Behind This Mega Funder's Give in Ethiopia is a New Push to Help Africa's Most Vulnerable Children

Did you know that the Helmsley Charitable Trustone of the largest foundations in the U.S.cares about the most marginalized children of Sub-Saharan Africa? No, we didn't either, until we noticed it recently awarded a $1.6 million grant to SOS Children’s Villages in support of its EduCare program.

That grant is part of the foundation's new program, started last year, focused on vulnerable children in Africa, with an initial focus in Kenya, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Angola and Ethiopia. The funder is targeting food, WASH, disease and education. (Read more here.)

That's a pretty big agenda on a very big continent, even for a big foundation. On the other hand, it's hard to argue with the goals here. 

Headquartered in Washington, D.C., SOS Children’s Villages is active in over 130 countries in Africa, North America, South America, Asia, Europe and Oceania, and is considered one of the largest organizations dedicated to the world’s abandoned and orphaned children.

Parentless children are not the only focus of SOS’s programs. The organization also works with vulnerable children and families.

But Helmsley’s $1.6 million grant will not go toward general operating support for SOS as an outfit as a whole. Rather, the grant will go to support SOS’ EduCare program in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia.

EduCare helps to provide vulnerable children and their families with the services necessary to help the children continue their education. In Ethiopia specifically, elementary school enrollment rates have increased, but only 50 percent of children will complete their elementary school studies. To help improve those odds, SOS decided to follow up its successful Youth Education Program, with EduCare.

During its two years of operation, the Youth Education Program resulted in 85 percent of participating students continuing their education and 15 percent qualifying for forwarding their education in vocational colleges and universities.

EduCare hopes to ride on the coattails of the Youth Education Program’s success by helping around 1,000 out-of-school and at-risk students continue their education by helping out with school supplies, food stipends and access to health care. It will also provide tutoring services for its students that includes life-skill lessons.

The program also hopes to improve teacher competencies through continuing professional development and education classes at four major public schools in Ethiopia.

Finally, to bring the continuing education of young students full circle, SOS will work with the students’ caregivers toward helping them to improve their families’ economic security. These efforts include vocational training, advising on income-generating activities, and microfinancing support.

In developed countries, elementary aged students dropping out of school is a foreign concept. In developing countries, it’s all too common. Amid a tragic cycle of poverty, the children of poor families can't or don't stay in school, ending up illiterate themselves. The EduCare program aims to break this cycle. 

Of course, for those organizations seeking funds for similar work in Sub-Saharan Africa, the big takeaway of this story is that you may find a powerful friend in the Helmsley Charitable Trust, at least if you're working in the right countries.