The Dignity of a Photograph

By: Zewge, Internal Communications Manager

Over 40 children lined up in their school compound in the Central Tigray impact area, Ethiopia, for the annual photo day, where children have their photos taken to send to their sponsors. Some children look nervous and are unsure of what to make of this process, while others are very excited. These photographs are the only way for these children to let sponsors know how they look, so they have dressed as nicely as they could on this important day. It is also an exciting and busy day for Gebrerufael Gebrehiwot, Save the Children’s Sponsorship Operations Officer, who has organized this event.

According to Gebrerufael, the ‘photo shoot’ is an important part of sponsorship operations. He loves the children’s excitement because “their smiles follow when they are excited,” he explains. Yet, surprisingly,nearly 90% of the children have no experience with the photo shoot before they enrolled for sponsorship. “Many [children]are nervous and shy away from the camera,” says Gebrerufael. “It takes teachers’ and sometimes parents’ explanations to make them understand how important these photos are.”

The children also dance, sing songs and play fun games to get more comfortable before sitting for their photographs. “That is to help them to face the camera in a relaxed mood,” he explains.  “It’s also helpful to show the children the end result to keep them motivated.”

Sponsorship Operations Officer Gebrerufael Gebrehiwot showing a group of children some of their photographs during the photo shoot

It is also common that many children wear the same clothes for recurrent photo shoot sessions. “What mainly explains this is poverty,” Gebrerufael affirmed. Most children come from poor families with subsistence farming or daily labor as the main source of livelihood. “They are unable to afford to buy new clothes for their children every year,” he explains.

Million’s sponsorship portrait

For example, ten-year-old Million wears the same outfit she had for last year’s photo shoot. She said, “My parents don’t have money to buy me new clothes. I am shy, but I like seeing my pictures. I am happy my sponsor receives them, too.” 

Gebrerufael explains that although it is important the photo-taking process is fun for the children, it is just as critical that the activity fosters self-respect. “Not only do we want to achieve a quality photo to share with sponsors, we also want the children to preserve their dignity in the process.”

Still There Are Many Miles I Have to Go!


Desalegn Mulugeta

West Showa Impact Area Manager

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

July 2, 2015


As a West Showa Impact Area Manager, I have the privilege of visiting different program sites and sharing in the lives of the disadvantaged children there. As part of my routine visits, I traveled to West Welega, Mendi. This visit opened up an opportunity for me to see the school where I myself had completed grades 1 through 8. Since I had not seen the school for 28 years, I decided not to miss the opportunity. 


Desalegn in his classroom in West Welega, Mendi.

It was with mixed feelings that I entered the compound. Inside one of the classrooms, I was taken back to an event that happened when I was in grade 3. I used to travel 3 hours on foot to reach school every day. One day, I was so tried and was taking a nap while my English teacher was teaching. My teacher noticed and threw a piece of chalk at me and hit my eye. Even though my eye continued tearing for two days, I didn’t tell the situation to my family.

The trees in the compound were planted when I was in grade 3 also. I participated in planting these trees. They have grown tall and are giving their shade to people and animals, in the same way a child today may change his or her nation tomorrow. I always remember the encouraging words of my grandfather, who raised me. He would say, “You shouldn’t be illiterate like me. You have to finish your school and be someone tomorrow.” I recall the ups and downs of my everyday experiences in primary education. Looking after cattle, fetching water from the river, collecting firewood, travelling long distances- these were all challenges during my primary school years. The challenges are still there for children in rural communities. Some even face greater challenges than mine, like the risk of rape and abduction while traveling to school. 


Desalegn in his school building in West Welega, Mendi.

I noticed that classrooms had not been added and no Early Childhood Care and Development centers (ECCDs) had been created. As a result, young children will have to stay at home until they can be enrolled in grade 1 at age 7. I also saw that the children are still using unprotected water sources, like the river. I imagined how many children are staying home feeling sick from the unprotected water.

I feel down, for the children from my school are still drinking unsafe water and transportation to school still remains a great challenge. But I also feel pride and happiness with Save the Children’s intervention in Mendi. I have a long journey and large commitment ahead of me. I have to help children go to school, create conducive learning environments for them to stay in school, and improve the quality of education here.

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Reach Millions to Enlighten their Hopes

Ethiopia Blog Post 3 Alene

Alene Yenew, Head of Sponsorship 


February 2014

Recently I traveled to Gondar, one of the tourist attractions in Ethiopia. The mountains were covered with golden-yellow meskel daisies indicating the end of the rainy season and the beginning of spring, the time where children start school, the time to stride for new hopes and dreams to come true.

Crossing through a range of mountains, we reached Muse town close to midday and I found our sponsorship ambassador child. She was 12 and in grade 6. When I told her that I am from Save the Children, she was happy to talk with me.

She let me inside her home where she was roasting corn, and her friend also joined us. There were 2 pieces of corn on the fire. She broke the roasting corns into four pieces and shared them between her friend, our driver, and me. Her brother was sleeping on the floor very close by the fire. Her mother was out for petty trading, and her father had gone to a faraway place to attend a funeral. I learned our child was roasting the corns for her lunch; a typical poor-person’s lunch in the rural Ethiopia. She was willing to share what she had – a grand gesture of courtesy and humbleness.

Their house had a tin roof with almost-falling walls and a dusty floor. A handmade, grass mattress was covered with anti-malaria bed net. I asked her how she is prepared for the next academic year. She told me she was so angry that she didn’t make the top-three list from her class last year.

She said, “I have a dream of becoming a teacher and a dream of saving the lives of others. I will study hard this year and will rank first, second or third.” Then I realized one thing, this little girl was enlightened and inspired because of Save the Children’s great work in providing access to school and education.

  Ethiopia Blog Post 3 Gondor Landscape









Part 2

As we talked, she told me she likes studying at Donkey Library, one of Save the Children’s innovative projects designed to improve the reading skills of children. She said, “The day when the donkeys reach our village with reading materials, we all are happy to borrow books!”

As it was the first day of school, we followed her there. Teachers were busy leading students to their classes. The school structure, with coloured walls painted with different educational pictures, was built from a strong pre-casted concrete by Save the Children.

The classroom with some combined desks was perfect for learning, for bringing lasting change to children’s lives. The children were fine with the classroom conditions, even if the floor is not tile, and there were no individual lockers and tables, and they do not carry lunch boxes. A small plastic bag packed with exercise books was enough for them. Great minds emerge from schools like this.

Our Country Director Ned’s farewell statement earlier this year said, “our goal is not to raise millions of dollars a year, but to save millions of lives a year and to support children around the world to achieve their potential.” When I read it, it reminded me how we reach many children who wouldn’t have the opportunity to go to school and access education if we didn’t help.


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Running for an Hour and a Half Every Weekday to Pursue Education – Part 2

Zerihun Gultie

Zerihun Gultie

Sponsorship Manager, Ethiopia

October 29, 2013

Click here if you missed Part 1

left Honchie Bite excited about the progress there. On the way back to Ginchi town,
we saw a young girl running from the school. My colleague told me that she was
heading to Boda town where the nearest second-cycle primary school is located. We
invited her to go with us to the town. She refused the ride, but was willing to
discuss her situation.  

Ethiopia West Showa Feyise 

name is Feyise. She is 16 and in grade 8. Feyise completed her first cycle of
primary school at the Honchie Bite School and continues her second cycle at
Boda. She runs to school and back every weekday to minimize the risk of harassment.
Sometimes, she says, she joins a group of students to walk to school. Otherwise
she prefers to run. 


parents are aware of the benefit of her continuing her education. However, she
notes that girls face enormous challenges in staying in school. Fear of sexual
assault on the journey to school and back is one of the major challenges she
mentions. Traveling in a group and running whenever she is alone are the two
best alternatives she has discovered to minimize the risk. Even with all the
efforts the local government and community leaders exert, Feyise is uncertain about
existing protective measures. Nonetheless, she is determined to pursue her
studies at any cost. No one can stop her from running! 

Ethiopia West Showa Kumeshie with Students 

the Children has been working closely with the local government to make sure
all girls like Feyise are transitioning from grade 4 to 5. Supporting PTAs and
local governments in upgrading schools so that all the children continue their education
up to grade 8 without having to travel long and dangerous distances has been
one of major strategies used. Save the Children sponsorship resources are
helping to upgrade remote schools like Honchie Bite, one of the three schools
benefiting from the initiative in 2013. With your help, we will be able to
respond to the needs of girls in many more villages in the coming years. 


Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

Running for an Hour and a Half Every Weekday to Pursue Education – Part 1

Zerihun Gultie

Zerihun Gultie

Sponsorship Manager, Ethiopia

October 28, 2013

do you stop a girl who runs for an hour and half every day to pursue her
education? How do you tell her you are not someone who intends to hurt a child?
How do you respond to her needs including the right to education and


know why we’re asking that question in the first place, read Part 1 of our new
blog post. Then, stay tuned for the rest of the story, coming soon in Part 2.


Ethiopia West Showa Zerihun and Staff Traveling to Honche Bite School

role as sponsorship manager gives me the chance to travel to rural parts of
Ethiopia like Honchie Bite School where Save the Children has been implementing
its integrated health and education programs. Honchie Bite is located 24 kms
west of Ginchi town – 20 kms on an all-weather gravel road, then 4 kms on a muddy,
dry-weather road. It took almost an hour to get there, but the trip was worth
it. The school is located on a plateau and has a spectacular view in all
directions. Most houses are thatched roofed, though a few are roofed with
corrugated iron sheet. The indigenous trees, green shrubs and mountains
surrounding the area are a source of enjoyment for visitors.


the school compound, a number of local residents, mainly women, were working on
a construction site. The building under construction will create additional
space where students can continue their second-cycle primary education (grades
5-8). A number of men are excavating a trench and women are removing the soil. According
to Guteta, the school principal, women have been highly involved in the new
project because they know the additional classrooms will provide for the needs
of girls.

Ethiopia West Showa  Teacher Kumeshie

probability of girls transitioning from grade 4 to grade 5 has been one of the major
challenges in the area. Girls who attend their first-cycle primary (grades 1-4)
at Honchie Bite have been forced to travel for more than an hour every weekday
to continue their grade 5 education in Boda town. Most boys freely walk to Boda.
Girls face innumerable problems in doing so, mainly sexual harassment.


Cahlachisa, a female teacher I met in the school compound, is delighted about upgrading
the school to a full-cycle primary facility. She was a teacher for the last
three years in a very remote part of the district and recently transferred to
Honchie Bite. Kumeshie lives in Boda town and walks to school and back every day.
She says ‘’the challenges I encounter are nothing compared to what the schoolgirls


new building will change that. Among girls who stopped their education at grade
4 in previous years, 24 have registered to come back and continue their
education next year. Some girls aren’t waiting until next year though – girls
like Feyise, who you’ll meet in Part 2.


Click for Part 2


Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

Literacy Boost: The Power of a Teacher!

Zerihun GultieZerihun Gultie, Sponsorship Manager

West Showa, Ethiopia

October 5, 2012

In 2009 a study was conducted to measure the reading skills of children in the South West and West Showa zones of Ethiopia. The results were shocking, a huge percentage of 3rd grade children were unable to read a single word, despite schools, trained teachers and community support. It was then that Save the Children came up with an innovative concept called Literacy Boost to create a culture of reading, both inside and outside the classroom. 

In April of this year I visited three schools which have benefited from Literacy Boost. I was
stunned by the positive change. Children in the 2nd and 3rd grades were reading their textbooks and were highly engaged – almost all were able to read an average of 40 or more words per minute.

There I met Mitke Kuma, a vibrant 2nd grade teacher. She is a multi-disciplinary teacher, teaching 6 lessons a day on all subject matters. She lives several miles from the school and walks almost three hours each day to and from work. When her shift starts in the morning, she often sets off walking in the dark in order to be ready to start teaching at 8am. On Mondays, she arrives an hour early or extends her afternoon shift to help students in the library as part of her commitment to the Literacy Boost program. Mitke in action

Mitke has participated in several Save the Children trainings. She is a strong supporter of Literacy Boost and is constantly developing aids to help her students read. She has grouped them into three reading levels with materials according to their skill, and has facilitated a reading buddies program where younger children are paired with older students who help them with their reading. According to Mitke, the Literacy Boost trainings have equipped teachers with effective and necessary teaching skills.

Mitke is committed to helping the children at her school and hopes to move closer, “If my home were closer to school, Icould have more time to help students improve their literacy level,” she
shares. Her dream is to improve her educational qualification to a PhD.

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to find out more.

PHOTOS: Hometown Heroes

How do you save the lives of children who would otherwise die of diseases like pneumonia, the number one killer of kids in the developing world? Get a hometown hero on your side.


Frontline Health Workers are saving lives every single day in places like Uganda and Kenya, where I traveled just a week or so ago, and in Nepal, Bangladesh and countries all over the world. These workers—predominantly women—are active in their own communities and often have just a basic primary school education. But they are there every day, in the places where kids and moms are dying and can be saved, using common sense and simple tools to save lives. They are given training on how to recognize and treat basic childhood illness like pneumonia and diarrhea that can kill kids if not treated quickly. They need only simple

Witnessing Change in Action

Andrea WHAndrea Williamson-Hughes; Deputy Director, Office of the President

Gare Arera, Ethiopia

December 20, 2011

The school constructed by Save the Children in Gare Arera came into view as we rounded the last turn of a bone-rattling, 45-minute drive over a rocky road that was more path than anything. That anyone lives so far from the paved road, let alone goes to school there, seems nothing short of amazing. Yet the sight of children peering out the school’s windows assured us that something was happening.

Save the Children has worked in the West Showa District of Ethiopia, where Gare Arera is located, since 2009. Today, several hundred children attend the school constructed with sponsorship dollars. Classes ranging from Preschool (Early Childhood Development programs) to Grade 4 are taught in two shifts to allow maximum use of classroom space. Working in close collaboration with the Ethiopian Government, Save the Children helps with curriculum enhancement and training, to help instructors convey important health, sanitation and nutrition practices and to impart basic, but effective, teaching methods.

I couldn’t help but smile during our classroom visits. Eager youngsters anxious to demonstrate their knowledge filled rooms adorned with colorful learning materials, many of them locally made. Questions about their lessons revealed their grasp of the health, sanitation and education messages that Save the Children-trained teachers impart.

IMG_1560 (2)Nearby latrines and clean-water sources – constructed by the community under the guidance of Save the Children – are further indication of the positive changes brought to Gare Arera by sponsors’ contributions. A school garden on the premises that puts my own vegetable patch to shame provides a means of income generation through the sale of produce for the school, as well as nutritious food for children to take home and seeds for home-garden sowing.

The comments of school PTA members, most of them parents themselves, further demonstrated that Save the Children greatly impacts the community. “Thanks to Save the Children, our children are learning important lessons – lessons they bring home to us about healthy living,” said one father. Parents in Gare Arera now value their children’s education to the extent that the PTA plans to enhance educational opportunities by raising funds for additional classrooms to house upper grades. Currently, children who want to go to school beyond fourth grade must walk a long distance and ford a river that becomes dangerous in the rainy season. This deters many children, especially girls, from going on to upper grades.

IMG_1634 (2)It was recess time as we prepared to depart and classrooms emptied into the open playfield. Rather than caring for younger siblings or working in the fields, these bubbly children were spending their day as children deserve – with exposure to knowledge and practices that will help them live healthier, more fulfilling lives.

As our vehicle began winding its way back down the bumpy road toward the nearby town of Ambo, I looked back at the many small hands waving us off. How often does one have the opportunity to see real change taking place? It’s a rare occurrence but because of caring sponsors that want to make a difference for children in Ethiopia, I knew I had just witnessed change in action.

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to find out more

AIDs in Africa Thirty Years On….

The AIDS epidemic reached 30 this year and though there has been a huge amount of progress here in the U.S., the story in Africa is a vastly different one. On the continent, women and children are the main victims of the disease with the fastest growth of infection rate now among women and youth. Over 22 million are affected across Africa.


When you see the face of HIV/AIDs in countries like Ethiopia, it is often through the eyes of a child, like the kids I met on a trip to the “transportation corridor” between Addis Ababa, the capital, and the trade hub of Awassa.

Read Article

A Mother’s Love

Pc field head

Penelope Crump, Web Editor

Westport, Connecticut

September 8, 2011 

Penny just returned to the United States after spending two weeks surveying Save the Children's food crisis relief programs in Ethiopia. 


Dido has been battling for his life at a Save the Children emergency nutrition program in drought-affected Ethiopia. I was so grateful for our staff and supporters that made this program possible. He wouldn’t have had a chance otherwise.

As I sat by his mother Garo’s side, my only thought was to comfort her and her son as she told me of their hardship and suffering due to the drought in East Africa. The small puppet I played with put a faint smile on Dido’s sunken face. 

Picture 440 - garo dido color corrected
Like far too many families in Dido’s village, his family lost much of their herd when the rains failed for two years. The remaining livestock withered, producing a fraction of the milk they once had. “We were doing everything we could to support our family,” Garo told me. “We were just scraping by when Dido got sick.”

Malnutrition weakened the little boy and a cold escalated to pneumonia. Dido became a shadow of his former self, weighing 15 pounds – about half of his ideal healthy weight. 

Garo faithfully fought for her son’s life – feeding him fortified milk and porridge all hours of the day and night. Constantly by his side, she stays with him sleeping on a small gurney in Save the Children’s dedicated malnutrition unit. 

Garo knows the pain of losing a son; Dido’s nine-year-old brother died in an accident. Her sorrow washed over me as I saw her lips quiver and tears streams down her cheeks. She wept silently, not wanting to upset Dido. “I will not lose him,” she said fiercely.  

I told Garo Save the Children health workers brought me to see Dido’s progress. In just a few short days, he gained more than 2 pounds and was on the road to recovery.

“I have no words to describe how grateful I am to Save the Children,” she said, pressing her hand to her heart.


Learn more about our response to the food crisis in the Horn of Africa.

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