It goes without saying that Project Ethiopia ’s greatest resource is community engagement. Due to a strong reputation and close ties with local villagers, the Project Ethiopia team can easily mobilize the community to contribute volunteer labor in support of project activities – making it possible to stretch our investment even further.
Our earliest projects built the foundation for the high level of volunteerism and community engagement that are now the standard for our work. Many villages were eager to have Project Ethiopia partner with their community. The communities that came forward with ideas and proposals to be directly involved on a project became the first schools and villages with whom we partnered.
- As part of the request to install our first school well, the school director offered to feed all the workers and provide volunteers if Project Ethiopia would dig the well. Yes!
- The village elders of another village proposed that the villagers would frame and plaster a school building, if Project Ethiopia would do the concrete floors, roof, desks, doors, windows, blackboards, and paint. Yes!
- The mayor of Dangla volunteered to provide clean water from the town reservoir to outlying areas. Hundreds of village volunteers would dig 4 miles of trench and lay water pipe to five villages and one school if Project Ethiopia would pay for the pipe and attachments. Yes!
Volunteerism, initiated by the villagers of those first projects, is now a powerful practice of the Project Ethiopia model. As is community spirit and engagement. Villagers are helping people beyond their family ties. Most profoundly, villagers will step forward to help the poorest of the poor, widows, and the elderly when extra labor and support is needed.
MISSION IN ACTION:
ONE PERSON CAN CHANGE THE ATTITUDE OF AN ENTIRE VILLAGE
Tarakegan lived in Tara, a small village, in which there was no school. He valued his elementary education and wanted his two children to have the same opportunity. The nearest school was an hour ’s walk away, and often the children could not walk there because of frequent heavy rains and flooding.
Tarakegan decided a grass-roofed alternative basic education “school ”, where a parent could teach the children to read and write, was better than no school. A few villagers assisted him and a classroom was built. However, other villagers were upset because it was built on common grazing land. They burned it down!
Tarakegan did not give up. Tarakegan formed an education committee of concerned parents. He became chairman of education in the community. The group requested that the community re-build the alternative education school, this time with a metal roof. Each family provided one corrugated roofing section. The classroom was built. There were no blackboards, desks or books, but this time the villagers were pleased.
One day Tarakegan saw Project Ethiopia ’s school in Girarghe, which had changed from alternative basic education to an official school. They had regular teachers and books because they had an appropriate building. Tarakegan was excited —maybe this could happen in Tara. Maybe Project Ethiopia would help.
He went to talk with Workineh and persuaded him to visit the rural Tara area. Workineh saw that it was a desperate situation. The villagers told him they were now ready to volunteer all labor and materials, if Project Ethiopia would help by providing the roof, concrete floor, and desks which they could not possibly afford.
- The village gave 2,500 square meters of common grazing land for the school.
- Each family made a pile of eucalyptus branches to be used for the school walls.
- 105 people, including 47 women, mixed all the mud and straw and applied it to the eucalyptus walls.
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