People

100 Lives Matter: Changing Ethiopia’s Future, One Girl at a Time

July 25, 2016Posted by Terry Turner

When Tamara Horton traveled to Ethiopia to adopt her son, she didn’t realize she’d be moved to help 100 other children, young girls at risk of missing out on an education, living unstable lives, and becoming victim to local crime.

The poverty she saw firsthand inspired her to found “Studio Samuel,” a charity aimed at helping 100 girls break the cycle of poverty, understand what opportunities are open to them.

Through this on-the-ground nonprofit based in the Gulele community of Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, girls born with an unfortunate disadvantage in life are able to realize their full potential. 

Taking a holistic approach to education through a program called Training for Tomorrow, staff and volunteers focus on teaching girls the skills they need to succeed in life. But Horton believes the key to success is working with the local community. Classes range from coding to karate, art and literature to financial literacy, all designed to let girls stand up for themselves as women.

“Messaging, direction and implementation must start at the local level for our program to work and be trusted by those we are trying to reach,” Horton said. “We’ve been granted much support from local leaders in these areas after proof of concept in our programs.”

Girls aged 9-18 are taken on a two-year educational journey based around “Ten Core Life Skills” as established by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and UNESCO: problem solving, critical thinking, effective communication, decision-making, creative thinking, building and nurturing interpersonal relationships, furthering self-awareness, fostering empathy, and coping with stress and other emotions.

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All enrollees live at or below the poverty line and have lost one or more parents to HIV/AIDS. They are part of a community where only 16% of girls advance from primary to secondary school, but students who’ve passed through the Training for Tomorrow program showed rapid improvements.

“I was very dedicated to spending extra time working to build these relationships,” Hilawi Alemayehu, Studio Samuel’s Country Director said. “I’m very proud to say 94% of our students saw an increase in behavior and/or academic performance in the first six months of entering Training for Tomorrow.”

What’s more, participants are projected to be 70% more likely to stay in school because of what they’ve learned about their options in life.

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Training for Tomorrow’s two year curriculum runs parallel to traditional schooling and enrollees must remain in school full time while in the program. After its inaugural class of 25 children arrived in 2014, Studio Samuel has been steadily adding to the roster, and is on track to enroll its 100th girl this year.

True to its mantra, “Empowerment without Pity…one girl at a time,” Studio Samuel supports its mission in part by creating jobs in the Ethiopian community it serves.

Selling fair-trade products, the NGO creates jobs and empowers local craftsmen and artists, applying all profits to its Training for Tomorrow program.

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“I’ve been impressed by Studio Samuel’s sustainable model and approach for women’s empowerment in Ethiopia,” philanthropist and Studio Samuel advisor Julian Lennon said in a post on the NGO’s website. “The organization stands to make an impact with women, not just for women – and most importantly, with the local communities, not over them.”

Beyond Training for Tomorrow, Studio Samuel has made other contributions to girls’ lives in Ethiopia.

By their count, 200 girls have gained access to computers, 100 girls have seen a doctor, and 80 have taken self-defense classes — in a country where a solid majority of the people believe that domestic abuse is acceptable.

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