Local woman seeking assistance in effort to help Ethiopia
By Elaine M. Avallone
Deferiet – Seeking to help locally, a village resident ended up halfway around the world.
Staci Reyes wanted to volunteer locally with the Thousand Islands Area Habitat for Humanity but it seemed every weekend she wanted to help with construction projects they already had enough volunteers.
“I decided to look online and saw Habitat for Humanity Global Village,” the plans specialist for the Plans, Analysis and Integrations Office on Fort Drum said. “You can apply to be a team member and go all over the world – Indonesia, Thailand, Poland or Romania. I wanted to go to Ethiopia because it is one of the poorest countries.”
After applying, she traveled to Debre Birhan, Ethiopia, as part of the Global Village Team to build 500 homes in March 2010.
She was instrumental in developing a concept to build a school, community center and community garden – The Community Project: Ethiopia.
“I think we are born with this drive to make things better, to make the world a better place. I wanted to make a difference in someone’s life,” Ms. Reyes said.
During her visit to Ethiopia Ms. Reyes encountered very poor conditions.
“They live so simply in the village, one spigot of water for 500 homes, their homes consist of approximately 250 square feet, two-room buildings with an outhouse out back,” she said “Yet they are grateful, welcoming and would share the few possessions they own with you.
While in Ethiopia, she visited families which were all struggling. She met an elderly woman who had leprosy and a single mother with three children living in a nine by six feet room. She encountered a mother who had been bedridden for eight years suffering from contracture of her limbs. Her family could not afford have her seen by a doctor.
To aid in fundraising efforts, Ms. Reyes has held a bake sale and a Zumba fundraiser April 27 which raised $565.
Running a half marathon was an easy way to raise money for The Community Project and keep myself motivated throughout my training. All I had to do was send out a few emails and follow my training plan. Ten weeks after I had sent out my initial fundraising email I had not only run 13.1 miles in my best time, but more importantly, raised $2,500 for the charity! With every donation came words of encouragement for my run and for The Community Project. I’d do it all over again!
In March of 2011, local Habitat supporter Colleen Kaleda embarked on her seventh Global Village trip, her fifth as a team leader, with a group of 13 volunteers to the village of Debre Birhan, in Ethiopia. After seeing the need for decent, affordable housing all over the world through her service trips, she knew that the new Habitat village of over 500 homes would help change the lives for thousands of people. But what she didn’t know is that she would be moved to action in other ways, too.
“Every morning as we began building homes in the Birhan community, we saw hundreds of children begin the long walk to their school, which was far away, in town,” said Colleen. “And many of the children were unable to even go to school because of overcrowding, poverty, or the distance to travel took too much time away from helping their families make a living. With so many dedicated Habitat families in one community, I knew that the need for a school in the village was great.”
As the group began discussing the possibility of organizing this project, they soon realized that the need for infrastructure in this community went beyond just a school — and thus the The Community Project: Ethiopia was born. The CPE would include a community center to house various classes for adults, special meetings and a safe place for children to play inside when it rains, and a community garden where residents will learn about growing their own healthy foods, supplying the community with fresh produce for years to come.
So Colleen went to work, sharing her Global Village’s team’s idea to build a community school that would serve all grade levels and provide children with solid educational opportunities.
“The Community Project: Ethiopia just made sense,” said Colleen. “It will be an exciting community hub that will be based on input from the local residents and their needs. The community will help build the structures and manage the community center and garden.
Habitat for Humanity Ethiopia has never launched a project like this before and the affiliate is excited to see how it impacts the Debre Birhan community. And Habitat for Humanity Portland/Metro East is excited and proud to tithe 5% of undesignated contributions to the Ethiopia affiliate as part of our affiliation with HFHI, supporting the very important work of Habitat for Humanity Ethiopia.
Colleen and a few members of her team are currently raising funds to make the Ethiopia Community Project a reality. Donations of all sizes are currently being matched. To learn more about this project and what you can do to get involved visit communityproject.org.
Anne Adams (left) and Ann Sharpe show the shirts they designed as part of their senior project at Bexley High School. Although both have graduated, they are continuing to sell the shirts in hopes of raising money to construct a school in the Ethiopian village of Debre Birhan.
Luis La Torre, Anne Adams, Ann Sharpe, Susana Madrid.
Debre Birhan, Ethiopia is a place the locals call the “mountain of light.”
But with substandard housing, no nearby schools, and little access to safe drinking water, hope can be dim for the people of this small, African village.
Enter 2012 Bexley High School graduates and longtime friends Anne Adams and Ann Sharpe who want to change that by helping to raise $10,000 to help build a K-12 school there as part of The Community Project: Ethiopia.
It all started about a year and a half ago when Adams and Sharpe were at an Easter brunch at a family friend’s house. There they learned of Angelique Smith’s recent trip to Debre Birhan with Habitat for Humanity. Upon their departure, Smith and the rest of the team promised they would find a way to build a school, community center and community garden for the village.
“We had no idea about what we wanted to do (for our senior project) until Angelique told us about her trip,” said Adams, who was a junior at the time. But after hearing of the promise, the project seemed like a perfect match.
Adams and Sharpe have been together in Bexley since preschool. Their on and off again friendship became solidified in middle school, and they have been buddies since. So they understand the importance of both education — and friendships.
“There are 500 homes around this village, but there is no school,” Adams said. “Many of the children have to leave the area and go live with others if they want to get an education.
“We really like the idea of living and growing up together and going to school together.”
“I think many of us forget how privileged we are to have an entire city to support our needs and to also willingly fund extracurriculars. We want to share the gifts we have received from growing up in a tight-knit community with the people in Debre Birhan.”
So Adams and Sharpe put their heads together and came up with a fundraising plan to sell T-shirts with the majority of the cost going right back into their project fund. It took their entire senior year to get the project off the ground, including coming up with the project’s name of ‘pia — short for Ethiopia, starting a nonprofit organization, designing a logo, working on a web page, and getting the T-shirts designed and printed. The shirts’ slogan is “Put on a Shirt, Put a Child in School.”
Both Adams and Sharpe admit they have had a considerable amount of help along the way and they are thankful for it.
In the end, the girls sold some15 shirts, raising about $225. But they knew they wanted to do bigger and better things.
Come June, diplomas in hand, they pledged to continue with their senior project, adding a web page and an online store, which goes live this week, in order to boost sales and put them closer to their $10,000 goal.
“Ann and I hope to travel to Ethiopia and help build the school eventually,” said Adams who will be attending the College of Charleston in South Carolina this fall. Sharpe will attend Ohio Wesleyan University. Neither is sure about a major yet.
But one thing is for certain, ‘piahas proven to be a real learning experience for both, and one that will continue to offer rewards in the years to come.
“We made strong, meaningful connections with each person, which made the idea of ‘pia that much stronger,” said Sharpe. “Annie (Adams) and I both never wanted to ‘guilt’ anyone into helping us or donating. However, we found that people genuinely wanted to go above and beyond and either share their knowledge and sometimes donate to the cause.
“It has been such a humbling experience having everyone so eager to help our cause.”
To learn more about the project in Debre Birhan or to purchase a T-shirt, visit www.4pia.org.