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Reflections at the beginning of the year…

In Ethiopia, Christmas will be celebrated by those who are members of the Orthodox Christian church on January 7th. However, in many of the hamlets in rural Raya-Azebo in southern Tigray, there will be no gifts and no special food. Many families simply don’t have money to purchase anything special.

For the hundreds of young orphans in the region, a safe place to sleep in the coming weeks will already be a gift. There are no orphanages in Raya-Azebo. And while this year’s harvest was better than many, without suitable storage facilities and rainwater collection systems, the next disaster may loom again in a few months. This is no time to sit back, there is work to do.

It is often tough to work in Raya-Azebo. There is so much need everywhere, but in order to really help we have to stay focussed on sustainable goals. This past summer in particular, the deaths of a dozen high school students from our area who had been lured into illegal migration by traffickers showed clearly how important our education support and new high school scholarship program is becoming. When teenagers have a hope for the future, they are less likely to be seduced by lies.

This past year we have widened the scope of our activity. We have erected a rainwater storage facility at another school in the region, and have supported our two regional high schools with many issues. We have provided school furniture for a group of schools who had no desks for their students, and given clothes and sports goods to community groups and schools. We have taken a firm and visible stand against corruption. We are currently tackling the growing hygiene problem around Lemlem Baro School and through the Mehoni community by financing and overseeing the building of a toilet facility within the school so that our students don’t contribute to the problem. This is an expensive but crucial undertaking and we have become toilet experts over the past 2 years in preparation for the work. For this project we are urgently seeking further funding.

As we approach 2019 and our tenth year of work in northern Ethiopia with Ethiopian Enterprises, we have done some research into our impact. We can proudly claim that our efforts in these 9 years have positively impacted the lives of 50’000 people, and this is a conservative estimate. We will be publishing the details behind this claim when we enter our tenth year in January.

People in our area do not want to migrate, they do not want to become refugees. They want to stay in Ethiopia and create better lives for themselves and their children. The only way to help them do so is to help provide better education and better facilities, better training and know-how. That is what we are doing, with your help. We are immensely grateful to every person and institution who has donated to our work this year. On particularly tough days, it is your support which keeps us determined and focussed. While EE board members cover all their own costs, often for weeks at a time while working in Raya, the costs of our construction and other support work are significant. Every franc donated goes directly into our projects, and we hope that those of you who helped us in 2018 will stay with us in the coming year as we follow our path of endeavor. Our journey in Raya is not yet over.

Thank you all so much and our best wishes for a happy, healthy 2019.                                                                     Lesley, Thomas, André,Tatjana

Results are out !

Some of our successful 10th grade students

Mehoni School Project leader Lesley has sent us some exciting news from Mehoni. The results of the highly competitive 10th grade high-school exams are now out. These results determine the future of Ethiopian students to a large degree. Those who pass with a high score have the opportunity to move on to so-called Preparatory School for two years, 11th and 12th grades. At the end of 12th grade, they then have a fiercely competitive examination to determine who can attend university.

Those who pass with slightly lower scores may have the chance to attend teacher training college. Those who don’t pass at all will need to try again if they want a chance to enter any adult education institutions.

Of the students in our pilot scholarship program, in which all but two students (11th grade) were in 10th grade, 50% have made it through to Preparatory School. In a rural region where most high schools only get 10-20% of students through to 11th grade, this is a sensational result. What is not sensational is that of these 11 students, only one was female.

Some of the remaining students may receive the option this month to attend teacher training college. They, like their colleagues at Preparatory School, will continue to receive support from us. In addition, we have selected 10 new students for the program who will be sponsored by a number of our members and donors.

The students reported to Lesley this week that their scholarships helped them focus on their school work and contributed greatly to their success. Perhaps equally important was the encouragement they received from Lesley and EE president Thomas Baumann, and our sponsors. This helped them stay at school. Many of them are orphans or half orphans who often have to support younger family members, and to have someone to share the burden for the first time in their lives was a very special experience for them.

Scholarship programm proves its value

This is how our scholarship students looked after a few months of receiving support for the first time in their lives.

Earlier this month we posted some details about our new high school and preparatory school scholarship program in the Mehoni region (Illegal Migration article from June 28th). The impact of the first year of this program is now clear to all, with good news reaching us from Mehoni a few days ago.  Of the 25 students we assisted in 2017-2018, 10 finished their final high school year in the top 5% of all students ( 2’200 total!) and were celebrated in the final prize giving earlier this month. Our two preparatory students also topped their classes. This means that at the very least, half of the sponsored students will go on to preparatory school in September, and we are hoping that several more will make it as well.

All the students have thanked us for the opportunity they were given this past year, and claim that their success was greatly enhanced by the scholarship support they received. With your help we hope to at least double the number of scholarship recipients for the coming school year beginning in September. Please contact us at if you would like to sponsor a student for the coming year.

The holiday break has started and we  wish you all a wonderful summer. Thank you so much for your support.

Prize-wrapping under guard!

Last week, the much awaited end-of-year prize giving has taken place at Mehoni schools, including our project school Lemlem Baro. Getting the prizes ready this time around was more challenging than usual, as Lesley reports from Mehoni.

‘Due to my early arrival in Mehoni, school exams were still in progress. There were government stewards monitoring the 8th grade government exams at all schools, and no one but the exam candidates and stewards was allowed to enter the school. For three half days and evenings I worked in a small extra room our hotel let me have for this purpose. We had wonderful prize material, some of it from GE Electric Volunteers’ group, some from EE board member Tatjana Meier and her colleagues from IBM, some from Swiss Re and even the Limmattal Bahn! I wrapped over 200 prizes for Lemlem, difficult in a small room and without help as the teachers were monitoring exams at other schools on the exact days we had set aside for this. We even had enough material to make 20 lovely prizes for the top ten 9th grade and 10th grade students from Mehoni High School where we are running our scholarship program. The school was delighted.

Thanks to a good supply of coloured pencils and colouring-in sheets, we were able to give two other primary schools from our sub-project school group a large box of the pencils and a healthy pile of the sheets, plus sharpeners. They were thrilled. And while I was packing, I got another thrill. On one of the packing days, the new Ethiopian Prime Minister visited Raya and of course Mehoni as its main town. He came to lunch in our hotel (CHF 25 per night which is a lot in Mehoni but our preferred, cheaper family hotel is being renovated). When I heard all the commotion, I slipped out of my room to photograph the courtyard where lunch was being set up. As the hotel is open plan, I was observed. The next time I came out of my room, I found an armed guard sitting on the balcony opposite my room!’

Many thanks to all those who donated this high quality and truly helpful material.

Help us to stop illegal migration !

Ethiopia Ala is one of the students we supported during the past school year. Sponsors receive two progress updates per year as well as a background story and photo when the student is selected.


The following story is not uncommon in the depressed region of Raya-Azebo in which our project schools are based. With too few places in high schools and preparatory schools (9th to 12th grades) and virtually no vocational training, the lure of illegal migration is huge. Lesley reports from Mehoni:

“The day after I arrived in Mehoni was a sad day indeed. While we were checking on the construction of a rain-water collection system at one of our sub-project schools, we saw groups of people being transported by bajaj ‘cars’ to funerals. There were seven funerals in two villages outside Mehoni that day, four of them for students who had finished their final high-school exams just a week earlier. They had fallen prey to illegal migration agents.

Using the prospects of finding well-paid work in Saudi Arabia as bait, these agents had collected a group of 15 students between the ages of 17 and 20 from villages around Mehoni. Of course, the students or their families have to pay for the agents’ ‘help’. Many fall into unpayable debt in the process.

The kids were driven overnight to a point at which they were supposed to continue on foot in the direction of the border of Djibouti. According to the scant information available, they were given maps for the journey, but had very little in the way of supplies. Remember, these are kids with scant knowledge of the world but desperate to find a way to make money, especially if they think they won’t get to the next level of schooling after their 10th grade exams.

During their journey through a desert area, two of them died of thirst and exhaustion. A third student died later when he drank contaminated water, likely when they passed through a settlement on the way. A fourth student was shot by border guards (we don’t know on which side of the border) when he apparently resisted arrest after being spotted. This student’s younger brother travelled with us part of the way back to Mehoni after the funeral and told us what he knew. There has been no further news of the fate of the remaining members of the young group.”


Last year, Ethiopian Enterprises began a pilot high school scholarship program to help young people build a future in Raya and resist the bait offered by migration agents. For just CHF 300 a year, you can support a student for schooling or training, and help him/her to create a future and contribute to the Raya area. Our first year of this program in 2017-18 was a great success, and the program will be expanded in the new school year starting in September. Some of our students have done exceptionally well and can look into the future with renewed hope. So please contact us if you would be willing to help a student/s in this program for the coming school year.

2017 Annual Report now available

Thomas Baumann has recently completed the Annual Report on Ethiopian Enterprises’ activities in 2017. The richly illustrated report provides a detailed overview of all that EE achieved during the last year in Mehoni. Click HERE for pdf-file (only available in German)

New Mehoni Brochure now available

Our new Mehoni brochure is hot off the press. It’s illustrated with updated project pictures and information. Click HERE to view. Please help us to spread the word about our work in Mehoni by ordering copies for your friends and colleagues from ! We will be happy to send you the brochures by post.

News from Hagereselam and Mehoni

Our long-year watershed rehabilitation project in the farming community of Hagereselam notched up its 8th and final year in 2017. Financed by Ethiopian Enterprises and executed by the team of Helvetas-Swiss InterCooperation in Ethiopia, the project in Hagereselam was slowly ‘phased-out’ throughout the past year in mutual agreement with the relevant stakeholders.

Highlights of the phase-out year included a perma-garden workshop run by international expert Peter Jensen which was financed by Ethiopian Enterprises. A group of Hagereselam’s ‘entrepreneur’ farmers attended the training and were able to implement Permagarden digging and planting techniques in their own garden plots.

During the project’s final weeks, a comprehensive survey was carried out by a company hired by Helvetas Ethiopia in order to see just what had been achieved over the duration of the project. The survey reflects both the successes and shortcomings of the project and is a very helpful document. Should further collaboration between the farmers of Hagereselam and Ethiopian Enterprises prove appropriate in the future, the survey document will provide a basis for monitoring the community’s progress between the end of 2017 and any future starting point.

After a challenging 2017 in Mehoni, the good news is that the year ended on a positive note. After nearly a full year without a school principle due to a desperate shortage of school staff in rural districts, our project school Lemlem Baro Elementary School acquired a new and experienced headmaster at the start of the new school year in September. At the same time, the challenging and disruptive building work required to stabilize the school compound and protect the school buildings against flooding and erosion drew to a close. The compound landscaping work was completed in December, and the Swiss flag now flies proudly on its flagpole in the compound along with the flags of Ethiopia and of Tigray.

Ethiopia will celebrate its Christmas on the weekend of January 6th and 7th, which in the Ethiopian calendar is the end of December. School starts up again later in January and we are looking forward to a new semester of progress at the school in which the focus will be on maintenance of the school’s new buildings and the improvement of academic standards.


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