the children an informal counseling and social safety net, the organization is in the process of setting up a big-brother/big-sister group with the organization’s alumni being paired with current children on the roster of the organization; there by having the alumni doing the job of acting as the children’s confidants and unofficial guidance counselors.
It is our greatest hope that you will continue to support us and champion us as you have been doing these past 20 years. As ever we are grateful and appreciative of your boundless generosity.
With best regards, and a warm greeting from Ethiopia, I remain yours sincerely,