AME Youth Group in Carrboro, NC Send Seven Girls to School in Ethiopia

My name is Lynn Steinberg and I am the Marketing Director at Roots Ethiopia. I visited Ethiopia two times in 2014. The first visit was with my family and the second visit I was part of the Roots Ethiopia Travel Team. After both of my trips, my oldest daughter Izzy was particularly interested in the young girls who are unable to attend school in Ethiopia due to lack of family resources, early marriage practices, and inadequate sanitation facilities. Here is a picture of Izzy with her sisters at a school in Hosanna, Ethiopia.



For her 11th Birthday, she started an online fundraiser called #3Girls3Futures. Her goal was to send three girls to school, but she had rules. Her main rule was that family could NOT support her efforts. She was adamant that nobody even remotely related to her could donate to her fundraiser. She was determined to do it all on her own. She also would not let me tinker with or edit her words on Razoo which was a huge challenge in control for me! I was also concerned as I know the challenges in raising money, but I encouraged her to do her best, knowing full well that our family would fill in any money that she was unable to raise.

After some hardcore fundraising presses at her school, where she literally asked teachers point blank for money (that’s Izzy), she was able to raise just under $600! For a month or so she was at a standstill and I began to think that we might have to step in. Soon after, the church we attend asked Izzy if the Youth Group could support her fundraiser. The Youth Director helped to organize a cook-off after services on August 1st. Members of the St. Paul AME Church in Carrboro, NC contributed various dishes ranging from baked spaghetti to peach and cranberry pie. Roots Ethiopia supplied rack cards about our various programs and the congregation absolutely LOVED learning about our education efforts in Ethiopia. They especially loved engaging their youth in gaining a global perspective and teaching them that they CAN be a part of progress in the developing world.

Reverend Nixon, Pastor at St. Paul in Carrboro said,

“The St. Paul A.M.E. Church Youth Ministry (Y.P.D.) is proud to support the Roots Ethiopia Program, a program to help raise funds to assist young girls in Ethiopia to attend school. The Y.P.D. (Young Peoples Department) is the Youth Ministry of the AME Church. This fundraiser was led by St. Paul’s youth Izzy Steinberg. I am proud of our youth for their love, compassion, and concern for others.”

In the end, Izzy and the Y.P.D raised enough money to send 7 girls to school in rural Ethiopia! It was an incredible effort that will change the lives of entire families in Ethiopia. Izzy cannot wait to visit another school and learn more about the lives of young Ethiopian girls on her upcoming trip to Ethiopia this October.

Here are some pictures from the event! Please contact Roots Ethiopia if you are interested in getting your Youth Organizations involved in supporting education in the developing world.

In The Mind’s Eye | Stories From The Field

Contributed by Lauren Werner, of Lauren Werner Photography and member of the 2014 Roots Ethiopia Field Team.

During our #100Kids School Sponsorship Campaign, we are sharing the personal stories of our field work in Ethiopia. These are the stories that inspire and remind us that education is a right, not a privilege.

In The Mind’s Eye

In Ethiopia, the space of land surrounding a community church holds a certain sanctity, one I cannot fully describe in words. I am the Roots Ethiopia photographer, so I have the incredible honor of speaking without words. My eyes do the listening. My photos do the talking. It is a privilege to be part of the team in this quiet and impactful way.

The physical property around any Ethiopian church in the southern region is simply a modest reflection of the surrounding landscape, no more, no less. However, in every community I have visited, within the gates of church property, serenity has long ago taken hold and refuses to let go. During my last visit, we visited a church in Hadero. Entering the church grounds was like a breath of incredible air. Like an inhale the blue-green gates drew me in, and like an exhale, the shaded space within offered me precious relief from the intense heat of the day.

Even as the grounds filled with curious school children, many of the same children I had met the year before, peace would not take a seat. Rather, it commanded our attention by being ever present despite the giggles and chatter that filled our midst. One of our Roots team members, Jeni, brought out an instant camera. “What is that? What will it do? What do you mean you SHAKE the picture to make it appear?” And the gentle breeze brought the intensity down to a mellow kind of questioning from the young audience. Jeni began make pictures with the camera for each child. Soon, dozens of children were shaking their tiny pictures, reflections of themselves. Even as each student saw the image appear, he or she kept fanning the air with it, waiting to see if something else magical would shine through. The children looked like they were holding dozens of colorful butterflies fluttering in the afternoon light.

In each student there is a kind of sanctuary, a grand reserve of creativity and hope. Children who attend school, like those in the churchyard that day, have the opportunity to nurture their minds. And within the sanctity of their own growing minds, they can imagine their own future full of the flapping of magical images, where almost anything that can me dreamed of, can happen.


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.

In Ethiopia, the Magic of Photography Transcends Differences

Contributed by Jennifer Rikkers, of Jennifer Rikkers Art and member of the 2014 Roots Ethiopia Field Team.

During our #100Kids School Sponsorship Campaign, we are sharing the personal stories of our field work in Ethiopia. These are the stories that inspire and remind us that education is a right, not a privilege.

Do you believe in magic? I do. Let me tell you why.

These days it seems there is little magic in taking a photo. In its purest form a simple photo is a beautiful thing that captures a moment and tells a story of who we are on that day, in that moment. It is so commonplace that the first world has become “selfie” obsessed. At any time we can use our various forms of technology to capture a moment, but I doubt anyone in the first world would call it magic.

As I looked forward to working in Ethiopia with the Roots Ethiopia team I was trying to think of ways in which I could bring something that is both joyful & meaningful to share. It seemed natural to bring the gift of photography to rural Ethiopia as it is something I truly love. While my 35mm camera was certainly going to be doing a lot of its own work, I couldn’t use that camera to connect with people or leave something with them there. It occurred to me that a simple instant camera (Fuji Instamax) could be both a fun and meaningful offering.

I did not know when or where we would want to pull out the instant camera, but I was certain the moment would present itself. And then it did. On what was a very busy day, our Roots Ethiopia team was going between school sites when we made a quick stop at “Meseret Cristos Church,” which is the center of the community in many ways. There were a variety of people of all ages from the local community on the church grounds. I quickly realized it was the perfect space to use my instant camera (with 40 photos). The word travels very quickly among the neighborhood children that there are visitors, so it went from several children and quickly turned into at least 20. Our Ethiopian friends translated what I wanted to do with the instant camera and quickly 40 different instant captures were made.

While the instant photo itself is “magical” in its own way, the real magic emerged in the smiles and the joyful energy of the space. You could feel the magic as people flapped their photos to dry and the anticipation of seeing their very own photo…perhaps the only photo they have of themselves. The magic was in us watching their faces, young and old alike, watching their images develop on these photos. But the real magic was in the connections we were making with the help of an instant camera that transcended all that may divide us in language and culture. There wasn’t any mystery to this type of magic. It was beautiful, simple, joyful, filled with gratefulness and connections.

At the end of the day, hours after we had taken the instant photos at the church, as we were driving away several children were running behind our van waving their photos. In that moment I felt the magic again and knew that it would be nearly impossible to recapture, but was so grateful to have felt it at all.

Give Now


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*

Grade Placements in Classrooms in Ethiopia — How does it work?

Roots Ethiopia has been asked to discuss how students are placed in proper grades in Ethiopia,  particularly in the Kembata Tembaro and surrounding region. Placement extends well beyond peer placement because of extensive delay and dropout rates.

We have asked one of our local Ethiopian advisers to comment on his understanding and experience of classrooms and student placements in Kembata Tembaro and the surrounding areas. (Note:  Some of the context of this question was set by Roots Ethiopia class rosters, in which, for example,  a 16-year-old girl is in 6th grade, and a 16-year-old girl is in 3rd grade).

Report on Classrooms, Ages, and Placement

Age is not a consideration when placing children in a classroom, that is the case in all parts of the country of Ethiopia. The government encourages families to send their children to school at an early age (normally 6 years old to begin first grade — see our white paper on education to read more about schooling).  However, it is always up to the family to decide when to send their children to school.  Families in Kembata Tembaro and the surrounding area greatly value education, and families make every effort to make school a priority. But there are many factors that influence school starts, delays, and dropouts.  Ultimately, the decisions are influenced by the family’s social, economic, health, and other factors affecting their lives at the time children are ready for school.

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(Redeit age 9, grade 2 – Roots Ethiopia sponsored student)

When a child (of any age) joins the school, the school has the duty to place him/her in the appropriate skill level, but not age level. Schools do not have the necessary mechanisms in place to provide any alternative or special education needs.

For instance, in the case of Roots Ethiopia, a 16-year-old girl in 3rd grade tells me about her strong ambition and determination to pursue school in the face of adversity.  Whether she manages to get to 10th grade depends on her classroom achievements. But, I am sure her age has little impact on that. For example, when I was a grade 10 student in Hossana high school (this was some time ago, mind you) there were 2 female students in my year: a mother and a daughter. They both completed high school, and have been working as nurses. I remember some students were older than our teachers. My aunt was my classmate as she had to drop school because of family-related difficulties. A significant age gap among classmates is commonplace, especially in the rural areas.

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(Sisay, 15 years old, 6th grade – Roots Ethiopia sponsored student)

It is difficult to assume at what age children may drop out of school. Theoretically, students may terminate classes at any stage if they face one of the problems mentioned in Part 1 of this discussion. But the most critical points are grades 6 and 8 and 10. At these stages, students may have to change schools and seek a secondary school or a high school which is normally located in a distant town center. Families have to make a difficult decision whether to send their children to a remote town.

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(Doyogena High School Library, Kembata)

It was not too long ago, for instance,  that students from Mudula town used to travel to Hossana to attend high school. Now Mudula has its own high school, but that was not the case years ago. In addition to that, the grade 8 national exam determines students fate whether to proceed to secondary school. Grade 10 exams determine again, about progression to high school.

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(Photo Credit Lisa Woll: Primary School in Tembaro)

Programs like Roots Ethiopia help students enroll in school and stay in school. And, the most vulnerable students and families get the support necessary to continue school without interruption. It’s exciting to know that there are programs like Roots Ethiopia helping individual students accomplish their goals.

(This is PART 2 of a 2 PART discussion: Part 1 is on the topic of School Delay and Drop out and is the preceding blog entry)

You can act now, and donate to any of our initiatives. Your donations help us enroll students in school and keep them there. Roots Ethiopia assists with supplies, uniforms, nutritional, medical, and psychosocial support for families and students. Our number one goal is to get kids into school and help them progress without interruption. You can check out these links:

 Donation for school sponsorships

Or this one for the Amacho Wato Learning Resources Project  (COMPLETED — THIS LINK IS NOW CLOSED!)


Why Students Delay or Dropout of School In Ethiopia — Kembata Tembaro Perspective

Roots Ethiopia has been asked to describe school dropout and delay in Ethiopia, particularly in the the rural regions where we work. We have asked one of our local Ethiopian advisers to comment on his understanding and experience of some of the reasons why students discontinue and/or delay school.

Desta’s Report on Schooling

In general, most students in Kembata-Tembaro region are keen, ambitious, and do a great deal of learning. Yet, school dropout and delay in grade progression are very common. In my view, these could be the result of a combination of factors.

The effect of family resources such as low income, limited assets, and large family size restrain parents from sending their children to school. Many poor families cannot afford the expenses of school fees, textbooks, clothing, and transportation.

(Children celebrating when new school materials arrive for their library, their classrooms, and their new science room)

Social and environmental issues such as drought, crop failure, food shortage, illness or death of a family member also force students to discontinue school. Normally, children are required to assist their parents in such difficult times.

Many schools in the region are hindered by considerable resource needs. This results in a poor quality of education which can increase the dropout rates. Inadequate numbers of qualified teachers, lack of quality textbooks and teaching materials and poor physical school facilities, such as lack of proper blackboards, tables, and chairs, affect the quality of education. Where school libraries exist, they often contain a couple of outdated books to share with groups of students.

(Science Lab in a Kembata rural school)

Poor education means families can become be discouraged from sending their children to school. Parents would rather invest their meager resources elsewhere and involve their children in farming and domestic activities. Girls are encouraged to get married rather than attending school. While discontinuing school does not bring any good either for her or for the poor family, the decisions must be made and often in moments of crisis.

In addition, geography can influence school attendance. Primary schools are located in nearby villages and teach from grades 1 to 8. However, secondary schools are often located long distances from rural homes – usually in regional town centers. Grade 9 and 10 students must often travel long distances daily or weekly. The same issue can influence decisions for students who do the hard work of qualifying for high school by passing their 10th-grade national exam.  The cost of transportation and travel time can increase the risk of dropout, especially for girls. The question becomes – is it really worth investing or traveling?

So, improving the quality of a school is one of the many important measures to be taken to advance education and to reduce the dropouts or delays in school in the region.

(Library tables and chairs being delivered to a library project in rural Hadiya)

I encourage you to involve in the various initiatives being undertaken by our friends and families of Roots Ethiopia, or other school focused initiatives.

You are also welcome to support Roots Ethiopia’s initiative to improve the learning-teaching environment by providing textbooks, desks, science supplies, playground supplies, chairs, etc. to under-resourced schools.

We always appreciate your support of our work to improve schools. You can find ways to give here:

Thank you.


(This is PART 1 of a 2 PART discussion: Part 2 is coming soon and the topic is Grade Progression)

You can act now, and donate to any of our initiatives. Your donations help us enroll students in school and keep them there. Roots Ethiopia assists with supplies, uniforms, nutritional, medical, and psychosocial support for families and students. Our number one goal is to get kids into school and help them progress without interruption.


Meet S: An Example of Community Collaboration

Meet S. She is 14 years old and in 5th grade.

S and her three siblings live together in a local Kembata Tembaro village. Despite the loss of both of their parents, the children thrive under comprehensive community care.  Their story is one that represents local solutions grounded in careful and caring collaboration.

For example, their home is provided by a local businessman. All four children attend school, each with their own sponsorship; Roots Ethiopia, Meserete Kristos Church, a local elder’s family, and another local church.  These children continue to live together and are growing up in their home community with hope and stability.

Roots Ethiopia values community partnerships. One excellent outcome of working with our field partner is the ability to join local efforts to protect and care for vulnerable children using well established collaborative community strategies. Church communities have long been the local social service providers and caregivers to the vulnerable in Ethiopia.

We are proud to be part of the caring collaboration that is sustaining S and her siblings.


School Sponsorship Campaign Underway for 2013-2014

Our school sponsorship campaign is underway! In the next 8 weeks Roots Ethiopia will raise $9120 to send children to school in the Kembata-Tembaro and surrounding areas through our school sponsorship program.

Schooling is deemed one of the top priorities of the country and is certainly a top priority for families in southern Ethiopia. Families yearn to have their children attend school. Some children have never had the privilege of school. Other families have had seasons of school followed by seasons without school. All of these families and children dream of attending school free of instability and interruption.

Roots Ethiopia school sponsorships have changed the lives of 38 kids – – – 38 kids for whom the barriers to education have been removed! Kids and families feel hopeful and assured that schooling is their present and their future. Re-enrolling our students is a top priority for Roots Ethiopia. Adding new students to our program is essential to meeting the needs of vulnerable families.

Our program’s sponsored children live in towns such as Hosanna, Hadero, Gimbicho, and Mudula.  They also live in rural locations such as Angecha, Kacha Bira, and Bonosha. The $240 annual fee for school sponsorship includes comprehensive support for students. Roots Ethiopia school sponsorships provide school supplies and uniforms, nutritional and medical support, and psychosocial support for any families facing obstacles sending their children to school. Funds also cover tuition if the children attend a private school. We currently have some students in kindergarten, and all kindergartens in Ethiopia are private and require a small tuition payment.

We want YOU to join our campaign and be part of our school sponsorship team.  Please donate today and help us meet our goal! Our campaign ends April 30 — and we’ll keep you updated on our progress via Twitter, the blog, and Facebook.

We thank you for your support and your encouragement, but more importantly, the kids thank you!