On September 8th we sent out an urgent update to our sponsors about the recent need to close our Primary School in Ethiopia as well as an urgent need to raise $57,000 to help transition the 156 children and their families affected by the closing. (If you did not receive this letter, please click here to view a copy).
We know that changes like this can generate a lot of questions. Please read the questions and answers below and if you still have more questions please contact our Managing Director, Anna Ralph, at Anna@EmbracingHopeEthiopia.com.
FAQs on Primary School Closure
1. Why did Embracing Hope Ethiopia have to close its primary school?
There was a combination of financial and governmental reasons.
EHE began as a Day Care to give loving care to young children while their moms were helped to find employment and housing. As these original kids reached school age, we opened a kindergarten and then a primary school. We continued adding a new grade each year to accommodate this aging group. This continuing school expansion began to tightly stretch our financial resources. Sponsors continued sponsoring their aging children, but fewer new sponsors came on board to walk with the youngest and most needy families. In faith, these new, most needy families were added to the program before sponsors could be found for them.
Consequently, since last year, the EH Board in the US has been focused on how to balance funding the schools while also being true to EHE’s original vision of funding entry-level families who have the greatest needs. Several months ago Ethiopian officials independently decided not to renew our primary school license for the 2019/2020 school year, due to changing regulations. By doing so, the government effectively helped decide EHE’s future focus: the original vision of serving the youngest and most needy.
2. Was this closing strictly a financial decision or were there other factors in the decision?
There were other factors involved. Finances did play an important part in the decision. But there were also both governmental and strategic considerations involved. The government’s decision not to renew our primary school license for the coming year cemented the strategic direction that we were already considering. EHE has prayerfully decided to direct our limited family sponsorship funds toward EHE’s original vision of serving the poorest families with younger children and the most pressing needs.
3. What happened to the primary school staff?
Although they were sad to leave, the staff was well cared for. EHE provided a paid three-month annual leave and a three month severance package— all government-mandated—to each employee that was affected by the closure. Most of the teachers have already found new positions in government schools and were offered a higher wage than EHE had been able to provide.
4. Does this school closing change or impact EHE as a nonprofit in any way?
No. Only the Primary School (grades 1-3) has been closed. Our other school programs (Nursery, Kindergarten 1 and Kindergarten 2 classes) as well as our Day Care will continue as usual. The Primary School closure does not impact EHE’s non-profit status nor the other holistic programs that have always been the foundation of Embracing Hope’s support to the vulnerable families we serve.
5. Is there a negative perception of EHE in the country now that they have closed down a primary school?
Hopefully not! Our greatest desire is to be proactive and prevent any negative perception of EHE in country by helping the children affected by the school closure to successfully transition to the public school. We are doing so by providing an average of $365 per family in supplies and services. (This totals $57,000 for the 156 families affected by the closure.)
6. What does the $365 a year provide for this transition?
The $365 for each family for a year provides: 100 kg of teff (grain), 8 liters of food oil, a school uniform, clothing and 1 pair of shoes, a small amount of educational savings, a school bag, 10 exam books and pens, soap, hair oil, and a pro-rated portion of the wage for 3 school tutors needed for the after-school programs.
7. If $365 is enough to help a child flourish during this transition, why is an existing EHE sponsorship $1,632 a year? What more does a family, child, or mom receive from that?
Each family sponsorship slot at EHE is $34/month ($408/year) and 4 slots must be filled for a family to be considered fully funded ($1,632/year), in terms of receiving the holistic supports they need. This level of funding was set knowing that different families would need different levels of support. In general, younger more vulnerable families will need more funding to reverse the conditions they often come to EHE with: malnutrition, disease/medical issues, lack of skills for parents to work, etc. In comparison, older, increasingly thriving children and their families will need less funding. So, the cost of sponsorship is set at an average level so that families throughout the spectrum of need can be served. The school-aged children affected by the transition to public school are, generally, thriving and require only $365 to fund necessary supports over the upcoming year. Younger, more needy children and families often require more than $1,632/year to begin to thrive. Since it would be impossible to gauge the level of support that each individual family would need and ask their sponsor to pay that amount, EHE has set its monthly sponsorship rates at a level that allows all of our families – regardless of individual circumstances – to flourish.
8. Why couldn’t the money accumulated through the sponsorship of a primary age child be used for their transition?
To better understand how family sponsorships are allocated within the program see the previous answer. As funds are received for family sponsorships, they do not “accumulate” but are immediately used to serve all of our EHE families.
9. With the closing of the primary school, I was recently matched with a younger Day Care aged child and family to support. But my previous child/family is now in need of “transitional support.” Why could I not just continue to sponsor them as they moved toward independence?
When we matched you with a younger child in place of your school-aged child, we did not anticipate that we would need this amount of “transitional support”. This amount was determined by the contract EHE has to sign with the Ethiopian government every 3 years to allow us to operate in country. The contract specifies the supports that will be provided. Even though the primary school has closed, the current contract does not expire until Fall 2020 and we are legally required to meet its provisions in terms of the group of children transitioning to public school. Regardless, though, of our “obligations,” we want to continue to walk with these families–to help them in significant ways during their transition toward this additional aspect of independence.
10. Why does EHE continue to add children/families to their programs if there is this large need to transition families?
We have always operated in faith, knowing that the Lord has planted us in Ethiopia for His purpose and His desire to see families sustained and orphans prevented. Many children and their parents line up outside the doors to Embracing Hope Ethiopia every day, hoping to be accepted into our program. As Alayu Tadesse (our Director in Ethiopia) and his staff see a child and parent that are desperately malnourished and ill, without resources, they accept the family into the program. We believe that this demonstration of the love of Jesus to the least of these is why we exist, even if we do not have sponsors yet identified for them.
However, as we work to gather these transition funds, we have postponed enrollment of new families into the program.
The current need to transition such a large group of children/families (156) is a recent development. Neither the EHE US budget nor the EHE Ethiopian budget can absorb this unexpected expense. Because of the considerable expenses entailed in the school closure (severance packages, paying of the remaining facility lease, repairing the facility before it could be ‘returned’ to its owner, etc.), it actually cost us extra money this year to close the primary school.
11. If this money isn’t raised – is there a chance EHE will have to cease operating?
No! We are obligated to pay these costs for the primary school children. The only costs that can be cut from the $57,000 we are trying to raise would be the amounts included for hiring additional tutors for the after-school program. But this program is the most effective way of staying connected with these families EHE has been serving all these years. To cut this would mean sacrificing our ongoing relationships.
So, EHE will continue to exist. But If these transitional funds end up needing to be paid from our operating budget, considerably fewer resources will be available for our existing program. There would have to be significant belt-tightening for those who remain in the program—with families receiving less support and care than our usual high standard.
12. Do the families have any level of financial requirement or investment to be part of this program?
One of the principles underlying the work of EHE is ensuring that all families accepted into the program are constantly working toward self-sufficiency. Within a couple of weeks of acceptance into the program, the parent is required (and helped) to find employment. (We have two social workers on staff.) Once the parent has a source of income, she/he is expected to make regular deposits to a savings account opened in their name. This helps to begin a major paradigm shift in their thinking—from “survival” toward “future.” These parents are very proud of the balances in their bank books! Additionally, as the family becomes increasingly self-sufficient, EHE services are gradually migrated away. We are very proud of all the families who have moved on, no longer needing EHE!
13. Is this large change and urgent need in any way related to the Shannons’ departure from Ethiopia and/or involvement with EHE?
No. This need is not related to the Shannons’ departure from Ethiopia, and Jerry continues to be involved with the ministry as Vice President of the EH Board (US). Rather, new family sponsors to support the newest families who are added to the program are increasingly difficult to find. As new sponsorships have declined and expenses on the ground have continued, we cannot currently absorb these additional, one-time urgent needs. We are now focused on the critical need to establish and expand new family sponsorships, so that EHE can continue its important mission of serving the neediest of families.
14. What ministry will continue for primary aged children beyond classroom instruction?
Our hope has always been that primary aged children would not just be immersed in the secular school program in Ethiopia. We desire to continue to be in relationship with them, encouraging their educational and spiritual development and experiencing the love of Jesus. As a result, our ministry to primary-aged children will focus on after-school programs that include both tutoring and spiritual ministry through a small EHE staff.
15. Is there any financial commitment to these families after this transitional year? Will there be another $57,000 fundraiser again next year?
As these families continue to become more self-sufficient, we do not foresee a specific “financial commitment” to the families that have aged out of the program. Instead, we envision our focus in future years to be on after-school programming, providing both tutoring and spiritual ministry. We desire to continue to be in relationship with these families that we have walked with for many years, encouraging their educational and spiritual development and showing them the love of Jesus.
Next year’s transitioning group (those who are currently entering KG2) will be significantly smaller than the 156 children this year. With a much smaller group, and more advance warning, we can budget for their transitional expenses, as well as any additional minor expenses for the group that is transitioning this year.
If you have any further questions or need more information about how this change impacts you or the program in Ethiopia please contact Managing Director, Anna Ralph at Anna@EmbracingHopeEthiopia.com.