21 October 2014

SOS Children’s Villages Receives $1.6 Million Grant from Helmsley Charitable Trust to Address School Dropout Crisis in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia

MEDIA CONTACT: Stephanie Rendon, 202.470.5182, srendon@sos-usa.org


Washington, DC – SOS Children’s Villages, the world’s largest organization dedicated to orphaned and abandoned children, announced today that it has received a $1.6 million grant from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust to fund its EduCare Program. The EduCare Program aims to provide vulnerable children and their families with vital services to increase grade-level completion rates in the city of Bahir Dar, Ethiopia.

In recent years, Ethiopia’s education system has experienced significant growth in primary school enrollment rates, but the number of students dropping out of school continues to be a challenge. The dropout rate in primary school is 13.1%, and fewer than 50% of students will complete their primary school studies. Sadly, without this educational foundation, the prospects for employment and achieving financial independence are significantly diminished. 

According to a study commissioned by the Ethiopian Ministry of Education, poverty is one of the leading factors contributing to the high dropout rate.

“The families of vulnerable children and youth oftentimes live in such extreme poverty that paying for school, uniforms and supplies is a luxury they cannot afford,” said Sahlemariam Abebe, Acting National Director of SOS Children’s Villages - Ethiopia. “This financial strain forces children to forgo schooling in order to work and financially help their families. Child labor – at its worst – can lead to prostitution and other forms of exploitation.”


EduCare is a follow-up to SOS Children’s Villages’ Youth Education Program (2012 - 2014) that successfully supported the education of 450 youth in partnership with four public schools in Bahir Dar. Results have been overwhelmingly positive: 85% of students are continuing their studies through the Youth Education Program; the remaining 15% have qualified to continue their education through vocational colleges or universities. The success of this initiative led SOS Children’s Villages to design a program that not only supports a greater number of students, but also helps vulnerable families become self-sufficient to ensure these students continue their education beyond the program’s implementation.


“In a country where poverty is prevalent, investment in education is critical to ensuring the most vulnerable communities have a chance for a brighter, more hopeful future,” said Walter Panzirer, a trustee of the Helmsley Charitable Trust. “We are honored to partner with SOS Children’s Villages to help launch EduCare, a program that aligns with our mission to improve lives through essential services like education.”


This school year, with support from the Helmsley Charitable Trust, EduCare will aim to increase grade-level completion rates in four public schools in Bahir Dar. Through this public-private partnership, SOS Children’s Villages will:


  • Enable 1,000 previously out-of-school or at-risk children or youth to continue their education through the provision of essential services. Student beneficiaries will receive school supplies, uniforms and food stipends, as well as access to primary health care services. For academic support, EduCare will provide tutoring, life-skills training and study skills sessions.
  • Increase teacher competencies and capacity at four public schools. Teachers and administrators will receive training and professional development opportunities. Grant funds will allow SOS Children’s Villages to purchase materials, equipment and furniture to be used in the classrooms, libraries and science labs at the four partner public schools.
  • Enable caregivers to become self-reliant. EduCare aims to increase the economic security of targeted families by providing vocational training, advice on income-generating activities and entrepreneurship, and micro-financing support. It will also strengthen the network of social supports available in partnership with community-based organizations and government officials.

“All children and youth have a fundamental human right to education. Unfortunately, poverty is a major barrier to education and forces many children and youth to assume adult responsibilities far too early in their lives,” said Lynn Croneberger, CEO of SOS Children’s Villages - USA. “This grant from the Helmsley Charitable Trust will help SOS have a significant impact on the lives of children and youth, their families, the community of Bahir Dar, and Ethiopia as a whole.”

About SOS Children’s Villages
SOS Children’s Villages is the world’s largest organization dedicated to orphaned and abandoned children, working in 134 countries and territories. SOS Children’s Villages provides the building blocks for a successful life: a happy childhood in a stable home, quality education and healthcare. Through its education, medical, family strengthening and outreach programs, it impacts the lives of over one million people each year.

About the Helmsley Charitable Trust
The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust aspires to improve lives by supporting exceptional nonprofits and other mission-aligned organizations in the U.S. and around the world in health, place-based initiatives, and education and human services. Since 2008, when the Trust began its active grantmaking, it has committed more than $1 billion to a wide range of charitable organizations. For more information on the Trust and its programs, please visit www.helmsleytrust.org.