SOS Children’s Villages Boosts Education for Ethiopian Youth

In Ethiopia, many children and their families experience poverty, forcing them to forgo school. In 2014, grantee SOS Children’s Villages launched EduCare, a program to reduce public school dropout rates in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. The program ensures students’ health and well-being not just through education, but essential services and caregiver support. The program has achieved a dropout rate of less than two percent.

EduCare has demonstrated real gains for vulnerable families – like Samra and Helina.

Helina’s world was turned upside down when her parents separated. Her mother Samra was left as the sole provider when her father abandoned them.

To survive, the family began brewing and selling traditional Ethiopian alcohol from their home. Samra recognized that this created an unsafe environment – especially for her teenage daughter – but with no prior work experience, she didn’t know what else to do. And although Helina loved learning, she often skipped school to help, exposing her to harassment and abuse from customers.  Looking back, she says, “Life was terrible.”

Thanks to SOS Children’s Villages, the family received essential services and caregiver support. Helina received school supplies and uniforms, which put her on equal footing with other students, eliminating the stigma of “doing without.”  Tutoring helped her advance academically, and life-skills training rebuilt her self-confidence.  Now an ambitious tenth grader, Helina plans to be an engineer. She describes EduCare as her “second father” for fulfilling her dreams of an education.

Simultaneously, Samra sought safe and reliable means to earn a living. She joined an EduCare self-help group and began saving money.  After attending an urban agriculture training, she secured – and repaid – a loan to purchase cattle, fully transitioning her business from alcohol sales to dairy farming.  Samra attended parenting trainings, and began to prioritize education, monitoring her daughter’s school attendance closely.

In 2016, the family achieved self-reliance and joined the first cohort of EduCare graduates. With fortitude, dignity, and accountability, Helina and Samra have emerged from a trying period of instability and social exclusion to a promising new beginning.