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