Developing Villages to Raise Children as Productive Citizens—ECF: Anna Getaneh’s Initiative

The idea of ECF (Ethiopian Children’s Fund) was first ignited in the mind of its founder Anna Getaneh in 1993 during her trip to East Africa on a charity trip. She came to the region for a week with an international charity organization, Pharmacists without Borders, to deliver medicines for Ethiopian,Kenyan and Somali refugees. During her stay, Anna volunteered in the feeding program in refugee camps in Moyale, the border of Ethiopia and Kenya, where she saw the level of disparity and anguish of refugees, particularly children.

After her return to Europe, she organized her global friends, family and supporters and launched the Ethiopian Children’s Fund – ECF. Initially, ECF raised funds through donations and art auctions which supported 3 local NGOs: School for the Blind, Sisters of Charity and Abebech Gobena.

In 1997, ECF was registered in Ethiopia as a non-governmental organization dedicated to help those most vulnerable and least able to help themselves primarily children without parents. ECF’s mission is to uplift vulnerable children and adolescents in extreme poverty, and to do so sustainably through education, nutrition and primary health care.

ECF selected Aleltu, a small village about 55 kilometres out of Addis for its pilot project. Anna chose Aleltu because it’s a very poor village with only one elementary school, no clinic, no high school and no infrastructure. Parents in Aleltu wouldn’t send their children due to poverty, children being needed for household chores, and distance of school from home. Also because of gender based discrimination, more girls stayed out of school than boys. In 1998, ECF implemented its very first project in Aleltu, the ECF Village Education and Development Program, ECF – EDP.

ECF – EDP is an innovative integrated establishment for the protection and development of highly disadvantaged children and their communities suffering from extreme poverty and social problems such as HIV/AIDS. It also helps neglected, exploited and abandoned children through psychosocial support, early childhood development, healthcare, provision of food supplement and life skills programs.

ECF supports the community through outreach programs in health, HIV/AIDS prevention, parental education and positive child rearing practices, reproductive health, hygiene, environmental conservation, vocational trainings and entrepreneurship support.

The school established by ECF started with only 20 students and through the years over 900 children have been enrolled and directly benefited from it. In addition to the formal education, the ECF School conducts sports and extracurricular activities through clubs such as photography, art, poetry, dance and music as well as sport activities.

ECF has celebrated numerous milestones. One of them is the enrolment of its 47 students in various universities and colleges around Ethiopia studying medicine, law, engineering, journalism and other disciplines. The other success is surpassing its plan to enrol 700 students by end of 2016 which was well over the targeted number by end of last year.

ECF’s EDP seeks to provide a community-oriented solution to the challenge of orphans, while simultaneously serving as a catalyst and facilitator for sustainable community development. In order to bring sustainability and positive change in the lives of children, it’s imperative that their family and community at large have to be supported as well. It’s with this core belief that ECF designed its strategy which consists 3 key elements: community and social participation, environmental conservation, and internal resource generation.

As ECF strongly believes that the children it assists have to live with their nuclear, extended or foster families in order to maintain their community ties and preserve their identity, it involves the community in Aleltu as key stakeholder in its works and programs. The Aleltu community plays a significant role in the outreach activities to choose the most disadvantaged children in the village that qualify for ECF’s programs. The community has also been involved in building the school, engaged in labour, social and agricultural works and activities. In addition, ECF works with number of organizations and individuals to mobilise resources through sponsorship, grants and donation.

The second focus area of ECF’s strategy is environmental conservation. Among the environmental projects undertaken by ECF are reforestation, borehole digging and installation of environmentally friendly biogas facility. ECF has built an irrigation system which will help the Aleltu farmers double their crop production by cultivating 5 hectares of land. 

The third strategic area to ensure ECF’s sustainability is generating internal resources through agriculture, horticulture and dairy production as well as demonstration, promotion and implementation of improved agricultural innovations and practices. ECF plans to self-sustain its food production and supply by 2020.

For ECF, poverty is much more than lack of income; it is lack of opportunity, stunted capacities early in life, and underdeveloped capabilities. Hence its approach is holistic. ECF strongly believes that enabling environment of primary health care, good education, counseling, together with the cultivation of economic opportunity and a culture of initiative can largely determine what individuals can accomplish. It’s this belief that guides ECF to implement programs on education and counseling, health, nutrition and environmental conservation.

ECF needs the assistance of individuals, businesses and other organizations to implement its programs, achieve its targets and make an impact in the lives of the children and the community its working for. There are number of ways to support and work with ECF:

  • Sponsoring one or more children for a whole year at a cost of US$ 540.00 per child. This will cover school and medical supplies, uniforms, basic healthcare and nutrition for a full school year
  • Personal donation and/or helping ECF  organizing events in a creative and unusual ways
  • Asking professionals to volunteer their time and expertise in education, social work, law, medicine, agriculture, horticulture, veterinary science, solar energy, fundraising, proposal writing and IT or non-profit administration.
  • Helping in kind such as school supplies, teaching aids and books, a school bus, clothing and medical supplies, solar panels, farm animals and office supplies and many more.

ECF’s core values are civic duty, initiative, social responsibility, sustainability and partnership. ECF represents a humanitarian and development bridge between concerned individuals, the Diaspora, the business community, foundations, international philanthropists and highly disadvantaged children in Ethiopia. 2017 Woman of Excellence Title Holder Anna Getaneh, ECF’s international and Ethiopian board as well as ECF’s team invite individuals and organizations with shared values and vision can contact ECF to create lasting impact in the lives of disadvantaged children through community inclusive programs and activities.

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