Category Archives: Non-profit work

Plumpy’Nut Forever!

We did it. Albeit a bit quietly. This year we hosted the 5th annual fundraiser for Doctors Without Borders using the spectacular Janus Charity Challenge venue in Chicago. It wasn’t our most stellar year for fundraising – – the competition for “charity dollars” has been fierce. But we did our best. Our esteemed athlete, Philip, came back for another year of hard work and dedication in support of the nutritional fund.  Mr. Silly Pants and his company did another year of “Jeans Friday” and collected funds for our effort. Every single dollar counts and every single donation made this campaign succesful. We celebrate year 5 with $2870.  That’s a lot of Plumpy’Nut. And this year it has some extra personal meaning for our family — and I’ll leave it at that. Plumpy’Nut NEEDS to be accessible to children in need. It saves lives. We.Know.This.

You want to see the kind of results we managed to be a part of? Check this out:

This little face needs no words.

We’ll do it again next year. Watch for OUR 6th ANNUAL TEAM PLUMPY’NUT for Doctors Without Borders!

Thank you. Truly.


Hunger (not a game!)

I’m home from Ethiopia with a little side trip to visit Twinkletoes in South Africa. I had an amazing journey – lots of work, some play, and totally got to hug up and spoil my amazing daughter.

But I’m home and thinking about hunger. I wrote this to the friends with whom I am exercising, “I traveled for many days in Ethiopia – to places where people don’t have enough to eat. I’m talking about hunger that kills people. I can’t imagine that for me it will ever again be OK to be fat and out of shape. Period. I’m glad to be back at the gym to make this a reality – with Ryan’s help and the support of my team and all of you. And, I’m not going to be silent about other people’s hunger …”

As I traveled the area known as Kembata Tembaro, doing some evaluations for an Ethiopian program I am supporting, I asked the same question in each place, “What is your number one need right now?” The answer was the same in every place. “HUNGER. Our people are hungry. People are dying because they do not have enough to eat. Babies are dying. People are sick, they are not strong enough to stay healthy.” The rains have arrived, but they are 2 months late. The harvest is expected in August. Now is the time of hunger. It is time to go public with nutritional relief.

GRAIN CREW 2012 is here NOW! You can go right to our fiscal donor, Save One Starfish and donate to the effort using the Grain Crew-Ethiopia tab. It’s easy. Save One Starfish is a registered non-profit. Your donation is tax deductible. We will leave the donation tab up until June 1. Go there now.

Last year I privately fundraised a bit over $3000 to feed 136 families from three feeding stations; Hadero, Tunto, and Shinshecho. This year we’ll do the same. Except, this year I’m not being quiet. The program is run through Meseret Kristos Church. Like last year, they will reach out to non-members of the church and focus on women headed households and households that rent/have no land.

Families like this one in Hadero, receiving grain last year from Grain Crew 2011.

The distribution will occur in several locations and will include grain/oil/fruits. Just as last year, there will be a full report distributed that includes details about the use of donations – – including photographs of locations, numbers fed, items distributed, and so forth.

Here is one more image from the distribution in 2011 in Tunto.

Let’s fill our local food pantries and then reach out to places that don’t have social services like food pantries and rely on the community support of spaces like local churches in Ethiopia. It’s good work. Please join me.

*Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions*

Dream Team Does Denver

2 sleeps far from home is how my little boy describes the past few days. I use words like amazing, energizing, inspiring, and exciting. I traveled for a long day of meetings in Denver, joining a crew of hard working and compassionate humanitarians working, planning, and dreaming together.

Our topic – Our Shared Work in Ethiopia.

Our theme was collaboration. Our energy was buzzing. Our concerns were united and thoughtfully informed and shared. Why? What’s important? Sustainable? How? Can we? When? How do you do that? What do you know about this? Where? Say more? Explain that? What do you think?   LET’S DO IT!

Inspired, passionate, devoted, determined, energetic, compassionate – these words describe my esteemed company. We worked hard, bringing the myriad things we care about to the table – TESFAEthiopia Reads,  Mudula Water, Hope by Twelve, AHOPE for Children, Clinic At A Time, Tesfa Teens, Selamta. And more. So much more – I am about to burst. Look for amazing things from these people and the organizations they care about!

Know this – please – – – on behalf of every single one of you in my circle – it is my honor to work with integrity and dedication on programs that make a difference.

I look forward to sharing new initiatives, new dreams, new visions, and new partnerships as we move forward in our shared work in Ethiopia and at home.

Clinic At A Time – 2011 Was A Great Success!

Clinic At A Time finished 2011 with success.  This fall, Mulu, our founder, traveled to Ethiopia to purchase and deliver medical supplies to Bechina Clinic. We consider our success and the improvements provided to Bechina Clinic a direct result of your compassionate giving. Thank you!

Our fundraising  goals were set in cooperation with the Bechina Clinic in Gojjam, Ethiopia. Bechina Clinic identified a generator as their number #1 need. Frequent power outages (quite common in Ethiopia) made the clinic vulnerable to  medical crisis while giving care. When machines stop working and medical procedures are interrupted, patients are put at serious risk.  Mulu spent much of her time in Addis exploring warehouses for the right generator. She found it!

In addition, the Clinic also made us aware that the condition of their patient beds was terrible, especially for labor and delivery. We responded with our “Buy A Bed Campaign.”  We raised enough money to be able to deliver both patient beds and labor delivery beds to Bechina Clinic.  Mulu shared that her quest for beds was long and arduous – – she used her bargaining skills and knowledge of hearty hospital equipment to locate and purchase 4 labor and delivery beds and 3 patient beds.  Aren’t they fabulous?

Finally, Mulu was able to purchase a few remaining supplies that were important for daily use and quality of care at Bechina Clinic. Supplies included some laboratory equipment, a stretcher, and a trolley for transporting medical equipment from room to room at Bechina.

 All of the items were received by the Bechina Clinic community – with gratitude for the service of Clinic At A Time. Mulu presented the items on behalf of all of you who contributed to our effort in a myriad of ways.

You made our work possible by visiting our website and making a donation, through several FaceBook Causes initiatives,  buying our injera cookbook, visiting us at the Mehaber in Minneapolis/St. Paul,  at our annual summer Capital Brewery event with Natty Nation, at our ‘injera cooking classes’ in Madison, WI, and we met some of you at the EAKC Culture Camp in Lake Geneva, WI. Our presence was broader this year than any previous year! 

We are so grateful for your support. Your generous giving helped us help others – “one clinic at a time”. We are very excited to bring you new initiatives for 2012 – along with a website redesign! It is going to be a very exciting year!  Thank you.

Amasegenalo! (Thank you in Amharic)

Gettin’ Skooled on Schools – Ethiopia

I was watching Lawrence O’Donnell tonight – kickin’ back and spacing out after a lovely evening with old friends. I caught a glimpse of his ‘update’ on how the K.I.N.D program has successfully raised over $3Million to buy desks for kids in Malawi. I’m pretty excited for these kids – they’re off the floor, they have furniture to ehance their learning and inspire their dreams of the future.  One piece of furniture closer to where they need to be. Awesome.

I’m thinking a lot about schooling in Ethiopia. I visited this girl – and I asked her about  her dreams. She didn’t pause to think  even for a moment. She told me she is a top student in her 8th grade class, “but Mother, I want to go to a private school. I want to be a doctor and my school will not prepare me well enough to compete for a score for admission to medical school. I need to go to private school. I think it is the only way I can reach my dream.” She glanced over at her grandmother, with whom she lives (and with whom her 4 siblings live too), her dreams suspended by her family’s economic reality of destitution and complicated by the fact that her community has no private high school. She must have known, even as she told me her dreams, that even if funds arrived for private schooling and housing  in a community about two hours away,  her grandmother could not spare her daily help with the small siblings and  her young laboring hands needed to sustain the small family garden. Not this girl. Not this dream. Not now.

I think often about the children of Ethiopia. School is the defining dream of so many of the children and families I met in Ethiopia. It’s the dream that fuels Kololo School. It’s the dream that pushes the Mudula Mamas to build that well and free girls up to go to school. It’s the dream that fills a libary at AHOPE for Children and raises funds to send the kids at AHOPE to private school

 School boys on the way to Lake Awassa –>

You want to know what schooling looks like for children in Ethiopia? Read on. You can go to school if you can afford it  – – – IF you can afford it. Uniforms and school supplies are enough to be unsurmountable barriers to education. The distance between a daily average wage of .50cents  in the southern region and $25 needed for a uniform and school supplies can be a distance that is economically unattainable. No way to get from $0 to $25. It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it?

And, you can go to school if you live close enough to a school. A vigorous country effort to build schools is in place, but there are not schools in every place. And,  in communities where there are many children, there are often not enough schools to accomodate the number of children (many schools run a morning program for one group of children and an afternoon program for another group of children). 

It’s time to work at changing this. Now.

Children showing me a school book in Bohe


 Preschool & K1-K2

Preschool in Ethiopia focuses on all around development of children in preparation for formal schooling. Normally, preschool education lasts 2-3 years, and caters to children aged between 4-6 years. Only a small number of children go to preschools. Preschool is not compulsory to attend grade 1.  However, many private schools require K1-K2 before admission to formal education. There are no public sponsored preschools/kindergartens in Ethiopia. In the city areas, children can attend private preschools, whereas children from poor families or in rural areas do not attend preschool at all.

As in many parts of the country, there is no government sponsored kindergarten in the Kembata Tembaro region. Kindergartens are all privately run programs, and owned by private organizations or churches. They are also concentrated in town areas such as Hadero, Doyogena, Hossana, or in those villages adjacent to the city areas.

Parents are responsible for all preschool expenses. The cost depends on the demand and quality of education provided.

  • For example, in Hadero, fees for Preschool and K1-K2  average about $23 per year (40 birr per month) plus the additional costs of a uniform, school supplies, and the ability for the family to provide a ‘sack lunch’ for the student.  These fees can be higher in urban areas.

 Primary School (Grades 1-8)

Children ages 7-14  attend primary school. Primary schooling is an 8 year curriculum, divided into two cycles: The first cycle ranges from Grades 1-4, while the second cycle extends from Grades 5-8.  Many schools combine the two cycles in one compound (Grades 1-8). The goal of the first cycle is functional literacy, while the second cycle prepares students for further general education and training. 

Admission to government primary school is open to all students and is free. Teaching is conducted in local ethnic languages. National examinations are conducted in 8th grade to certify completion of primary education. This 8th Grade National Exam is designed to ensure the quality of primary education and coverage of a nationally set curriculum. The Ministry of Education of Ethiopia ensures that private schools follow the same course of curriculum and testing. Failure of the exam means repeating a year. After a second failure the student can no longer attend a government school. 

In Kembata Tembaro region those who fail the examination each year join the ever growing ranks of unemployed youth with no future, placing an additional social burden on the poor households. There is no sufficient vocational training centers designed either by private or public organizations to absorb the unemployed but dynamic youth.

Primary school students are responsible for purchase of school uniforms, books and supplies. The government distributes a limited number of books and educational materials to school libraries. Books and teaching materials are usually scarce. Both private and public schools in the region suffer from underfunding, understaffing, and facilities in disrepair. There is an acute shortage of teaching materials that also results in poor quality of education in the region.

  • There are private primary schools in some communities. For example, in Hadero it costs about $30 per school year (50 birr per month) plus the additional costs of a uniform, school supplies, and the ability for the family to provide a ‘sack lunch’ for the student.  Private schooling is more expensive in urban areas.

Secondary School (Grades 9-10):

Secondary education consists of 2 years of general education which enables students to identify their areas of interest for further education, for specific training, and for employment. During the secondary school period, beside the core subjects of study, students are taught various academic, technical and vocational courses.

 At the end of the 10th grade students sit for the National Exam (known as the Ethiopian General Secondary Education of Certificate Exam EGSECE). This is a critical exam and cannot be repeated. Only students who pass this exam can proceed to high school. Students will be streamlined into academic preparatory courses for higher education, vocational or technical schools, based on the results of this exam.

Students who complete 10th grade can attend technical training for the development of middle level manpower or enter the local labor market. Technical and vocational training is institutionally separate from the regular educational system, forming a parallel track.

There are very few such technical or vocational schools in Kembata Tembaro region. As a result of this, youth unemployment is rampant and rural poverty is pervasive in the region. Most students who leave school have no basis of livelihood, can not support themselves, and become destitute. Some students migrate to other parts of the country seeking seasonal farm jobs. However, the government’s ethnic-based administration has restricted inter-regional movement of labor, thereby reducing their chances of employment elsewhere.

  • There are private secondary schools in some communities. For example, in Hadero it costs about $30 per school year (50 birr per month) plus the additional costs of a uniform, school supplies, and the ability for the family to provide a ‘sack lunch’ for the student.  Private schooling is more expensive in urban areas.

High School (Grades 11-12)

High School education or upper secondary education enables students to choose subjects which prepare them for continuing their studies at the higher education level or for choosing a career.

Students can attend any number of high school models, providing they are available in their communities. At the conclusion  of 12th grade students take a national exam (Ethiopian School Leaving Certificate Exam: ESLCE) that determines if they can attend one of the government colleges or universities.

If students score well enough, they can join higher education for free. Those students who do not acheive high scores can seek admission at private colleges and universities in major cities. However, it is difficult for the average Ethiopian student to afford the tuition fees of private colleges and universities. In addition to tuition, students are responsible for the purchase of books, materials, food and accommodations.

Higher Education

Institutions of higher education include universities, colleges, teachers training and polytechnic institutes. Diploma programs generally last 2 years. First-degree programs take 4-5 years of university or college studies to complete.


*Some students are quite keen to attend private schools as they are often considered to have superior academic training, thus preparing students more vigorously for high ESLCE scores and quailifing students for university placement in high status programs for medicine, engineering, IT etc.

*Please leave a comment if you have a correction/addition/or a different understanding about how education works in Ethiopia. I’m open to learning all that I can – and more than I know right now is always welcome!

(Thank you to Desta of Doyogena for providing the details regarding being educated in Kembata Tembaro. Your friendship and guidance is such a gift to me.)

Merkato School, TESFA – Addis Abeba

Kololo School, TESFA – Kololo

School for children –  Entoto Mountain

School runners – Road to Hosanna

A Mudula boy and his school books w/pen

School girl in countryside near Yirgalem

Hope for Hosanna School

Wordless Wednesday

Mudula Tree, 2011

World AIDS Day and AHOPE for Children, Ethiopia

The AIDS epidemic began over 25 years ago, and the disease continues to prey upon millions of families and children around the world. A great number of HIV infected and affected children live in sub-Saharan Africa. It is estimated that over 22.5 million people are living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, including over 2.3 million children (Unicef). 

Ethiopia has an estimated 2 million people living with HIV and the third highest number of infections in Africa, according to UNAIDS. With an estimated population of 83 million people and per capita income of less than US$100 annually, it is also one of the world’s poorest countries. Tackling the scourge of HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia is a challenge – but one that is being met at places like AHOPE for Children.

Just over 100 HIV+ children who are without families call AHOPE for Children home. Thankfully, UNAIDS reports that more people than ever are living with HIV, largely due to greater access to treatment. At AHOPE for Children, the idea is to do more than ‘live’ – the idea is to thrive.

I was witness to thriving. I had the privilege to visit AHOPE for Children a few weeks ago. For those of you who follow my FB page, you know I spent weeks plotting and planning an AHOPE extravaganza. First, I worked for weeks on an arts and crafts plan that would suit over 100 mixed ages kids, from 1 to 17!  I am no artist, I can tell you – I set the bar high to find the ‘perfect art project.’  I had the kind help of a great number of friends and the assistance my encouraging family and hatched a plan for hand sprayed canvas bags. I purchased 130 bags, bought bags of supplies at the local art store, had in-house artist Songbird and friend Ms. Frizzle mock up samples, and the art project for the entire AHOPE family was ‘game on!’ My fabulous Mudula Mama companions joined me as we hosted our event. Have a look at the artists in residence at AHOPE for Children!

The Mamas then commenced with the ‘Great Watch Give-Away.’ Over 60 families answered my request for watches for the children at AHOPE. THANK YOU FAMILIES! I had heard that the kids had been asking for watches for over 2 years, and while we all helped trek school supplies to AHOPE, the Mamas decided to give the kids surprises. Watches. Watches in every size and color. Flashing, beeping, bedazzled and bejeweled. It was beautiful chaos. On every wrist, a watch.

And the day was perfect, 100 kids worth of perfect  – accompanied by ice cream and giggles and music and talk of dreams and futures and perhaps even families.  Betam Konjo.

And then I had the chance to travel across Addis (no small task!) with some of the Mudula Mamas and visit the Community Development Center. CDC is an AHOPE for Children supported family center that KEEPS FAMILIES TOGETHER! (Yeah, that deserves a shout!).  This place seriously knocked my socks off. It is a center located right in the middle of a bustling urban neighborhood where kids and their families get the things they need to sustain their family lives despite the scourge of HIV. Kids eat, get meds, get tutors, have daily hygiene opportunities, play, read in the AMAZING center library, an on and on and on.

The CDC is truly cutting edge. With a staff of over 30, they focus on the very things that make living with HIV successful in a place like Ethiopia: strengthening the capacity of families and extended families, tending to anti-stigma programs, mobilizing and strengthening community and home-based responses, strengthening the capacity of families and young people to meet their own needs, daily antiretroviral therapies, food security, education and educational support (tutoring), and a safe space for guidance, counseling, and problem solving. We arrived just before school let out to see kids running through the gate at CDC with things like this – receiving hugs and high fives and encouragement from a team of adults who are helping kids right where they are. Love.

I’m a fan. A big big fan. The Ethiopian Director said to me, “These children are not orphans. Their psycho-social beings are fully intact, fully engaged, and they are happy. They are not suffering the losses of being without a family – they go home at night, to their families.”  

AHOPE for Children has big plans for the future of their programs, their children, and their families. On World’s AIDS Day, let’s help them achieve those goals – – to expand the families served by The CDC, to begin programs and life-skills training for the children who are getting closer and closer to aging out of AHOPE for Children, and to continue to educate, support, and encourage all of the children in their care to thrive. Go and give AHOPE for Children a hand. And then give yourself a hand too – because you just made a difference!