The Untold Story of Combating Urban Poverty

The Sara Cannizzaro Child Minders Association

We are celebrating a decade and a half of community service through a Head Start program, providing comprehensive early childhood education, health, nutrition, parent involvement services and resources to the poorest of the poor.  The Sara Cannizzaro Child Minders Association (SCCMA) is a non-profit organization established in November 2004 near the Laphto Mall.  Studies show that “one in seven of the world’s population live in informal settlements…but the scale and depth of poverty is underestimated by most governments and international agencies.” ( Urban poverty is a global crisis dismissed as a norm by societies with great populations migrating to major cities for a better life.  SCCMA tries to fill the gap and hopes the rest of the world listens.

The organization’s services and resources are designed to cultivate stable family connections, support children in developing mentally, emotionally and physically in a secure environment.  When transitioning to local government schools after completing the three-year Head Start program, the children are provided with afterschool tutors to compensate for the lower quality of education they receive.  Siblings of the program participants, who are not part of the Head Start, are afforded this afterschool program to support the entire family because helping only one child in a family highly in need will disrupt the family dynamics.  Part of the afterschool program includes sports activities to strengthen the children’s muscles along with their minds.  One of the activities includes a soccer team that was established and is now part of the under 17 group of the Ethiopian Football Federation.

In its 15 years of SCCMA, about 500 children have gone through the program.  Three graduated from university and two are currently enrolled.  More than fifteen percent of the students have completed secondary education.  Considering the background of families going through the program whose daily challenges are insurmountable, these numbers show a success story.

In addition, to support the families with critical need of survival, a budget is allocated to provide household materials such as tin roofs, mattresses, groceries, and other items to make their homes livable.

The organization is built on a 1000 square meter lot, where 600 square meters have been constructed to house the school, a cooking and eating area.  Primary care takers of the children are taught cooking and sewing.  Most of them become gainfully employed.  A few of the parents started a cooperative designing and sewing clothes that SCCMA supports by marketing and moving their products.

This noble movement started because of a young, angelic girl, Sara Cannizzaro, who passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on September 4, 2002, at the tender age of 11 years and 4 months.

Sara, who received love, care and attention was never blind to the poverty, misery and suffering of less fortunate children.  A couple of months before her unexpected death, Sara wrote the following poem as an assignment given by her teacher entitled “your wishes” which gave the impetus to her parents to fulfill her dream.


“I wish happiness and joy all over the world

I wish love to be the only feeling of life

I wish tears to be only tears of joy

I wish I could cancel sadness and fear

I wish pain to be an unknown feeling on earth

I wish loneliness not to exist in the world

I wish all to be friends

I wish that war and hunger did not exist

I wish peace to conquer the world”

In her death Sara became a beacon of light to those who would not have any opportunities of living and reaching a dignified life.

Every year on the 4th of November, SCCMA and the beneficiaries celebrate the joy, achievements and milestones of the center in changing lives.

SCCMA Office: 011 372 78 25

Social media:   saraethio/

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