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Education 4 Change

This spring, the Gay Lea Foundation announced a $25,000 grant to Education 4 Change (E4 Change), a Waterloo, Ontario-based volunteer organization that works with local education and community leaders in Kelafo, Ethiopia to improve education, increase literacy rates and help children reach their full potential.

The organization was founded by social worker Abdi Maawiye and his colleagues at the Waterloo Region District School Board in 2009. Born in Kelafo and forced to overcome many obstacles to complete his education, Abdi eventually settled in Canada, where he completed his master’s in social work and, with a strong desire to give back, founded E4 Change to give more people from his hometown access to a proper education.

Kelafo is a remote, underserviced region in the Somali state of Ethiopia, long neglected by the government due to long-time land disputes. The region has over 40 villages and a population of more than 200,000 people yet, until an intervention from E4 Change last summer, had never had a library—not even in the schools—leaving teachers and students without access to books of any kind. This lack of resources is one of many factors contributing to a very low literacy rate in the area, which in turn has led to a lack of employment skills and, ultimately, extreme poverty.

“Education 4 Change was founded out of the belief that all people have a fundamental human right to a proper education,” says the organization’s Vice President, Chandra Hunter. “Our ultimate goal is to break the cycle of poverty in Kelafo by ensuring all community members are properly educated, able to secure employment, and have the ability to live self-sufficiently.”

Over the past 10 years, E4 Change has worked in partnership with the communities of Kelafo to provide training for government-hired teachers, help the communities form parent councils and provide much-needed classroom supplies. They currently have three ongoing projects impacting seven villages in the region: a mobile school; adult literacy classes; and, the region’s first and only library—a centrally-located, permanent building that has brought much-needed educational and recreational reading resources to the community. The library was built, furnished, stocked with books and staffed with a librarian solely by Education 4 Change.

“We know E4 Change is making a difference in Kelafo,” says Hunter. “But its only a start. Most of the villages are still not getting the help they need, which is why we’re so grateful for the recent grant from the Gay Lea Foundation.”

The $25,000 grant from the Gay Lea Foundation will allow E4 Change to expand their existing programming and bring needed educational resources to more communities in the region. Specifically, funds will be used to:

  • Hire a second full-time teacher to work with the Mobile School (3 years) This will ease the burden on the existing teacher, who has a heavy caseload. It will also allow E4 Change to visit more villages and train more teachers.
  • Hire a second full-time employee to assist the librarian and run literacy classes from the library (3 years)
  • Hire one part-time teacher (3 years) Allowing E4 Change to offer adult literacy classes in a new village.
  • Purchase 300 more locally-sourced Somali books for the library Expanding the current catalogue of approximately 1,100 books.

“We genuinely believe this grant will make a difference in the lives of children by making education more accessible, acceptable and sustainable for future generations,” says Hunter.

On Saturday, May 4, Gay Lea Foundation directors Don Dietrich, Janet Ringelberg and Frances Johnston had the opportunity to meet E4 Change President Abdi Maawiye and Vice President Chandra Hunter at the annual E4 Change Fundraising Dinner and Silent Auction in Kitchener, where the Foundation was honoured for its contribution.

“Education 4 Change is a very worthy organization for the Gay Lea Foundation to support,” says Don Dietrich, who also sits on the Executive of the Gay Lea Foods Board of Directors. “Abdi Maawiye’s journey from Kelafo to Canada is inspirational, as is his desire to make education more accessible in his native land. They are very, very appreciative of our support.”

“We firmly believe that education is the key to breaking the poverty cycle,” says Hunter. “With the support provided by the Gay Lea Foundation, Education 4 Change will be able to provide the families of the Kelafo district with the resources they need and the hope of a better future.”

Pictured: Gay Lea Foundation directors Frances Johnston (left), Janet Ringelberg (second from right) and Don Dietrich (far right) with E4 Change Vice President, Chandra Hunter (middle) and Founder/President, Abdi Maawiye.

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