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Empowering tomorrow: A community rallies for children’s education

POSTED January 9, 2024

Empowering tomorrow: A community rallies for children’s education

By Kizzy Ufumwen Oladeinde, Sr. Communications Officer, Canada and Honelegn Berhanu, Program Officer, Children Believe Ethiopia.

Photo 1: Community members at the Gohaworku centre with Chidren Believe’s CEO, (centre left) Fred Witteveen, during his visit in November 2023.

Sustainability is a common buzzword in development work. But for us at Children Believe it’s the foundation of what we do and we work with communities around the world to make it a reality. And there’s perhaps no better example than in Bishoftu in central Ethiopia. In this blog, we share the inspiring story of a community that has gone from surviving to thriving, where lives have been changed and marginalized children are now able to access school long after Children Believe support ended, through sustainable community empowerment.

Holistic community-based programs are made possible through donor sponsorship, whether for individual children or entire communities. This support greatly impacts the lives of underserved populations, by providing access to education, healthcare, nutrition, skills development, women’s economic empowerment, and so much more. Children Believe’s mandate has always been to see communities graduate from sponsorship by strengthening them with skills and resources to sustain the progress made during their involvement in the program. And eventually, when we make the tough decision to move our work to other places where the needs are greater we know that these previously sponsored communities will continue to thrive independently.

The Genesis of Change:

In 2011, Children Believe, in collaboration with local partner RATSON: Women Youth and Children Development program, and the involvement of community leaders, established a multifunctional event space in Bishoftu. Known locally as Gohaworku, the centre was established to build capacity for youth, provide entertainment (sports and movies) and create community awareness toward the problems of harmful traditional practices such as child marriage. It also serves as a place to provide social support for mothers.

Children Believe, through RATSON, provided seed funding of approximately $3,000 CAD after constructing and equipping the centre. This was used to train community members on income-generating activities, simple bookkeeping, community engagement and entrepreneurship. This has enabled them to run and sustain the centre with little or no external support.

Community Management for Sustainability:

Since its inception, a Community Management Committee, elected by the community general assembly has been responsible for managing the Gohaworku Centre. The centre is rented out to community members at a fee for their events and community gatherings. It also houses the community radio and TV station which caters to the entertainment needs of the youth. The committee oversees bookings, maintenance, and finances and the income generated from the centre is reinvested back into the community, including maintaining the community road, renovating the primary school, supporting needy families and providing scholarships to marginalized children.

The committee utilizes selection criteria to nominate vulnerable children in the community, such as orphans, to access different kinds of educational support. This includes the provision of books, educational supplies and payment of school fees. Community leaders and district government officials also provide guidance and leadership to the committee when needed.

Multiplying Impact:

In 2012, the Gohaworku Centre started supporting a few children with school supplies like books and pens. Over the years, the centre has consistently expanded to support more children, and by 2023, over 580 local children, particularly the vulnerable and marginalized, now benefit from various scholarship programs.

Five years ago, Children Believe and RATSON completed financial support to the Gohaworku Centre. However, other forms of capacity-building support, such as training and mentoring activities are provided, as required. The centre’s committee has managed to effectively increase the income generated and expanded the reach of its support to community members.

Photo 2: Records publicly displayed at the centre show the income generated and the number of children that benefited between 2017 and 2023 (2010 to 2016 in the Ethiopian calendar).

Over the past seven years, earnings from the Gohaworku Centre have multiplied seven times with a corresponding increase in the number of children in the community who can access the supplies needed to go to school. In 2017 the centre provided scholarship materials worth 8,972 Ethiopian Birr (ETB) to children and by 2023 over 147,000 ETB was spent on scholarship materials, benefiting 587 (300F and 287M) children. In addition, over 40 families received support to renovate their homes, such as fixing leaking roofs during the rainy season in 2023.

Children Believe’s CEO, Fred Witteveen, visited the centre on his recent trip to Ethiopia and he learned how the community’s commitment extends beyond the walls of the event space. He was excited to see how they are breaking barriers to access education, ensuring that no child in their community is left behind. The Gohaworku Centre is proof that empowering communities has a ripple effect. When interventions are co-designed and implemented with community members, they jointly identify key issues and co-develop sustainable solutions that last long after sponsorship programs end. The success of the Gohaworku Centre has attracted visitors from neighbouring communities who come to learn from their model.

Sustainability in action. It’s a beautiful thing.

Children Believe remains committed to empowering communities to break barriers to education. Learn more about our work and how your support can help communities rise up to overcome challenges.

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ABOUT CHILDREN BELIEVE:

Children Believe works globally to empower children to dream fearlessly, stand up for what they believe in — and be heard. For 60+ years, we’ve brought together brave young dreamers, caring supporters and partners, and unabashed idealists. Together, we’re driven by a common belief: creating access to education — inside and outside of classrooms — is the most powerful tool children can use to change their world.

About ChildFund Alliance:

A member of ChildFund Alliance, Children Believe is part of a global network of child-focused development organizations working to create opportunities for children and youth, their families and communities. ChildFund helps nearly 23-million children and their families in 70 countries overcome poverty and underlying conditions that prevent children from achieving their full potential. We work to end violence against children; provide expertise in emergencies and disasters to ease the harmful impact on children and their communities; and engage children and youth to create lasting change and elevate their voices in decisions that affect their lives.

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