Site Visit: November 2011

Our first site visit is complete and the trip went fabulously. There is a lot of good work going on as the result of Roots Ethiopia’s support, and much more to be done. We’re excited about what the next several years will bring.

Some General Observations – our first year in operation

School sponsorships make an immediate impact
In the communities where families have received school sponsorships, it’s easy to see where our money is being spent and both the short- and long-term impact it will have on children and families.

Income-generating activities (IGAs) take longer to establish but have the potential to also afford children the opportunity to go to school. If families can develop a steady source of income, they are far more likely to be able to afford the expenses (both in fees and in lost productivity) associated with sending a child to school. For us this means that it makes sense, over the long-term, to work with Meseret Kristos Church to try to transition families from school sponsorships to income-generating activities.

Assessment tools are in place
Meseret Kristos Church’s school sponsorship and IGA programs are well-established and assessments are well-designed and conducted regularly. We feel confident in their assessment tools and don’t believe Roots Ethiopia will need to implement a separate assessment program.

Income-Generating Activities

As of our visit in May, Roots Ethiopia was funding 10 income-generating activities—three in Shinshecho, five in Hadero and two in Doyogena.

Typical IGAs that have been supported thus far include the creation of occupations such as coffee selling, fruit selling, and oxen purchasing. MKC evaluates the success of these programs at the three- and six-month mark, which means none of the IGAs Roots Ethiopia has supported have been fully evaluated yet.

Before receiving funding, recipients of an IGA participate in small business training, and in the assessments, they provide profit reports, complete a self-evaluation and report back on their saving strategies. Occasionally, at the three-month mark, MKC will suggest a change in course for the business structure, based on feedback the recipient has provided.

The team was able to visit a handful of implemented IGA programs, including a woman who received livestock and another woman who is now managing a fruit stand at the market. Anecdotally, we can tell you that things sound like they’re going well, however, we now recognize that IGAs are more expensive to implement than we initially estimated they would be. Realistically, it costs approximately $400 to underwrite an IGA from initiation through to the sixth month of operation.

School Sponsorships

As of our visit in May, Roots Ethiopia was funding 20 school sponsorships—five in Shinshecho, nine in Hadero and six in Doyogena.

The school sponsorship program is running well, and we’re funding the sponsorships at the appropriate level (approximately $240 for a private kindergarten and $60 for a government school). MKC is concerned about what will happen if our level of support drops off in future years because they want the children to feel confident that they can continue with their schooling year after year. We appreciate that concern and want to make sure we’re building in a mechanism by which current donors are re-solicited on an annual basis. We also want to maintain an ongoing commitment to these children.

Reporting

MKC will provide Roots Ethiopia with field reports on a biannual basis. They will also provide an annual report. Roots Ethiopia will, in turn, share this information with its giving circle.

Hurdles

MKC staff stressed a couple of factors that will influence the success of our program long-term.

The number one concern they discussed is hunger. If people are hungry and can’t get enough food to eat, all other programs fail. This inspired our most recent grain drive.

Secondly, they discussed the lack of schools in some of the areas we are trying to serve. Even in Hadero, which already has two private kindergartens, they explained that there is not enough space in the schools for all the village’s children. Building schools remains important work in this region.

Some Goals Moving Forward

  1. Adequately fund the income-generating activities that we’ve currently committed to.
  2. Continue to fund more income-generating activities.
  3. Increase the number of school sponsorships we underwrite.
  4. Design a process by which donors are solicited annually for school sponsorship commitments.
  5. Make it easy for all current donors to give on a recurring basis.