Tafesse Woubshet, President of The Fregenet Foundation, has been visiting Addis Abeba, Ethiopia, twice a year for the past several years. His latest trip lasted three months and was the longest and most fruitful yet. He arrived in Ethiopia on November 11, 2009, and spent until February 9, 2010, doing work at the Fregenet Kidan Lehitsanat School.
Since it was founded in 2004, the Fregenet Kidan Lehitsanat School has made tremendous progress. Student enrollment has grown, and the school offers an increasing variety of services to students and to the community. The school now provides free snacks, hot lunches, uniforms, school supplies and exercise books to 185 needy children in Grades K-4.
The school library, which opened two years ago, services students, staff and parents, and is also frequented regularly by the members of the community. It is well stocked with books, ranging from fiction and children’s books to nonfiction and academic books and carries several daily and weekly newspapers as well as magazines.
After six years of service, the Fregenet Kidan Lehitsanat School is well recognized in the community and by local officials. The Education Bureau of the Addis Abeba City Administration has especially recognized the school, and we are happy to say that the library project agreement signed between the city administration and the school has been completed a year ahead of schedule. City officials plan to evaluate the program in the coming months.
Since the school strives to be transparent and to be accountable to its donors and supporters and to relevant government officials, it has released its required periodic activity reports and financial reports to be audited. They have been cleared by the government-selected and school-board-commissioned auditors. These and other school activity reports will be restated in detail in the 2009 Fregenet Foundation annual report as soon as the fiscal year audit report is completed. Here are some of the highlighted activities from the president’s three-month stay:
- Mr. Woubshet formed a local fundraising committee. This was comprised of young professionals from a variety of disciplines. Together, the members of the committee crafted a fundraising action plan with the goal of purchasing the currently rented school facility. This would affirm the school’s permanency in the community. The current lease expires September, 2010, and the committee sees as its main challenge the goal of raising the $150,000 (1.7 million Birr) needed to buy the property.
- To promote awareness, the committee participated in the Grand Trade Fair and Christmas Bazaar at the exhibition hall in Addis Abeba. The Bazaar was held from December 25, 2009 to January 6, 2010, and in these thirteen days, the committee introduced and promoted the school and its cause. Representatives distributed thousands of flyers and collected e-mail addresses and phone numbers from potential donors and supporters. Several wanted to aid the cause financially; some wished to help as volunteers; and others simply wanted to visit the school. Though financial gains were minimal from participation in the Christmas Bazaar, the committee feels that promoting awareness of the school’s mission in the Addis Abeba community certainly has long-term benefits. As a result of the bazaar, several individuals approached school officials with the possibility of having a larger fundraising event with their own national and international contacts.
- Working with the local school board of directors, Mr. Woubshet brought a variety of donors togetheróindividuals and grass roots organizationsóto visit the school. Several showed interest in working together with the school and becoming potential partners in the future. Program officers from both the Canada and Finland Embassies in Addis Abeba expressed their support of the school’s activities. They advised the board to lay out a plan and participate in income-generating activities for the sustainability of the school’s program. Based on the program officers’ recommendations, the school studied and completed a fundraising project proposal. In the coming days, this will be submitted to Finland Embassy.
- A variety of other organizations showed interest in becoming Fregenet Kidan Lehitsanet School supporters. These include the following:
- Global Service Ethiopia, which has already signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the school to cover the cost of the student uniforms for the next fiscal year;
- Leave a Little Room Foundation, which donated $500 on site to purchase children’s books;
- The Roth family and their new ìOne Step Closer Foundationî, based in Minnesota, USA, which pledged to fundraise for and donate to the school on an annual basis;
- Arabella Stewart and her organization ìProject Pencil Caseî, which pledged to bring school supplies and to create a sister schools partnership between Fregenet Kidan Lehitsanat School and London area schools.
- School teachers and some staff members participated in a three-day training program in Addis Abeba, conducted by Robert Price from Eggplant Foundation of USA. The training, The Ethiopian Thinking Schools Project, was a collaboration between Robert Price and Children’s Home Society and Family Service, Ethiopia. The two school librarians are also participating in an ongoing monthly training program organized and funded by Ethiopia Reads, an organization headquartered in Denver, Colorado, USA. This organization www.ethiopiareads.org builds libraries for Ethiopian children and promotes the love of reading in Ethiopia. The librarian training was conducted by two professional volunteers, one from New York and one from Canada.
- Mr.Woubshet participated in the recruitment and hiring process for a new manager for the school. The board advertised the position opening in a local paper and received over thirty interested applicants. After careful selection, the board hired Mrs. Selam Negussie as the new school manager of the school. Selam has a bachelor’s degree in theatrical arts and a diploma in library science from Addis Abeba University. She assumed her new position as of January 1st, 2010, and has already proven her NGO experience, her professional skill and her organizational ability. The Fregenet Foundation would like to take this opportunity to welcome aboard the new manager and wish her the very best.
With these and other activities, as well as with the variety of school support coming from different directions, the President feels very encouraged and hopeful that the original vision can be achieved. However, he would like to highlight the absolute importance of acquiring the currently leased school facility.
While the landlord has expressed unwillingness to renew the building’s lease to the school, he has offered to sell the property to the school. The current location of the school is ideal for needy children, since it is in walking distance for most. Parents are able to walk their children to the school and take them home afterwards. If the school is unable to purchase the property before the lease expires in September, 2010, it will be forced to relocate to a location that would be difficult or perhaps impossible for low income families to use. Even the option of purchasing a school bus to transport students seems impractical under the present constraints.
The president would like to bring this dire situation to the attention of the foundation’s donors and supporters and ask that they would join in the effort of finding some means of purchasing the facility to assure the school’s permanency in the community.
Stays tuned for updates on the foundation’s activities, and please check out our website at www.fregenetfoundation.org for our periodic news releases. Also, take note of our address change:
The Fregenet Foundation
901 South Flower Street, Unit 411
Los Angeles, CA 90015
You can also email us at [email protected] if you have any questions.
We started for real and we will continue to strive for real!
The Fregenet Foundation