Wotet Aby primary school is in rural Ethiopia. The school building was in a dilapidated condition. People worried that its roof would eventually collapse on their children. The teachers struggled to teach the obviously distracted and fearful children.

At some point, community members decided that this should change. They convened parents and other local citizens to discuss improving the building –  so that it would create a safe environment for the children. While everyone was excited about this idea the community members also realized; we have to do this ourselves.

A community committee

Some of the community’s most trusted members formed a committee. It was important that wise and influential people got involved as they needed to raise serious funds from the community. They also based a subcommittee in the capital of Addis Ababa to fundraise from former village inhabitants.

Via research the committee learned of a local NGO that supports these kinds of school projects. Partners in Education Ethiopia, an Ethiopian based Canadian NGO  supports communities that are financially committed themselves. The NGO asked the community to raise 70% of the project’s budget.  Wilde Ganzen and Interkerkelijke Stichting Ethiopië Eritrea (which supports school construction) secured the other 30%. In this case, the community raised around 50.000 euro within two months. This was a relatively low amount as they managed to find a contractor ready to work without making a profit.

Creative solicitation of funds

The committee used a customized approach to solicit contributions. Fundraisers used a research-based technique of asking for specific contributions based on an assessment of the potential donor’s income. All stakeholders and potential donors were invited to a presentation of the project’s importance and urgency. They used a variety of messages for solicitation in the village door to door and another form for those in Addis Ababa or even abroad.

Besides this, they organized a bazaar and auction of donations such as donkeys and jewelry.  Attendees were gently persuaded to contribute cash or in-kind items for the auction with all proceeds going to the school rescue project.

As the community saw the need, everyone contributed generously. This was the key, people felt that this project was ‘near and dear to them’.

A community rallies and children can work toward goals

Right now the school is back to providing a secure, effective and humming learning environment. The children run in with joy to attend lessons in a safe classroom. Their caregivers are no longer worried about a roof collapsing. And the community strengthened themselves knowing they pulled together on this successful project!