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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!


Books for Lemlem Baro School Mohoni

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 Mohoni 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.

Lesley in Mohoni…

EE board member Lesley Stephenson arrived in Mohoni a week ago and has sent us a sad report. Although our Mohoni School Project is flourishing, thanks to the water infrastructure on which the school is based, the community in the Raya Azebo region in which Mohoni is situated is facing a perilous situation. The drought under which the region has suffered since last summer has escalated, and the death toll is rising. Lesley has reported this week on the situation as follows:

‘The situation in the rural areas surrounding Mohoni township is desperate. The drought is considered to be the worst in 31 years, i.e. since the famine of 1985 in Mekelle with which Bob Geldorf made his name.  The death toll is rising, especially babies and small children, which is just shocking.

I was invited to a meeting with the head of the Raya government yesterday, as Ethiopian Enterprises has been providing emergency nutritional support to over 200 of the worst affected children in the area since January. While nutritional aid is not part of our official manadate of financing only sustainable projects, it would be more than cynical if we were just to stand back and watch the situation deteriorate. I, for one, can’t. We have won the government’s affection and respect for our efforts and are the only organisation working in the Raya-Azebo region to be invited to a personal briefing on the situation. The government described the situation as ‘a matter of survival’.

The situation shows just how important our intervention in Mohoni and  Hagereselam over the past five years has been, with sustainable water collection  at the core of both projects. Ethiopian Enterprises has established an emergency fund to support young children at risk in the area, and we are monitoring the situation carefully. Lesley will report back to us next week when she has visited some of the worst affected Rayan communities.

Progress at Mohoni School

EE board member André Cardinaux has made a short film (10’49”) showing the opening of the first new school buildings at Lemlem Baro School. What a difference!

Happy Birthday, Ethiopian Enterprises

This week Ethiopian Enterprises turns 6 years old. So what better time to have held our information apéro?

On Wednesday, January 6th – Epiphany and the eve of Ethiopian Christmas Day on January 7th – our board members joined a group of EE members, donors and their friends for an evening of celebration and information. Apart from presentations on both EE projects in Northern Ethiopia, we were treated to a film made by board member André Cardinaux of the opening of the first new  buildings at our school project in Raya-Azebo. In addition, two of our 2015 volunteers to our school project (Oliver and Marlen Benz) reported on their experiences.

At the end of the evening,  board member Lesley Stephenson and supporters Julia and Stephan Vollert presented EE president Thomas Baumann and other board members with a wonderful birthday cake. The delicious Schwedentorte was made by the clever bakers at Confiserie Bauer at Albisriederplatz, Zürich, and was decorated with the Ethiopian flag in icing and marzipan, a real artwork. Thank you, Confiserie Bauer!

We would like to take this opportunity to thank our long-year, hardworking event volunteers: Maria Baumann, Alois Baumann, Karin Broeckelmann, Gke Intharotjana, Gabriela Stocker, Stella Braunschweig, Louisa Everett, Pascal Baumann, Deborah Keller, Cathy Aicardi, Catherine Kennard, Anna Penninger and Carolyn Guler; our members and donors for their faithful support of our projects; and those who joined us at our school project site in 2015 as volunteers. Our work in Ethiopia over the past 6 years would not have been possible without this wonderful collective effort. 

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Water Action in Mohoni

With the drought in many parts of Tigray continuing, particularly in the area of Raya Azebo in which Mohoni is situated, EE’s emergency support for the community is continuing. Water is being delivered at regular intervals to the town’s five schools so that the children can drink at least enough to function. The following letter from EE project manager Melkamu Abate shows how the community has reacted to our help. EE board members Lesley Stephenson, Thomas Baumann and Tatjana Meier will fly to Ethiopia this evening to monitor the situation in the coming days and to discuss other emergency action with the local government. Watch this space for their reports in the coming days.

Melkamu Abate’s letter:

“Dear Lesley and Thomas,

I am writing to tell you about the water supply activities accomplished so far and a message from Kiflom regarding EE’s recent support action to resolve the water shortage the Mehoni community has faced.

As we discussed over the phone these last ten days, I have been trying to reach schools in Mehoni area that have serious shortage of water due to the lack of rain. I have now reached out to the three elementary schools and the two high schools in Mehoni town. We have so far provided all these schools with a total of nearly 50,000 liters of water. Because of the smallness of containers/water tanks/ available in two of the elementary schools, we have been forced to transport water there every two to three days using containers. We are providing these when their tanks are running out of water. All the schools have appreciated the actions EE has taken to help the school children to get drinking water.

In our latest meeting with him, Kiflom has asked me to provide the following THANK YOU message to you. He also asked me to remind you to pass it on to all EE members who are involved in this very human action. He has told me to sincerely express his gratitude and thanks on behalf of the Raya-Azeba woreda people, particularly the people of Mehoni town and its surroundings to all members of Ethiopian Enterprises for the compassion and the wonderful support that came just in time for the children. According to his point, the supportive action EE has implemented in the schools is helping them to avoid a dreadful crisis, and to get time to focus on a better solution which the local government is undertaking in collaborations with the Tigray regional government authorities. He said that they are working day and night to bring about a fundamental change for the water shortage they have encountered. He still requests your continued support in the forthcoming struggle they are making against this challenge until they get back on track.

Let me stop here for now. I will report you the developments we come across as we go about the work.

Thank you for your help and for everything you are doing.

Melkamu “

Tigray threatened by ongoing drought

For the first time in the 8 years we have been working in Tigray, there was virtually no rain at all during the July/August ‘wet’ season in several parts of the province, including Mohoni. During our visit a month ago, there was one day of very good late rain, but this was not enough to fill the new rainwater tanks or to make up for an entire missed wet season. To make things worse, two weeks ago some of the pipes at the town water source broke due to wear and tear. This meant that the drinking-water tanks we installed at the school last year simply ran out of water. While the local government is doing its best to handle this additional crisis, there was a complete lack of water at the school and in the community for several days. We all know how serious this is in a harsh, dry climate. Small children cannot survive without water for more than a very few days.

Ethiopian Enterprises reacted fast to this news.  With the help of our wonderful donors we were able to finance the transport of water to Mohoni last week from a reservoir in another, less affected area. The water tankers supplied the children at ‘our’ school as well as at the four other schools in the area – a total of over 8’000 students – with drinking water supplies which would last for several days. This emergency measure was facilitated by our local project manager, Melkamu Abate, as well as members of the regional government.  As the drought continues, however, we will clearly have to repeat this action several times in order to ensure that children don’t literally die of thirst before the town can mend its system and/or the next rain arrives. 

If you’re able to help us  finance this crucial additional support for Mohoni during the drought, you can make a donation to Ethiopian Enterprises earmarked ‘Mohoni water’.  Three of our board members will return to Mohoni next week to monitor the situation as well as to deliver training workshops for both teachers and students.  As always, they will pay all their own costs for the trip and their stay in Mohoni as all donations to Ethiopian Enterprises go fully to our projects.

Klick HERE for donations!

New brochures available…!

New brochures on both our projects are now available in both English and German. If you are planning an event or attending a gathering at which you could display or hand out the brochures, please let us know so that we can arrange to deliver them to you. The rebuilding of a big school includes all sorts of start-up costs, and we are grateful for all donations, larger or smaller.  And a reminder: ALL donations made to Ethiopian Enterprises go directly to our projects as administrative costs are covered by our board members.

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A New School for Mohoni

The first completed section of our Lemlem School project was inaugurated last week in Mohoni. It was a proud day for the school, and the event was attended by members of the local government and even a representative of the cantonal government. EE board members Lesley Stephenson and André Cardinaux represented Ethiopian Enterprises, and two further Swiss guests joined them as helpers for the student transfer. One was a high-school student who is writing her Matura paper on the school, and she did very well. 

It took two full days to transfer 800 students from grades 1-4 into the new classrooms. It was the first time that the students had been given definite seats, and this was very new for them. However, with the help of André Cardinaux’s desk plans, and support for the teachers provided by the Swiss group, the transfer went fairly smoothly.

The school’s garden committee proudly displayed their first perma garden, produce from which they are already selling to provide school maintenance funding. And the local government also announced the good news that electric power will be provided for the area in the near future. Electrical installations have already been prepared in the new buildings.

Mohoni had very little rain during the recent wet season, and this was a source of deep concern for the community and the visitors from EE alike. Imagine their joy when they were contacted during the journey back to Switzerland by project manager Melkamu Abate and told that Mohoni had just received it’s best rain day of the season. 

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