About Us

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We are The Community Project, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, partnering with Engineers and Architects Without Borders and the local community to build three key elements of community in Debre Birhan, Ethiopia:

  • School: Kindergarten through 8th Grade, for 1,000-1,200 children.
  • Community Center: Workforce training and micro enterprise center to serve 4,000 people as a source of economic development.
  • Classroom Gardens: Vegetable gardens, an apple orchard and a bamboo propagation nursery to teach the community about new crops for nutrition and to promote economic development.

October 2021 STATUS: We have completed the first building with four classrooms. We have 147 kindergarteners and first graders in our first building and need to build the next classroom building for Second and Third Grades. Currently our students must attend other schools far, far from their homes when they finish First Grade on our campus. We are in a big hurry to build for them so they can stay close to home in their own school for each new grade. We will continue to build until all the classrooms for K-8 students are completed. Attending school close to home has an added advantage. Girls who traditionally cared for younger siblings at home, sacrificing their own education, can now walk younger siblings to school and attend class themselves.

Ethiopia: A Country in Need

According to the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), low rates of education are the leading cause of poverty in Ethiopia. Too few schools and low school attendance rates — together — are the largest contributors to Ethiopia’s overall poverty.

As a result, Ethiopia is the second-poorest of 103 countries in the world.

In the area where we are building, 76% of the population are living on just $2 a day.

Debre Birhan also suffers with malnutrition and high child mortality rates. Building a school, community center and gardens can help elevate education, improve health and promote economic self-sufficiency.

A Global Perspective

We are committed to supporting the United Nations Millennium Development Goals adopted by 189 countries:

  1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  2. Achieve universal primary education
  3. Promote gender equality and empower women
  4. Ensure environmental sustainability
  5. Develop a global partnership for development

Join our Team

We are in the groundbreaking phase for our second classroom building. Please contact us to sponsor a classroom or nutrition garden or solar panel for our project. The Community Project: Ethiopia is working shoulder to shoulder with the local community, who have enthusiastically pledged their volunteer labor and formed a Community Development Committee to steer the project from the community’s perspective. Families are invested in the partnership from planning to implementation.

Why?

Because people need education for their children to build a future, community to support each other, raise their families, face hard times, share good ones, and grow strong.

What and Where?

The Community Project: Ethiopia and Engineers and Architects Without Borders support the local community to build a K-8 school for their children and achieve self sufficiency in this high-plateau area (elev. 9,200 ft.). Habitat for Humanity has built a village of 630 homes, just outside Debre Birhan, Ethiopia (pop. 110,000). The local community asked our Habitat for Humanity build team to help them build a school close to home for their children because the elementary schools were overcrowded and far away, over rocky terrain.  We are supporting the community to build a model school, community center, and educational gardens on a 10-acre parcel. This is a public school open to all children in the area.

Debre Birhan, Ethiopia (pronounced Deb-rey, Bur-hahn) is located about a 3 hour drive north east of the capital, Addis Ababa.

Who?

The Community Project, founded by Colleen Kaleda and Angélique Kidd Smith, is an organization working shoulder to shoulder with the community to bring the benefits of education and economic development to to build a strong community for the people of Debre Birhan. Three Engineers Without Borders chapters and Architects Without Borders, Oregon, partner with us to support the local community to build an ecological, self sustaining campus of opportunity.

Engineers Without Borders (EWB) is a large U.S. nonprofit organization headquartered in Denver, Colorado. EWB chapters are located throughout the United States, and take on individual projects all over the world. Members are professional engineers from all disciplines. Our project, because it is so large, has been “adopted” by three amazing EWB chapters: Portland, Maine, South Denver, Colorado and Portland, Oregon (Portland State University). Each chapter has won awards for their outstanding work in various parts of the developing world. All EWB members, whether professionals or students, are volunteers, taking time out of their busy lives to lend their engineering expertise to help others in need around the world.

Architects Without Borders, Oregon helps communities in need around the world. Their dedicated members have volunteered critical plans, design, and invaluable professional counsel since 2014, working with us and the community to improve lives with culturally appropriate solutions.

Professor Fikeremariam Negash, Project Manager

The project is managed by the brilliant structural engineer and entrepreneur, Professor Fikeremariam Negash, who is also a lecturer at Addis Ababa Science and Technology University, finishing two masters degrees. Professor Fikeremariam works directly with the local authorities and the community leadership, which includes the village leaders, the Mayor of Debre Birhan, and officials from the Ethiopian Ministry of Education, Debre Birhan University and the Debre Birhan Polytechnic College.  A Community Development Committee made up of parents and community leaders provides village oversight to the project. Prof. Fikeremariam and Dr. Abiyou work together in an impactful relationship for the great good of the community.

Dr. Abiyou Tilahun, Plant Biologist and Bio Diversity Manager

Our plant and agricultural projects are led by the esteemed plant biologist, Dr. Abiyou Tilahun, who is the Ankober Medicinal Plant and Biodiversity Management Project Coordinator and lecturer at Debre Birhan University. He serves on numerous national committees to protect the environment, conserve natural resources, advance agricultural technology, and clean up waterways. He brings his children to our school demonstration gardens to work with him and train the local farmers and our students. He supports our teachers and includes the local farmers in training with technological advances in agriculture for economic advantage and opportunity. During the rainy season of 2021, Dr. Abiyou enlisted faculty of Debre Birhan University and founded the first elementary STEM program in a public school in Ethiopia. He offered open enrollment and 72 children ages 4-15 attended.

Professor Mitiku Garedew, Community Liaison and Communications Coordinator 

Professor Mitiku with constant optimism coordinates efforts with the community leaders, government officials and agencies, and advises and supports the teachers. His diplomacy as representative for our mission has earned universal respect. He is a professor of English in the doctoral program at Addis Ababa University.

Trhas Mossobu, School Operations Site Manager

Trhas is on the school site every day helping in every capacity: supporting the teachers in the classroom, watering the apple orchard and vegetable gardens, serving as composting toilet manager, and coordinating with the city administration. She regularly moves mountains.

Please donate. Your tax-deductible donations are needed for the project to continue to completion. We now have built the first building, serving 147 kindergarteners and First Graders, aged 3 to 7, close to home. For more information, contact us at info@communityproject.org

Donation checks can be made out to “The Community Project: Ethiopia” and mailed to:

The Community Project

506 North Parkview Avenue

Columbus, OH 43209

Donations can also be made by credit card by clicking on the secure donation buttons on our website. Whether electronic or check, with gratitude, The Community Project will send you a letter acknowledging your tax-deductible donation.

Thank you so much!