Latent wealth

Addis is wrapped in a thunderstorm, aggressive flashes of lightening and torrential rain is the order of the evening. I think we are getting closer to the heart of rainy season. It’s been too long since my last post, but there has just been so much going on that I haven’t had a moment really to properly stop and reflect. I’ve also been a bit ill – a potent dose of ‘Addis belly’ has been a bit of a baptism of fire for the last week or so, which has left me feeling pretty weak in the evenings.

That said, there has been so much in the last two weeks that has been been utterly brilliant. I have learnt so much about the school, and am really getting stuck in to exploring ways with the team that we can raise awareness about the school to attract new sponsors and donors.

Another donor at the school has commissioned a wonderful educational consultant, Dr Worku to help the school develop a robust five year strategic plan for its future growth. Dr Worku has spent several years in America before moving back to Ethiopia. He is now CEO and President of the Educational & Leadership Institute, runs two private schools of his own and has great experience and understanding of what it takes to develop and grow a school in Ethiopia. Since I’ve been in Addis, he has run a two day strategic workshop with the School of St Yared’s team in Ethiopia, and I felt extremely honored to be invited to attend the sessions. There were some very productive conversations, as the team debated and refined the school’s vision and mission going forward and agreed upon objectives and goals to enable the school to provide fourteen years of full scholarship education to each student as it grows to become a fully fledged K-12 school.

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One thing that the strategy workshops brought up that I think is critical to understanding the school, is the notion of The School of St Yared’s latent wealth. This wealth is not, at present, physical (indeed, securing funds is something the school urgently needs in order to be able to secure its future growth plans) but it is contained within the passion and drive of all people associated with the School of St Yared; its founders, its teachers, its support staff, its volunteers, its students, its dedicated sponsors. The relentless belief in what the school is doing, and will continue to do, to transform the lives of its students and their communities through education is incredibly motivating and empowering. Seeing the effect of this in person through the day to day activities at the school is even more wonderful. What needs to be done now is to get better at sharing this wealth – the incredible success stories so far and the school’s ambitions for the future with with our wider community of contacts, friends and sponsors, so that we can invite them to come on the journey with the school and invest in fighting poverty through education.

It really is remarkable to consider the magnitude of ‘Sliding Doors’ opportunities that the school makes possible for its students (excuse the reference to Gwyneth Paltrow’s late 90’s film.) As I’ve understood more about the school selection process, it really has struck me just what an incredible change of life path the school offers. All students come from the most marginalized backgrounds, identified by their local worreda (councils) as having ‘OVC’ – orphan or vulnerable child status – they come from unfathomable levels of poverty to most of us who are fortunate to have been born into a degree of affluence. Maginalized is a strange word. It’s easily be thrown around and jargonified without really considering what it means. Although the government offers a free primary education, the circumstances in which these children live means that without the school providing them with a completely free education, it would be extremely difficult for their parents to afford the basic uniform, food, equipment, transport costs etc necessary to send them to school, let alone set them up for academic success. The level of support, and the access to opportunities that The School of St Yared makes possible for these children and their families is utterly transformative. Given the tight financial situation that the school is in, every single dollar donated both through child sponsorship and individual donations has a direct impact not only on the school’s future growth plans, but also on enabling the school to continue its fantastic work day to day.

As it is currently just a few days until the end of the academic year for The School of St Yared, and it is the end of the Australian financial year, there was no better time than the present to start a fundraising campaign. Last Friday, we launched The School of St Yared’s first Annual Appeal in a way that would enable the school to share some of its wealth of stories with its wider support community, whilst also, unlocking some much needed funds for the school for the next academic year. Through our stories, we wanted to show our potential donors exactly what impact their donations would make possible, to make them feel proud donating, and to show them that we are far more than ‘just another school asking for money’. After a morning brainstorm, Yared, Jess and myself decided that the most powerful way that we could do this would be to share top fourteen reasons that Yared has been proud of what the school has achieved in the last year with the school’s communities on Facebook and Instagram. A brilliantly rich conversation later, and our ‘Fourteen Proudest Moments’ campaign was born.

Over the fourteen days (starting from June 17) up until June 30th, the school will share a different story via Facebook and Instagram, (however we are also sharing the stories on a weekly basis to our database of donors and sponsors too.) We want to get better at not just receiving engagement from our communities, but action too. It’s the holy grail of social media – how do you get engagement beyond ‘likes’ – and we need to understand how we can best resonate with our audience to make this happen. Sharing these stories, and showing them what impact the school has will hopefully help us to get there – to make a donation, and see the campaign unfold, check out their page – The School of St Yared/Facebook.

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