Written by Tawnya Pattie, Treasurer, Vulnerable Children Society
I was so inspired by the foundation being laid for these children, the commitment of the staff, the opportunities being created through teamwork at all levels, the innovative ideas and the respect for the family.
A highlight of my trip to Ethiopia was a visit to Gindo Town to visit the BEKA education project, funded by Canadian Humanitarian. Accompanied by Bisrat Sime, the Ethiopia representative for Canadian Humanitarian and Abi, the representative from BEKA, we traveled a long, bumpy, dusty road to reach the town of Gindo. Vulnerable Children Society is partnering with Canadian Humanitarian to supply all the furniture, equipment, books etc. for the new, currently under construction, educational center.
We started by visiting the current location of the project, where 30+ kids were in attendance.
I had the fortunate opportunity to meet with the kids, ranging in age from about 5 to 12 years old. The kids come to the center every school day and receive supplementary tutoring to fill the gap left by the government educational system. There is also a childcare program for those children under age 5. In addition, the children receive a hot meal, uniform, shoes, a regular shower, hygiene education and medical care. The health of the children is monitored regularly, and home visits are completed regularly to ensure the overall health and well being of the children. The children are supported emotionally and physically by providing a safe and supervised environment.
The children at the center are referred by the local government office. Almost all the children are orphans, having lost their parents to HIV, and are being raised by guardians. These children are the most vulnerable children in the community and need all the support they can get. The center currently provides support for 50+ children each day, but many more are waiting to receive this valuable service. Although the program is clearly successful, the current building is no longer suitable or adequate to fully meet the needs of the children. After listening to a beautiful performance by the children, we proceeded to the new center under construction.
The new location and building is fantastic! The large plot of land was donated by the kebele (local government).
The new building, when completed, will be one of the nicest buildings in the community and an inspiration for local residents. There is plenty of space including several classrooms, proper washrooms, a modern and a traditional kitchen, a designated library/computer room, a dining room/common room, and a guest room for visiting volunteers/doctors. The building features concrete construction and large windows allowing for plenty of natural light, and views of the garden and surrounding hillside.
In addition to the support for the children, the center provides support to the guardian parents. A very large garden, on land donated by the local government, is bursting with produce that has been planted and maintained by the mothers. Until now it has been largely the women, but the new location has a large plot of land dedicated for the fathers to maintain.
Cabbage, beats, tomatoes, spinach, potatoes, garlic and carrots were growing in abundance. The produce grown is split three ways: 1/3 provides food for the families, 1/3 is sold to provide a small source of income, and 1/3 is used at the center to feed the children. The program for the fathers, called Foresight Fathers, is a new idea in rural Ethiopia. Volunteerism in struggling rural communities is not a common practice, and the Foresight Fathers is changing that.
The fathers volunteer for a variety of activities in addition to gardening that contribute to the family and the community – like building simple wooden framed beds, strung with recycled tire strips which are provided to families in need. The men also dug a well to provide irrigation for the garden. The children and the families are taught the necessary skills to grow and maintain a successful garden.
To support the program, Vulnerable Children Society is providing the seeds and tools required to help make it successful.
What really struck me as I left Gindo, is the well rounded nature of the whole BEKA project. Not only are the vulnerable children getting crucial physical and emotional support, the families are supplementing their diets with fresh vegetables, the families are earning a little extra income, they are building a stronger community by working together, and the fathers are getting involved. I saw pride in the faces of the children at school, and the fathers working in the garden. There was so much thought put into how to really impact these families in a long term, sustainable way. I was so inspired by the foundation being laid for these children, the commitment of the staff, the opportunities being created through teamwork at all levels, the innovative ideas and the respect for the family.
Thanks to all of you who have already donated to this project. There is still much funding needed – please donate to Vulnerable Children Society and help support this very worthwhile project that is making a difference in the lives of these children and their families. Your money goes a long way to creating hope for the future for these families!
Please donate to furnish the Gindo education centre! Donate here!