Working with Communities


Zewge Abate

Internal Communications Manager

Save the Children in Ethiopia

August 20, 2018

My first fieldwork with Save the Children took me to the area of Central Tigray, where I was also able to visit Axum, a town I always wanted to see. In Axum, I wanted to make a connection with our great past through the city’s remnants of ancient civilizations and rich heritage.

Standing in the background of the great obelisks, I felt like my world was dwarfed by the wisdom and tall spirits of my ancestors. Touching the stones that have long fended the ancient St. Mary’s Church left me with a great sense of perseverance and vigilance. A little weary of the deafening urban noise and congestion in Addis Ababa, I thought it was also refreshing to experience people’s sense of calm and the town’s modest vibe. From the shuttle driver who took me to my hotel, to the young jewelry vendors who left me smiling when I told them I was not a buyer, to the waiters who took my orders for dinner – the local people looked politely proud or proudly polite. I could not for sure tell which.

Children attending class under makeshift structures and using stones and logs as seats.

I was part of the Save the Children team attending a launching event for the sponsorship program in Central Tigray. I learned this program is designed to last ten years, in order to reach some 200,000 early learning and primary school students in about 200 schools across Central Tigray. These efforts would reach students ages 4 to 14, working to improve quality of classrooms and learning materials, teaching skills of teachers, involvement of parents in children’s educations, and much more.

In the first three years alone, we plan to reach 52,000 students in 63 schools.

From what I saw during my visit, there was a long way to go. Class was held in semi-permanent structures, with little protection from the elements save a shade above the children’s heads to keep them out of the sun. Children sat on stones or logs, which caused discomfort as the day went on and made it difficult for them to concentrate. The walls were practically empty, with no colorful, engaging or print rich materials to see. There were no books or toys, and almost no learning materials to be seen either, except a small blackboard – overall it was not a child-friendly space.

Despite the harsh environment, children are eager to learn.

Although I’ve only been a part of the sponsorship team for a few months, I’ve already been able to witness the high level of determination the communities have to work with Save the Children. Local families feel ownership in these interventions because we involve them every step of the way, in all decisions. Their trust in Save the Children is clear. With organizational support from sponsorship staff, the community members had raised their own money, despite meagre resources, in order to help support construction of the new classrooms.

Now, the community at large and the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) are working together with Save the Children to monitor the construction of the new classrooms. The classrooms are nearly complete and the school benches and other learning materials are being purchased. The timing cannot be more perfect as the Ethiopian academic year is starting soon. When school opens, these classrooms will mean the world to the children here.

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