Archive for 2016

Best wishes for the festive season

What a year 2016 has been for our projects in Tigray! Our long-year Hagereselam project has reached its maturity and will be slowly phased out in 2017, and the Lemlem Baro School project is progressing well.  Our Phase 2 construction ended in autumn and the new buildings were opened in a festive ceremony on October 5th. All our students are now in new classrooms.
Then last week the school enclosure was completed, ending a multi-month struggle to settle school- and farming land rights. This was a most important step for the school and the local community. Now the real work begins.

The board members of Ethiopian Enterprises: Thomas Baumann, president; Tatjana Meier, vice president; André Cardinaux, actuary & social media; and Lesley Stephenson, Mohoni School project leader, would like to extend their grateful thanks to all those who have supported us and the projects this year, not only with donations but with that most precious commodity: time. In this context, our thanks go to the members of our fundraising committee Karin Mathis Broeckelmann; Tatjana Meier and Cathy Kennard and their many helpers. Thank you, too, to Mothering Matters with Andrea Snashall and Carol  McGinty-McDonald and their book team; to Ben Nordemann for his terrific initiative in raising money for the Mohoni water emergency at the end of 2015 – early 2016; as well as Mark Diethelm, Stephan Vollert, and Julia Vollert. Huge thanks go to Simon Quinn and his team at DHL for their support and patience with the book sending earlier this year. The Mohoni community is greatly indebted to all of you.

Since it is Christmas time, we want to end with a little story which shows how people have been touched by our work in Mohoni even if they do not attend Lemlem Baro School.
For the first 6 months of 2016 we were able to assist the regional Raya-Azebo government during the terrible drought with extra financial support for several hundred students from over 30 schools in the region, including the 7 schools in Mohoni town. While such help is not part of the official EE mandate, we simply couldn’t stand by and watch these children drop out of school or -far worse – become severely ill due to malnutrition during the drought.  Many of you helped with this special effort, especially those who attended our sold-out Fish’n’Chips dinner in May.

Our help was limited to  6 months, January to June, and helped many students not only to survive but to stay at school and complete their end-of-year exams. Here is a sequel to this help, related by Lesley who was in Mohoni last week:

‘While I was walking down the main street in Mohoni, I was approached by two young men who I recognized immediately: Leuel and Brhan. They were two of the students from the preparatory school where the brightest kids go after high school and from which they can graduate to a university.  I recognized them because they were two of the students we had helped during the drought. Like many students attending school in Mohoni, they live more than half a day’s walk from the town and have to stay in town during the week to attend school. During the drought, their parents were not able to pay for their room rent and food, and the money they earned working when they were not at school was not enough to get through. Like many of the students, they were falling asleep at school from exhaustion and hunger and thirst. They were about to drop out when we intervened.

Anyway, last week they greeted me with big smiles on their faces and said they had been looking for me as they had good news. Leuel explained that they had topped their class in June and had received summer workshop scholarships to Mekelle University in August. Now they were back in their final year of preparatory school and would be going to university in 2017. They both hugged me and thanked me and asked me to pass on their thanks to EE. ‘We will never forget what you all did for us’, said Leuel. ‘We would have had to leave school if we had not had your help. Now we will have a good future’.

Later that week I learned that these two boys were currently coaching weaker classmates in the weekends, free of charge. ‘

Merry Christmas to you all, and thank you so much.

Thomas, Tatjana, André and Lesley

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Enclosure of Lemlem Baro School

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Lesley Stephenson returned from Ethiopia today after an unexpected visit to Mohoni to formally accept the new school enclosure. The enclosure was due to be finished at the time of our second building phase completion in October. However, unforeseen delays occured.

For years, the school borders which separated Lemlem Baro Elementary School from the adjacent farming land have been subject to dispute. Although a rough plan of the school land was available, this was not always respected by the farming community and in any case proved to be inaccurate.  It was common for unauthorized people as well as oxen and other farm animals to cross the school compound, leaving a mess in their wake.

Our enclosure project prodded the regional government  to settle the land disputes surrounding the school once and for all. This was a prerequisite for Ethiopian Enterprises to undertake this part of the project. The government fulfilled their agreement, supported strongly by our Mohoni School Project manager, Melkamu Abate. Farmers who ‘lost’ a meter here and there in the negotiations were compensated for this by the government.

The issue of the  border disputes was far larger than we had originally anticipated and led to lengthy delays in the project. However, the school borders are now finalized and the enclosure has been completed. It provides security for the school and its students, and clarity for the farmers. The over-extended regional government would not have prioritized the settling of these disputes if the incentive of the enclosure had not been present.

 It is standard practice in Ethiopia for schools to be enclosed and guarded. This is due to the fact that widespread poverty means that when people are desperate they will resort to stealing resources from any venue which appears to have them. The investment in this school has to be protected and is now secured. The work of the school guard has also become easier as it is possible for him to patrol the enclosed area far more effectively.

We’re very satisfied with the standard of the work, which was completed by Semere Mezgebo Building Contractors from Mekelle The enclosure, comprising a stone and cement section as well as a wire mesh section, is both strong and attractive.– .   

It’s not over till it’s over

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EE board members Thomas, André, Tatjana and Lesley have returned safely from Ethiopia. For the first time ever, the entire board were in Ethiopia together to attend the official opening of the second new school section at Lemlem Baro School in Mohoni.

The opening ceremony on October 5th was attended by members of the Rayan government, representatives of the Tigray State Bureau of Education, local television and radio, leaders of both the Christian and Muslim communities in Mohoni as well as students, staff and parents. Our board members worked hard with project manager Melkamu Abate and the students to create the opening event, and it was enjoyed by all.

In the days leading up to the opening of Phase 2 buildings at Lemlem Baro School in Mohoni, all the board members could be found at the school hanging educational posters in the classrooms, sorting materials for the school storerooms, preparing lists of library books and other school materials for the regional finance department who had requested a price list for everything we had given to the school, etc. The days were long, and the evenings were helped along considerably by a very nice Chardonnay from the Rift Valley, which runs between southern Ethiopia and neighbouring Kenya. Our family-run hotel owner had plenty of Rift Valley in stock, despite the fact that the hotel is a very simple but clean affair which costs CHF 10 a night per room. The food is good and the owner looks after us nicely.

We were joined shortly before the opening by EE donor Liz McCarthy from Australia, who thoroughly enjoyed her time in Mohoni as well as our wonderful trip a couple of days later to visit our maturing Hagereselam project.

Are we finished in Mohoni now? Far from it. While a lot of the planned new buildings at Lemlem Baro are now standing, we still have further building to do, including toilet blocks for the entire school. This is urgently necessary but will require further fundraising. We are also still seeking funding for the remainder of the new school furniture.

Now the real work at the school begins. Educational standards need to be raised, and the committees which were selected last year to handle maintenance, water and gardens need to be mentored regularly. We are looking for volunteer teachers to help us with the many teacher training- and student teaching assignments which are facing us. Please contact us if you are interested.

The Mohoni School Project was always foreseen as a multi-year project. As we approach the end of the second year of the official EE Mohoni School Project, we can say that, with your help and that of a number of larger institutions, we have done fabulously well. But the real work has only just begun. We are ready for it.

Good news from Mehoni

Lesley Stephenson has reported from Mehoni that the rains have finally arrived in full in our school project area, after an almost total lack of rain in last year’s wet season in large parts of northern Ethiopia. For the past two weeks there has been heavy rain every day in the Mohoni area and many other parts of Raya.

‘Although everything is muddy and difficult at the school as a result of the heavy rain, no-one is complaining. In any case the children are on ‘holiday’ so it’s not a major problem. If we just get another week or so of rain, the terrible cycle of drought which has affected this region so cruelly will be broken. And there will certainly be a harvest in September.
Thank you to all those who provided additional funds and support through our emergency help program over the past nine months, or during the water supply breakdown in Mohoni at the beginning of the drought last autumn. The Lemlem Baro community has asked me to send you their heartfelt thanks. They find it hard to believe that people who don’t know them were willing to support them at such a desperate time.’ Lesley Stephenson

Mehoni School Project: Phase 2 Almost There

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The second and largest phase of our Mehoni School Project is heading for completion in the coming 2-3 weeks. This construction phase has been hugely challenging, especially in the framework of the shocking drought which has affected our project region over the past 9 months. Thanks particularly to the tireless efforts of our local project manager Melkamu Abate and project leader Lesley Stephenson who has spent more than 2 of the past 5 months on site at the project, considerable improvements in building quality have been secured. The pictures above show clearly that constant attention to detail has been worthwhile.

A huge thank-you goes to all our donors who have supported the work on Phase 2 over the past 12  months, and to those who are currently assisting us to raise money for the furnishing of the new buildings. As the school will break for semester ‘holidays’ at the end of June in the Ethiopian calender (mid-July in ours), the official opening of the school will take place on October 6th, a week after the new school year begins. Members and donors still have the opportunity to join our delegation to the school at that time, and to assist us and the school staff in transferring both materials and students into the new school facilities. If you are interested, please contact Lesley Stephenson for further details: info@ethiopianenterprises.org

2015 yearly report now available…

Geschäftsbericht 2015Thomas Baumann has recently completed the yearly report on Ethiopian Enterprises’ activities in 2015. The richly illustrated report provides a detailed overview of all that EE achieved in its sixth year in Hagereselam and Mohoni. Click HERE for pdf-file (only available in german language)

The good, the bad and the ugly

Lesley Stephenson and Thomas Baumann have returned from a challenging working visit to Mohoni. Lesley describes the local situation as follows:

‘First of all, the good news. Mohoni had repeated rainfall in the 2 1/2 weeks we were there. As you can see from the picture of the students taking school garden produce to market, things are looking wet and green at the school. If the rain returns in the main wet season of late June/July/August, we will have a harvest in September and that will help to break this terrible region-wide drought.

However, the green look of the school grounds is deceptive. In areas just outside Mohoni, there has been no rain at all, still! The government is frantic, they were in meetings the entire time I was there. We did have one meeting with the head of the Woreda, a real privilege under the circumstances, and they are doing all they can to deal with our specific issues, i.e. ensuring that the DHL shipment finally gets through. However, the letters we badly need to get the boxes to Mohoni have still not been signed, and this is understandable. When people are dying, a shipment for a special school is just not a priority. However, we expect  this issue to be resolved in the next fortnight, and will keep you posted.

The government asked us if there was anything more we could do to help them with the emergency they are facing as their budget is more or less depleted. Federal wheat aid of 15kgs per family per month is inadequate to keep people alive. As you know, we are already supplying monthly emergency aid to over 460 severely drought-affected kids and their families, but of course there are thousands more. A truck of wheat or grain from Addis to the most affected regions costs about CHF 7’000 (this is for about half a ton) and they are looking for sponsors for these additional supplies.

We cannot go down this path as we have neither the resources nor the mandate. This would only be possible if individuals or companies here in Switzerland were willing to finance special support through us. We would coordinate such efforts and guarantee that the money and food was properly organised and delivered, but that would be our limit. Please let us know if you have contacts to individuals or organisations who would have the resources and interest to help in this way.

However, there is something else we are trying to do just within Mohoni until the end of the school year in June. Thousands of the kids are affected by a brutal skin rash, which is likely scurvy or other nutritional-deficency-based problem. They haven’t had fresh food for months – Vitamin C and A are likely to be severely deficient. The teachers went beserk when they saw me externally treating the worst affected kids at the school as they claim it is contagious. But it’s not. It’s a widespread nutritional disorder in a large population which has been close to starving for months. It’s clear that it’s widespread!

The wounds reacted well to cleaning, disinfecting and creaming. But the kids urgently need Vitamin C. We are currently pricing supplies of oranges from the market in Mekelle as the markets in Mohoni are depleted due to the drought. If this is feasable, we will take one last emergency support step before the end of the school year and finance some fruit transport to the area. We have also bought a large supply of disinfecting soap which has been parceled out to the most affected kids’ families so that the open wounds where they have scratched the rash can be kept clean, a real challenge in this environment.

The school itself has progressed well in many areas, and I’ll be coming back with pictures and an update on this shortly. Thanks to all members of our community for their support and encouragement’.   

They’re on their way!

P1000302Phew! After weeks of collecting books, and 2 weeks of cleaning up, covering and packing the books and other urgently needed school materials, the first transport phase took place this morning. The boxes are now on their way to Zurich airport, and the EE office is looking strangely empty. We are all relieved that the giant preparation phase has come to an end, and want again to thank the many helpers who contributed their time to getting everything ready, and all those who donated books or other school materials. Special thanks to Mothering Matters who helped with all aspects of the book drive right from the beginning, and of course to DHL and their partners who have made this undertaking possible.
 
Peter Rabbit has been following progress throughout. He’s very excited that books about him are included in the sending, and hopped into the transport truck this morning in the hope that he could drive the books to the airport himself. Our friendly driver had to tell him that this wasn’t possible, but let him take a quick turn behind the wheel.  Now he’s hoping that he can fly with Lesley to Ethiopia next week to meet ‘his’ books and all the others when they arrive in Mohoni towards the end of April. We’ll keep you informed of our progress!

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Books for Lemlem Baro School Mehoni

On Saturday, April 2nd, the office of Ethiopian Enterprises was a hive of activity. With our DHL transport deadline for Mohoni just 10 days away, a group of volunteers from Mothering Matters joined Mehoni Project Leader Lesley Stephenson to prepare the many wonderful books we received from our Lemlem Baro School book drive. As well as books from a number of kind individual donors in Switzerland and the UK, we also received books from Zurich International School and the Inter-Community School in Zumikon. In addition, Mothering Matters made a valuable donation of new books to the school.

500kgs is a huge amount of material, and this allowance will allow us to send other school materials as well. DHL is providing the transport free of charge, which is very generous indeed. We will be keeping track of the transport’s progress for you in words and pictures, right up until it reaches Mohoni in late April. Lesley will be in Mohoni to  supervise the arrival and unpacking of the sending.

Our thanks to all who buzzed with us in Langnau yesteday, some of whom are even returning for a final round of work next Saturday!

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The worst drought witnessed for 31 years…

IMG_1598 IMG_1594‘Whoever decides the order of things should reconsider their views. Does anyone think the TV is strange when they play around with bad news? A bank being robbed of rich peoples’ money or a cricketer’s broken hand, outshines the death of a thousand children in a drought-ridden land.
Whoever decides the order of things should reconsider their views. Does anyone think that the papers are strange when they play around with bad news? A politician smiles or a retiring footballer’s tears outshines the death of a thousand children pleading for food, no one hears.’ Michael Stewart

After spending the past month in the drought-ridden region of Raya in Tigray, Northern Ethiopia, Michael Stewart’s poem from his anthology Kidz stuff has taken on a new meaning for me. It’s only the number of hungry or dead children which is horribly understated.

Raya is at the epicenter of the worst drought witnessed in Ethiopia for 31 years. Not since the famine and drought in Mekelle during the dictatorship of Mengistu has Ethiopia faced a drought of this length and intensity. And while the death toll is unlikely to reach the horrific heights witnessed at that time due to changes in mindset in the farming population and at least minimal nutritional support from the federal government, it is on the rise.

15 kilos of wheat are delivered each month to the most needy families. For those families of 5-6 who have no other source of income or food, or who are too weak to work, this is too little to survive.

As Ethiopian Enterprises has been working in this badly affected region for the past four years, we have built up a good and open relationship with the local regional government of Raya. Due to the emergency nutritional support which we have been supplying in addition to our project costs since the drought escalated at the end of last year, we have been privy to unusually open information. Ten days ago I was driven out into some of the most badly affected rural villages or ‘Tabias’ in the Raya region to witness the devastation of a failed harvest last autumn for myself. And, quite frankly,I wish I hadn’t seen it. In Erba, in the hamlet of Hadesh Qegnit, we met Ayete Hadush Debesay. He is the father of five children under the age of 14, the youngest just 3 and a half. A week earlier his wife had died of hunger-induced weakness, leaving him to care for their children. In their small hut (pictured) there was no water at all. A cooking pot (back left of the photo) sickled over an open fire. Inside were about 2 inches of a wheat mush broth. This was supposed to last the family for several days.

In the same hamlet, we met Azeka Sameal and her four children. Azeka is a widow. Her youngest child had just been removed from the house with suspected TB, and was unlikely to return. Her hanging head and those of her other children tell the story all too clearly. Children’s immune systems collapse in the face of extreme hunger, and Ethiopian hospitals are not places to recover from malnutrition.

On that day I saw dozens of families like these. My guides urged me on to see more and more of these saddest of sights, but at one point I had to stop. These people were desperately hoping for help and action, certainly not pity or tears. But after three hours of heartbreak, I had worn down every fibre of my composure. My friends, this simply cannot be.

The suffering I saw that day has encouraged me and the board of Ethiopian Enterprises to organise additional fundraising activities to support these wonderful people at this time of desperate need. While the mandate of Ethiopian Enterprises is officially to finance and mentor long-year, sustainable rural projects with model potential, and while we are not a food-aid organization, it is simply not possible for us to stand back and posture about sustainability while people in our project region are dying of hunger. And since the only aid forthcoming in the past few months from NGOs active in the area have been several thousand exercise books and hundreds of pairs of childrens’ shoes, I personally cannot hide under the convenient cloak of an official mandate. When people are starving, you get them food and water. Bakka. You can’t eat either shoes or exercise books.

At a follow up meeting with the government, it became clear that Ethiopian Enterprises has been the only ‘charity’ working in the Raya region who actually thought to ask the regional government what sort of help they most needed at this time. Haven’t we learned anything about meaningful and effective aid in all these years?

Now I can understand that this issue may seem like a distant black spot at the end of a mighty long microscope. A problem far away, minimalized by distance. And in any case, we all have enough to deal with here in the face of massive refugee migration, right? But think about it. Shouldn’t at least part of our support be going to a crisis in a country where people actually want to stay at home? Ethiopia is not one of the countries from which people are fleeing. Ethiopians love their country and want to stay, and Ethiopian Enterprises’ projects are designed to help thousands of them do just that.

Please donate to our emergency relief fund, or join us on April 7th at our fundraising dinner at the Fork&Bottle in support of the emergency fund. Event details on this page in the coming days.

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