Top 10 Reasons We are Headed to Ethiopia This Week!

Let’s get right to the reasons our team is headed out this week to Ethiopia:

1. Our fabulous photographer, Lauren, will spend an entire day by the side of a local woman documenting her ‘day.’ Lauren will be able to create a body of work that is unique and powerfully speaks to the work of Roots Ethiopia.

2. Hygiene: We are in the assessment stages of including a major latrine and handwashing station build at all of the local schools where we have LRP’s. Our hygiene team will be hard at work gathering data, visiting latrines, and interviewing school children and their families.

3. Coffee. The best 40 cent macchiato in all the world.

4. Parachutes – there will be 3 enrichment projects at 3 of our LRP’s and they will include art AND parachutes! Artist volunteers Jeni and Marci will lead these beautiful school programs.

5. LRP’s LRP’s and more LRP’s! We will see 2 new proposed LRP’s and 2 LRP’s completed earlier in the year. Then, we will celebrate our 9 LRP’s by gathering our USA Team, our team of community facilitators, and leadership from these 9 schools to talk about how our educational enrichments strategies are meeting community needs and concerns. This ½ day event will allow us to engage in deep listening as communities tell us what they need. We hope to experience another bonfire evening with singing and dancing!

6. We will visit 2 new community sites, Shone and Mudula. We will get a bird’s eye view of Roots Ethiopia community work on this trip; visiting IGA’s, sponsored students, and learning more about these 2 special communities.

7. Our Board Treasurer in the USA will meet our Accountant in Hosanna. Fiscal transparency is one of our top priorities!

8. Videography! Our dynamic duo will take to the field and begin our first efforts at videography. Desta, our Board member raised in the area, and Jeanne, our Board member with videography skills, are readying themselves for a full week of beauty caught on film.

9. SO many new IGA’S! ALL of our community facilitators have had special continuing education/training to better facilitate our small business start-up grant selection and support. And, ALL of our beneficiaries are currently attending local workshops at our 12 community centers to build their business skills. We will visit these hardworking business women and men and learn about their work and their goals for the future.

10. Meskel Flowers. It’s the season.



Stories From The Field | Teachers and Innovation in Ethiopia

This post is contributed by Jessica Steinberg, member of our 2014 Travel Team and Board Member at Roots Ethiopia. Jessica will return to Ethiopia next week where she will continue to work closely with school leaders to develop policy around data collection and reporting for each of our programs.


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The universality of a teachers’ love for their students is something I have witnessed firsthand as I have traveled the world. Many teachers around the world work in less than desirable conditions and are often significantly under-resourced. As a former educator, I understand what it means to have to be innovative in the classroom. Teachers around the world are often underpaid and in the US are also underappreciated. Most public schools are underfunded and lack many basic supplies. Many teachers I know spend a percentage of their paychecks buying supplies for their classrooms and extras resources for their students. Being a resourceful teacher in the US often means the difference between a classroom filled with electronics, learning supplies, and supplemental materials, versus the bare minimum of state-issued textbooks, notebooks, and some writing utensils.

It wasn’t until our recent visit to Ethiopia, that I truly saw what a resourceful teacher can do. It was absolutely awe-inspiring to see the number of teachers who took time out of their busy days to meet with us and share their stories. They spoke about the challenges of trying to teach a class of 60 students with no standard curriculum, no books, and barely anything, but benches and a blackboard in the classroom. They spoke about the challenges of getting girls to come to school on a regular basis. And, they also spoke about the challenges of getting higher level degrees for themselves which would, in turn, help their students. The most interesting part though was that they were not saying these things to complain or for us to feel bad for them (I don’t even know if the concept of complaining exists in Ethiopia.) They wanted us to understand that were able to achieve success with their students even without any real resources. This helped us understand how much more they could do if they actually had some quality supplies and resources to work with. As they each told their stories and shared their hopes and goals for their schools, there was an excitement to their tone and a spirit from within that assured us that they were doing whatever it would take to help their students and school be successful.

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At each school, after we spoke with the principals and teachers, we got a tour of the classrooms and the resources that were available. My mind was truly blown by the innovation and ingenuity that the teachers used to create resources for their students. In a strange sort of way it almost made me disappointed in myself and all of my teacher friends who regularly complain about the lack of resources in US schools. If these teachers could do so much with so very little, we had no excuses for not making more out of what we have. While we saw innovation in every school we visited there were two specific instances that literally brought tears to my eyes. They were not tears of sadness or even tears of joy; they were tears from overwhelming inspiration. We met one science teacher who showed us his “science lab”. Most anyone from the US who walked into that room would have seen some broken glass, a dusty old microscope, and some woven material and scraps with no seeming purposes. As we asked the teacher to describe what he had in his lab, his face lit up. He explained to us how he used old buttons and twine that he had fashioned into a model of a molecule.


He had also created a modified bunsen burner out of some leather, wire, and scrap materials he had found. He understood that the school could not afford this type of equipment, so he figured out a way to create models for his students to learn from. It was obvious how much pride he took in what he created. It was also obvious what this dedicated teacher could do if we provided him with quality teaching materials.

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The other impressive use of innovation was in the learning resource room at another school. When we arrived there were five teachers copying diagrams and pictures directly out of the limited number of textbooks they had. These freehanded diagrams and pictures were far superior to many of the educational posters and visual aids I have seen in schools in the US. As is typical with Ethiopians, they were extremely humble when we praised their work. I could only imagine how much time they must spend each week creating these materials. I thought about what these teachers would do with their extra time if they didn’t have to spend hours drawing and creating posters and other learning materials.

Roots Ethiopia Ethiopian non profit

This is when the value of Roots Ethiopia’s work truly hit me. By supplying schools with additional, much-needed resources, teachers could spend more time doing what they do best – teaching children. What a simple, but challenging concept in these schools. Giving teachers the resources and the time to effectively teach could have an enormous impact on students’ learning curve. I look forward to focusing the majority of my Roots energy on these ideas and making sure the resources and time have a measurable impact on the students and their schools.

5 Reasons I’m Headed to Ethiopia on Friday!

1. LeadersGottaLead

If you follow me personally on FB, Twitter, or Instagram, you know that as Founder and President of Roots Ethiopia, I am committed to effective leadership. Bringing my energy, vision, and knowledge to our hard-working team in Ethiopia is GOOD LEADERSHIP.

I’ll be traveling with our London based Board member, Desta. His leadership and his ability to be a cultural liaison bring amazing energy and insight to our work. Desta grew up in the communities where we work. His skills are vitally important to our work!

2. Growth. And more Growth.

Our mission has hit a sweet spot with our donors. We know this because we see the amazing support and trust in our good stewardship with every single donation. The hard work of building a smart and sleek program is working. WE ARE GROWING. This is an all week trip, working side by side in the Hosanna office with trusted leaders to be the best we can be!

3. Data!

Projects need data. I will be working with the team to identify locally valued outcomes in our three programs. Together we will implement quantitative ways to measure the impact of Roots Ethiopia work. We’ll align these local values and goals with our organizational goals.

4. 2015 Travel Team

Planning for October Team Travel is going to be GREAT. Once again our team members will be BUSY (I’m well known for setting a very robust pace and making every moment count with meaningful work). I’ll be laying the groundwork for our team to get to work in October!

5. Need I say more? Morning macchiato.

Wetet buna in the afternoon. (And yes, you bet I’ll be visiting Tsehainesh at her tinish suk for some buna!)

Roots Ethiopia is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization working in Africa, specifically helping Southern Ethiopia. Roots Ethiopia supports community identified solutions for job creation and education.

Meet Eyerusalem, a 5th Grader with Big Dreams!

Girls like Eyerusalem and her sister, Birtukan, are the future of Ethiopia. When you donate to Roots Ethiopia this year, you give many girls just like these two a chance to be forces for change — in their families, in their schools, and in their communities.

Girls in Ethiopia dream of being doctors, engineers, nurses, and businesswomen. Your support of Roots Ethiopia helps children connect their dreams with the reality of school! 

Children like these two sisters long to attend school without concern that attendance will be interrupted by girl-centered work, lack of school supplies, illness, or food insecurity. Eyerusalem attends school in Bonosha, Hadiya with a schools sponsorship. She is in 5th grade and has big plans for her future. When we asked her about her goals, she smiled and responded:

“I want to be a doctor. My sister wants to be a doctor too. ”

We are confident this duo can do it, provided they have continued support and encouragement. Their mom is doing everything she can, and Roots Ethiopia has provided that extra layer of support for her youngest daughter.

Girls and boys come to Roots Ethiopia for assistance — for uniforms, book-bags, supplies, medical needs, and monthly food for family health and welfare. If private schools are available locally, their sponsorships provide monthly tuition. This is the support that YOU make possible.  We are so very grateful for your compassionate care of school children. 

Our team had the pleasure of meeting these sisters last week in Bonosha, and they are dreaming big and working hard. Your support keeps their keen eyes on their futures. 

With our deepest thanks,
Roots Ethiopia Board of Directors
The 2014 Roots Ethiopia Travel Team

*If you’d like to make a gift of Roots Ethiopia to someone this holiday, use this holiday link and we’ll immediately send you a beautiful card for your gift giving! If you need more than one card, send us your request at*

Amacho Wato School Learning Resources Project

Roots Ethiopia has a fantastic and engaged Board of Directors and Advisory Board. One of our members, June, is doing big things for our community of learners in the areas we serve.

June has partnered with our friend Desta to address the needs of a local school that is in the process of transitioning from a primary school and adding 9th and 10th-grade students.

June and Desta know this area well. June has traveled there as recently as May, and Desta grew up in this region.  Together with Roots Ethiopia, this team is ready to make a difference. Read how — , and while you’re at it, donate and WIN A MESOB!

You can donate any time on our secure donation site. Thank you for your support, and thank you for dreaming big with us!

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(image of Amacho Wato School grounds, May 2012)


2012 Grain Drive

In May 2012, Roots Ethiopia visited Hadiya, Kembata, and Tembaro zones to evaluate our programs with Meseret Kristos Church (MKC). We visited Hosanna, Doyogena, Hadero, and Shinshecho church headquarters. During our meetings, in every case, when we asked church leaders to share their concerns about needs in the area, the overwhelming response was hunger.

Hunger impacts so many people in Ethiopia, especially during the time when late rains delay the season’s harvest. Experts suggested that this year the late start of the rain meant the early July harvest would be delayed until late August and early September. Called ‘green hunger’, this time is particularly difficult for the very young, the very old, and anyone suffering from both chronic and acute illnesses. Hunger impacts everything and everyone.

This information put Roots Ethiopia’s Grain Crew 2012 into action. Roots Ethiopia raised $5,156.14 USD in funds for MKC to plan and distribute grains to the neediest and most vulnerable families in their communities. Funds were sent in early June—our donors were quick and compassionate responders!

The grain distribution was completed at five locations in early July. The locations of distribution were Shinshecho, Hadero, Tunto, Bonosha and Gimbichu.


MKC church staff supplied 165 families with enough food to last six weeks per family. The supplies included 50 kilograms of maize, three liters of cooking oil and some produce. The food supply was calculated to last through August, when the harvest is estimated to occur and when additional food resources will be available to families in the region.

Through their ongoing community service in the region, MKC was able to identify the most vulnerable families in the region. Largely, they were women-led households and particularly households without any land to farm.

Roots Ethiopia celebrates Grain Crew 2012 as a great success. Our work is work that is well worth doing.

“When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion” – Ethiopian Proverb

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.

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.


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.


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.