Q&A: How A Former Model Built A Dream School In Ethiopia

By Ann Brown AFKI Original Published: March 19, 2015, 3:48 am
Courtesy Seeds of Africa

Atti Worku, a former computer geek-turned-Miss Universe contestant who graduated cum
laude from Columbia University with a BA in sustainable development, had a dream to help children in her native Ethiopia.

A decade ago Seeds of Africa was merely an idea Worku had to create an educational program in Adama, Ethiopia, and ultimately build what she now calls the Dream School, a school meeting international educational standards for Ethiopian students.

Seeds of Africa Foundation is a community enhancement and development program that seeks to create a sustainable and independent Africa through education, stability and mentoring for gifted, underprivileged youth, so that they may become leaders of change in their continent.

Worku planted the seeds for her dream school back in 2005 by initially starting her organization. By 2008 the program and school was up and running.

The program, which is located in Ethiopia, has its headquartered in New York City, Worku’s home since 2005.

Today, the organization has a school with more than 50 students along with community-based programs for their families, including adult literacy classes, career development counseling, and even a micro-finance program to help women start small businesses.

It has been successful in fundraising, especially in gaining support from the U.S. philanthropic community – including a $1 million grant from the Alexander Soros Foundation, a major philanthropic American foundation.

AFKInsider had a chat with Worku on what the school is all about and how the program has grown over the years.

Atti ESAFKInsider: How does Seeds of Africa works?

Atti Worku: The mission of the Seeds of Africa Foundation is to educate, motivate and cultivate underprivileged children, young adults and communities through education and community development programs. We achieve our mission through a framework of innovative curriculum and support that exceeds the basic needs of a child and her/his family.

Our approach incorporates working with teachers, families, students and the local community to find local and long-term solutions to fight poverty. Our vision is to create a self-sustaining model for education and community development that can be replicated in other communities in Ethiopia and Africa.

Also, Seeds of Africa champions two major programs. First, Seeding Education offers world-class quality education to children, free of charge. In addition students receive school meals, uniforms, school supplies, and medical support. Second, Seeds immerses itself in the needs of the Adama community through our Sowing Community Program. Through Sowing Community, Seeds works with families to increase their household income and improve their quality of life through adult literacy courses, health education services and access to financial credit.

AFKInsider: Why did you launch the company?

Atti Worku: I launched Seeds of Africa because I believe education is the key tool that communities can use to fight chronic poverty. To achieve this, we  need programs that focus on providing world-class education to children and prepare them to compete in the global market.

AFKInsider: What has been your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?

Atti Worku: My biggest challenge was getting the courage to launch our first program after starting the organization in 2005. It took me three years to build the courage and the only way I was able to overcome this challenge was by starting to tell my idea to anyone who would listen, from friends to colleagues and that helped me recruit our first group of volunteer staff members who were incredibly instrumental in starting our pilot programs.

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  • Tedla Asfaw

    Should be Proud of Ethiopian names
    December 6, 2014

    by Tedla Asfaw

    Mind you had Barack Obama changed his birth name to Benjamin Obama to fit the Western world. Obama loved by many for his “brain”. Americans care less for his unique name. Few who hates him joke on his middle name Hussen.Should be Proud of Ethiopian names

    Come to our “elite” women. Ejigayehu is converted to Giji. Recently I saw the model named Atti Worku. Atti is building a prek to K school in Nazreth, Ethiopia on her birth place. A noble project which should be supported by all.

    Those children who are in her school surely be confused by name “Atti”. It is not an Ethiopian name at all. Will they be taught also to change their names like her ? Atti Worku birth name is an amazing name Atetegeb Tesfaye Worku.

    I wish I had a daughter I would love to give this name to her. It is especial name coined to reflect endless love to once child. The children in Atetegeb school should be learnt what there name means. Education starts by being proud in ones culture.

    Names are given to reflect parents wish. We should keep it and be proud of it. My boys have great name and they have not faced any embarrassment at all. Alemante, Yenenehe and Endalkachew names they got from their parents and grandparents.

    Ethiopian elite athletes are good examples, Derartu, Tirunesh, Meseret, Haile. Keneneisa. If we follow Atti’s example we might have Der, Terry. Mesy, Hal and Ken. That is unEthiopian.

    Let us be proud of our name and set example for future generation. Ethiopians have beautiful names no need to be “Ferenji”. Support Atetegeb Tesfaye Worku Dream School Initiative by coming to Harlem this coming Monday. For detail you can go to http://www.tadias.com