New year is a time for new things and beginnings, especially for children. It is a time to grow, to move along, and start afresh. However, not every child is granted this bliss. Rather for some, new year brings fresh strains along with it. And this unfortunate truth does not seem to go totally unnoticed. And here it comes, the emergence of individuals and organisations which provide school packages to these needy children, reports HAWI ABDISA, FORTUNE STAFF WRITER.
New Year has a special feeling for every child in Ethiopia as it brings an excitement, hope, and joy. New Year to a child means a new grade level, new classes, new shiny exercise books and school uniforms, which all mean a fresh start. But this is unfortunate for some children whose families’ have a financial hurdle.
This is why Meseret Humanitarian Organisation (MHO), was established by Meseret Azege six years ago. The organisation was established with the main aim of helping deprived children by feeding, sheltering and harbouring them. MHO is one of the 3,256 charity organisations registered by Charity & Society Agency under seven categories.
Four years ago, the MHO started providing school packages, such as exercise books, pens, pencils, sharpeners and rubbers for the needy children. Since its launch of One Pack for One Child program in 2013, the MHO has benefited 10,000 kids throughout the country. The items were distributed in Amhara, Oromia, Tigray, Southern Nations, Nationalists & People’s Regional States and Addis Abeba.
A package that is delivered to a child consists of 12 exercise books, two pens, two pencils, two sharpeners and two rubbers, costing a total of 160 Br. The beneficiaries are selected by the regional Education and Women, Children & Youth Affair Bureaus, according to Mesfin Tegene, project coordinator at MHO.
To raise funds for the items, the organisation uses different mechanisms such as organising different charity events where special guests and celebrities make free appearances. It also annually organises football tournaments between artists and journalists, with an entrance fee of one pack of back to school items.
It had recently held charity events at Jupiter Hotel on August 26, 2017, where the entrance fee was 160 Br- the cost of a package. The packages are distributed by volunteers taking them to the regional states and delivering them rightly into the hands of the children.
Even though MHO is one of the pioneers in this service, there are other operational organisations that are established to engage with this humanitarian activity. The social network based charity, established by Solomon Mengesha and Rahel Gebreegizabher, is one of them. The small idea that was shared between two friends over a cup of coffee, amidst one of their busy days, has become a reason for the provision of school packages for 120 students.
The idea of founding the charity was first started on Facebook. “I posted my idea on my Facebook timeline to my 5,000 friends,” said Solomon. “Then, the response was overwhelming.” Ever since the initiation of the idea a year ago, Solomon and his friends were able to collect enough amount of money online to support 120 kids.
A package that is delivered to a child consists of 12 exercise books, two pens, two pencils, two sharpeners and two rubbers, costing a total of 160 Br.
In August 2016, Solomon and Rahel decided to put their idea into action and announced the auctioning of a book on Facebook. The first book that was auctioned on the social media was an Amharic book entitled ‘Yehabesha Jebdu’. Within two hours of the auction of the book, the initiators of the program managed to raise 30,000 Br, of which two thirds was collected and used to provide school packages and organise charity activities.
The packages were distributed to two government owned schools Abyot Ermeja Secondary School and Biherawi Ethio Secondary School. In addition to money collected from the auction, the packages were also obtained in kind from volunteering individuals, who sought out to Solomon and Rahel to submit the materials.
However, providing materials only may not be enough to keep the children in school, according to Solomon. Thus, they are providing shelter and other basic needs for three homeless children.
Solomon and his friends have big plans for their self-initiated and Facebook bound charity services. They are planning to increase the number of beneficiary kids to 200. “What we have started as a casual gesture has now become a daily activity for us,” said Solomon. “Our personal offices are flooded with donated school materials and we are planning to establish an organisation.”
Solomon and Rahel, however, are not the only ones that managed to take time out of their busy lives for the sake of this noble act. Frehiwot Negash and four of her friends are also amongst those that help needy children.
During the beginning of the year, they provided back to school packages for 102 children in a government school named Temengayaze Secondary School. The efforts of the friends have also managed to grab the attention of humanitarian organisations that are established for the sole purpose of providing such packages.
“Project Pencil Case has been one of our long standing partners in doing this,” said Frehiwot. “Other than the materials gathered from volunteers, friends and families, the help of Project Pencil Case was very significant.” This year, they have gathered packages for 140 children.
Nonetheless, despite all the efforts exerted by organisations and individuals, the problems of the children seem to remain to be far from abated. This seems to be the reason why the government has become involved in school package distribution, being the first state based initiative.
About 7.5 million Br is needed for the implementation of the School Package Program by the City’s Labour & Social Affairs Bureau.
For the sake of such purposes, a Social Security Fund & Developmental Safety Net Agency was established under Addis Ababa City Administration Labour & Social Affairs Bureau. Accordingly, the administration of the newly established agency just passed a decision to distribute back to school packages for 10,000 children in Addis Abeba.
The children are to be selected with the help of the Addis Ababa Education Bureau from different schools. The beneficiaries will be amongst those that are under the government’s feeding program led by Roman Tesfaye.
About 7.5 million Br is needed for the implementation of the School Package Program by the City’s Labour & Social Affairs Bureau. The fund will be collected from investors and volunteering individuals, according to Ephrem Gizaw, head of the bureau. The project was announced on September 5, 2017, and the moderators are expecting to collect the fund for the packages by the end of September.
“After collecting them, we will decide the type and number of the packages,” said Ephrem. For Hailsellassie Fisseha, Deputy Head of Addis Ababa Education Bureau, the basic human right of every child has been recently crippled by a severe case of poverty.
“There is no point in granting rights for the education of children, if we don’t do our best to make sure that they benefit from the rights,” he noted.