It’s already been one year!

Can you believe that it’s already been a year since we found the location for our school?! We fell in love with it immediately and knew that it was the very place our school was supposed to be. It’s peaceful, has plenty of space for classrooms and there’s a beautiful area to play outside (which now has an awesome new playground!). We can’t wait to continue using this space as our school for years to come.

As is common in Ethiopia, we pay our rent yearly. Each month costs us $1,500, which is actually much cheaper than the going rate in the area our school is located. We are so grateful that many of you partnered with us last year by sponsoring a full month of rent.

We are now asking for your help again. Next month we will have to pay another full year of rent and are hoping that you will consider partnering with us to continue bringing the gift of education and hope to our students and their families.

We are currently looking for 12 sponsors who will each cover one month of rent.
Will you be the first?

www.FieldsofHopeInternational.org/Donate

Students

By | April 26th, 2017|Uncategorized|Comments Off on It’s already been one year!

Introducing our brand new playground!

We are beyond excited about our partnership with Out of the Box, a London based organization that is building awesome playgrounds in Ethiopia with locally sourced and sustainable materials. They designed and built us an amazing playground at our school and we couldn’t be happier with how it turned out! The kids got a chance to play on it for the first time yesterday and the only thing they didn’t like is when they were told it was time to leave! We are so happy that we now have an even better outdoor space for our students to play in.

Check below to see a quick video and some pictures of the kids playing and a celebration ceremony that we had with our students and their families, the Out of the Box team, our volunteers and our staff…

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By | April 24th, 2017|Celebration, Events, Uncategorized|Comments Off on Introducing our brand new playground!

Eyerusalem

Eyerusalem is one of the first ladies that we met as we were looking for families to include in our school. Her story was one of the most heartbreaking ones that we had ever heard, it truly broke our heart. It was clear that she needed help and we set out to try to figure out how to include her twin boys in our school. She also agreed to allow us to interview her and make a video about her story. You can watch it here:

The great news is that both of her students are now enrolled in our school! We are also trying to help her find a safer living environment and secure more stable income. We are so excited to see the power of hope already playing a role in transforming her life. We can’t wait to see what amazing things are in place for her and her boys!

By | January 20th, 2017|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Eyerusalem

Registering our students

A few days ago we had the privilege of getting to know our students and their parents a bit better. We took time with each parent to further explain our school, what we expect from them and what they can expect from us. We then gave them the option of registering for our school. We approached it this way out of a desire to respect these families throughout this whole process of serving them. Just because they are poor doesn’t mean they should be treated as if they are worth less than anyone else!
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While the parents were meeting with some of our staff, we gave the new students an opportunity to color or play with toys in our newly painted multi-purpose room. We had just picked up our order of paper mâché furniture from a local artisan and it was awesome to see these kids enjoying all the bright colors.

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eyerusalem-with-kirubel-and-jeremiah

It was a very humbling time for us to hear all of the difficulties that these families have faced over the years and how they have overcome challenge after devastating challenge. They have already proven that they will go to extreme lengths to provide for their children and that their love for them has no end. We hope to share more of their stories in the months ahead. But we at least wanted to share a few of their pictures with you for now.

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We are beyond excited to start the school year and we cannot wait to see what amazing stories of renewal and hope will spring out of their lives!

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By | September 25th, 2016|Images, Stories, Uncategorized|Comments Off on Registering our students

Video Update from Ethiopia!

Yetesfa Mesk International Academy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia will soon be a reality and we are beyond excited!

One of the major things that we have been doing recently is identifying the families who will be part of the first group supported by this school. Since we will start with preschool, we are looking for families who are the poorest of the poor and have children ages 2 and 3. We have already chosen a few of our first 20 students and are so excited to find the rest and get to know their stories.

In the meantime, we were able to have Bola from Inner Hub Productions come and visit us in Ethiopia. He produced this short documentary film that shows the life of a woman in Ethiopia and how our school is important for her. This woman’s story is one of the most challenging that we have ever heard and it broke all of our hearts. She is incredibly brave and is simply trying to raise her daughter the best way that she can. Unfortunately, things have been very tough for her and they are living a life that nobody should have to live.

The positive side of all of this is that we will be able to register this little girl in our school! Her mom will also get different kinds of support through the school as she looks for a new job. So, their story doesn’t have to end in despair. It can spring forward with hope!

Please take a few minutes to watch this video and then share it with anyone you think would be interested!

To find out more about us:

http://www.fieldsofhopeinternational.org/about-us

To learn more about the school:

http://www.fieldsofhopeinternational.org/yetesfa-mesk-international-academy/

To donate to our cause:

http://www.fieldsofhopeinternational.org/donate

 

By | June 16th, 2016|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Video Update from Ethiopia!

Thank YOU! – Rent Campaign Spring 2016

We at Fields of Hope are blown away by your support and love of our mission. We want to offer a HUGE thank you to all of you who donated to our rent campaign and are making it possible for children to receive the hope of education.

To give you an idea of where the rent money is going, here is a quick one minute ‘thank you video’ taking you on a tour of the school property.

But we aren’t out of the woods quite yet…the landlord was gracious and extended us a grace period – we still need 4.5 months rent ($6750 USD) by June 25th.

I urge you to share the mission of Fields of Hope with your friends and family: Our mission is to move entire families (single women and children) out of the generational cycle of prostitution and poverty, while giving them skills and hope that will last for generations.

The school is just one step forward. 

Learn More & Get Involved:
htttp://www.fieldsofhopeinternational.org/about-us

Donate & Give the Hope of an Education:
http://www.fieldsofhopeinternational.org/donate-to-the-school/

By | May 12th, 2016|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Thank YOU! – Rent Campaign Spring 2016

Yetesfa Mesk International Academy

In case you haven’t heard, Fields of Hope has been approved by the Ethiopian government to open a school called Yetesfa Mesk International Academy! We signed an agreement with the government a few weeks ago, which outlines exactly how this school will function. The process took us a little longer than one and a half years, so we are definitely glad to have reached this point!

Yetesfa Mesk International Academy will be an international standard, tuition free school for children who come from families in extreme poverty. We are mostly focused on children of mothers who are either currently involved in or are likely to become involved in low level prostitution. Because many of the girls born to these mothers will also start working as prostitutes as young as 8 years old, it is a major goal of ours to get these children in school as early as possible.

We will start with an initial group of twenty preschool aged children. From there, we will add a grade level and a new group of twenty students each year. Aside from educating the children, we will also focus on providing parental and skill training to the mothers. Through this, they will be able to strengthen their families and provide more stable sources of income.

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We have found a place for the school and signed a rental contract! The compound is in a perfect location, is just the right size, has enough space for classrooms, a wonderful outside area, cheaper than we expected…you get the point.

 

Originally, the price per month was about $1,850 per month. But, when the landlord heard about the purpose of the school, he lowered the price by 25% to $1,400 per month! With broker fees, our total will come to $1,500 per month. We are looking for 12 sponsors who will each cover one month of rent. In two weeks, we will need to pay for the full first year of rent, $18,000. We already have one family who has pledged to cover the first month!

 

Who will join us for the 11 remaining months?

Sponsor a month!

Currently these children and their mothers are living in a cycle of poverty, prostitution and despair. With your help, we can break that cycle and build a new one of hope, freedom and restoration.

 

We are proud members of Pack for a Purpose, an initiative that allows travelers like you to make a lasting impact in the community at your travel destination. If you save just a few kilos of space in your suitcase and take supplies for area schools or medical clinics in need, you’ll make a priceless impact in the lives of our local children and families. Please click here to see what supplies are needed for our project/projects.

 
Pack for a Purpose

By | April 15th, 2016|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Yetesfa Mesk International Academy

The last 15 months.

You are probably wondering why it has taken Fields of Hope such a long time to get registered in Ethiopia (and why we haven’t updated in so long!). So, we thought it would be good to write it all out and let you see what our journey has been like over the last 15 months as we went through the Foreign Charity registration process in Ethiopia.

After working on the Yetesfa Mesk International Academy project proposal for nearly two years, we started the registration process at the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington DC, USA in August of 2014. The application packet that we submitted included (but not limited to!) a copy of our registration as a non-profit organization in Pennsylvania, a copy of our bylaws, multiple letters signed by our board, a letter of support from the U.S. State Department, confirmation that we are a 501c3 organization and, finally, the project proposal itself. Four of the documents in the packet had to be notarized, authenticated by Pennsylvania, authenticated by the U.S. State Department and authenticated by the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington DC. It was a long process, but was very encouraging that the person who received our application at the embassy was excited about the school!

From there, our application packet was sent to the Ethiopian Foreign Affairs Office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. According to the Embassy in Washington DC, the application was to arrive at the Foreign Affairs office within 2-3 weeks. We checked with the Foreign Affairs office after a month, but were told that they had not received it nor anything else from the Embassy in Washington in quite some time. We continued to call and check if it had arrived and, after pressing them on the issue for a few weeks, they said that they had received it after all and that we should come in for a meeting; but, they also said that there were problems with our proposal that would need to be fixed. Little did we know that this would be the first of many office complications over the next few months.

We arrived at the office to have our meeting with the person reviewing our application, the same one who told us on the phone about the problems that needed to be fixed. To our surprise, they could not remember a single problem with our application and could not find the list of problems that they had written down. Even more surprising, after we answered a few of their questions, they told us that they would send it to their higher ups for final approval! By the time we got our approval from this office, it was the middle of November 2014.

Our application was then sent on to the Charities and Societies Agency (ChSA) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This is the office that every local and international non-profit organization must work with in order to receive their license to operate in Ethiopia. Upon arriving at the office, the person we needed to talk to was not there. But, we were told that we needed to fill out an application and rewrite our project proposal in their own format. Little did we know that we would be rewriting this project proposal over and over again for months to come.

We went home, filled out the application and rewrote the project proposal. We brought it back, only to find out that the format we had previously been given was outdated and we needed to rewrite it again in the new format! When we first met and discussed our proposal at the ChSA office, we were told that this project could never work and never get approved. We continued to discuss our project with this person and he ended up being in full support of our project and wrote letters of support to the next office that we had to meet with! After rewriting the proposal in the new format and a few more meetings, we found ourselves at the beginning of December 2014.

With our recommendation letter from the ChSA in hand, we proceeded to the Ministry of Education (MoE). Not surprisingly, we were initially met with opposition. The idea of a nonprofit school that charges no tuition could not fit into the current system. We simply asked that the person would review our proposal and then we could go on from there. To our surprise, the very next day the person was in full support of our project and asked us to talk to another team at the MoE!

We set up a meeting with the department head of the team in the MoE that we needed to work with. We were thrilled that he was very supportive of our project and even told us that they want to learn from us and collaborate in the future! We were told that the proposal would now be passed on to a team of people who would review it and work with us to get it approved. A few days went by until we were called in to have a meeting with the person leading that team. Before they would even review it, guess what we had to do? Rewrite our proposal in yet another format!

We submitted the rewrite and went back a few days later for a meeting. The person leading the team was very against our project from the start and gave us an entire list of things that would need to be removed or edited. Some of the things we couldn’t argue with and we removed them from our project proposal. Other things we left in because there is no law against them and we felt that they were crucial to our school. This person continued to fight us on wording and other activities in our proposal. This became a bit complicated because we are not just a school, but also a foreign charity. We continued to discuss and negotiate with this person over the next few weeks. By the way, the other three people on the reviewing team had no problem with our proposal and were all ready to sign off on it. After more than two months of edits, two more rewrites, meetings, arguments and negotiations; we finally received the approval from the Ministry of Education! By now, we were about at the end of February 2014, which was when the school project was originally scheduled to start. We were discouraged, but kept pressing on.

After we were done at the Ministry of Education, we had to go back to the Charities and Societies Agency to finish up some paperwork before we could receive our license. One of the things that we had to do was print the name Fields of Hope in two newspapers to notify the public of our application and to confirm that there is nobody else in Ethiopia using this name. Two weeks went by and we hadn’t seen our name printed. We went back to the ChSA to check and they said it had been sent to the publishers and that we should keep waiting. Another week went by, nothing in the papers. Again, we went back and asked what was going on and if there was anything else that we needed to do. They looked through their files and told us that the name had been printed after three days! We should have started looking sooner! We went and bought copies of the Amharic and English newspapers from that day and gave them to the ChSA. But, they were not satisfied with the Amharic translation and told us that we would need to get it reprinted. They thought that the ‘of’ in Fields of Hope should be pronounced like ‘off’. It took us a few hours to explain that the word ‘of’ is not pronounced like ‘off’ and, therefore, the Amharic translation in the newspaper was correct. They finally agreed and gave us our license that same day! This was on March 24th, 2015.

Little did we know that this was not the end of the line! From there, we would have to sign an agreement with the Addis Ababa Finance and Economic Development Bureau. We went to that office to see what their expectations and requirements were. No surprise here, they wanted us to rewrite our project proposal in yet another format (this was our sixth time rewriting this proposal!). We also had to rewrite our budget in their format, which was much more complicated than any of the other offices required. We went ahead and did the rewrites and submitted our proposal to this office. This was the beginning of April.

A few days went by and we didn’t hear anything. So, one of our team members went to the office to find out the status of our proposal. The person reviewing our application told us that we used their format, but not their wording. Because we couldn’t understand exactly what they meant, we set an appointment for all of us to go the following morning and figure it out.

We arrived at the office the next morning and the person reviewing our case picked apart our project proposal, told us that it was written all wrong, told us that we had no idea about nonprofit work, laughed at us and argued over every tiny detail. As an example, one of the things that we had to submit was a promissory note for funding from the Fields of Hope office in the US. We wrote this letter to say that Fields of Hope USA would “fully fund” the project in Ethiopia. This person told us that the term “fully fund” is not specific enough and that it could mean the head office was only planning on giving $5 or $10 to the Ethiopia project. They said that the letter should say the exact financial amount that the head office would fund. It took us nearly an hour to explain why the term “fully fund” was actually better and that a new letter would require being signed, notarized, authenticated by Pennsylvania, US State Department and the Ethiopian Embassy in DC. Finally they conceded their point. They also had a problem with our Fields of Hope stamp. They wanted it to be round instead of rectangle and with blue ink instead of black. This person actually told us that our stamp was not a stamp and proceeded to walk around the office and ask their coworkers if it looked like a stamp to them! All the coworkers said that it looked like a stamp, but this person would not give in. In short, it was the most difficult meeting that we had up to this point. We walked out of the office discouraged and angry. Thankfully we were near the best baklava in town, which cheered us all up a bit.

We set to overhauling our project proposal once again – for the seventh time. This was probably the most difficult rewrite yet. Instead of just being able to copy and paste the proposal we had already written into this new format, they wanted us to use new wording and change major aspects of our project. They also wanted the proposed budget to be written in extreme detail, down to the number of pencils and tape we would need for the next three years! After spending quite some time working on this new edit and when we were confident that they would accept it this time, we resubmitted the proposal.

Again, they were not satisfied and wanted further edits. We were discouraged, but not defeated. We moved on, rewrote the project for the eighth time and submitted again. Time went by, there was little to no communication. The person took vacation time, the election came and went and we couldn’t get any answer from them. After a few more meetings and a few more edits, we submitted it one last time to this office. Shortly after that, Dan and Ruth left for the US in anticipation of the birth of their son, Jeremiah. This was in May 2015.

Our team in Ethiopia continued to keep up communication with this office. Dan and Ruth would edit the project and email it over to be printed and resubmitted. Time continued to go on and the person at the office took more vacation. Finally, in November of 2015 we heard that they approved our project! In fact, the very person who had been so against our project had become gentle, humble and encouraging. They even went so far as to say that they trust us and will help us move on to other offices!

We received their letters of support and went on to the Addis Ababa Education Office. That’s where we stand now. We may have to edit another time or two, cross a few more t’s and dot a few more i’s; but we are nearly done! The last 15 months of paperwork have felt long, but we are so grateful that the end is in sight!

The next step in opening Yetesfa Mesk International Academy will be to raise $300,000 to cover the expenses of the first year. Every dollar counts and we hope that you will consider heading over to our donation page and partnering with us in this work. More information on other ways to get involved and donate will be coming soon!

By | December 1st, 2015|Uncategorized|Comments Off on The last 15 months.

Overdue update

Sometimes you mean to update the blog often, but then it takes you 6 months between posts! Let me catch you up on all things Fields of Hope…

Over the summer, we celebrated the 5 year anniversary of Fields of Hope. But, it was also a challenging time. Ruth and I were getting ready to leave the US after spending two years there. We made new friends, reconnected with old ones and got used to seeing our family often. Fields of Hope was also in the midst of a lot of changes and everything was new for us.

After a lot of prayer and consideration, we made the choice earlier this year to register Fields of Hope in Ethiopia instead of partnering with a local organization. We also decided to apply and open a tuition-free, non-profit school here in Addis Ababa. Ruth worked tirelessly on the project proposal and we both worked on all of the other paperwork (lots of authentications and letters). A few days before we moved to Ethiopia, we submitted all of the paperwork to the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington DC. A few weeks after that, we followed up with the Foreign Affairs office here in Addis Ababa. They told us that they hadn’t received the application, even though the Embassy told us it would be there in a matter of days. So, we waited some more. Over the next days and weeks, we continued to call and go back to the office until they finally found the application. There was some initial complications, but God was faithful and the paperwork was finished at the Foreign Affairs office in just over a month! In fact, the lady that was handling our application was excited about the project! This is a process that we have heard takes 7 months or more on average.

From there, our application went on to the Charities and Societies office. Again, there was some initial complications. But, again, God was good. We had to rewrite our entire project proposal to fit into their format and then resubmit it. After hearing our vision for the school, the guy that we were dealing with at this office was willing to quickly write us a recommendation letter to the Ministry of Education! He did this within a day!

So, with the recommendation letter in hand, we took our project proposal to the Ministry of Education for them to review. At this point, we are still working with them to come to an agreement on the project proposal. There are some complications because we are planning to have a Bible class on Saturdays. We are hoping that this process won’t take too long.

In the meantime, we also visited the Kebele (the smallest form of local government in Ethiopia) for the target area that we are planning to focus our school project on. Can you guess how they received the idea? They loved it! They were excited about it and told us that they are willing to work closely with us and support us with anything that we need. What’s more, they have already identified a group of about 15-20 women who are currently working as prostitutes and who want to leave that life. The only kind of help being offered to them is monthly handouts that aren’t even big enough to change their lives – the Kebele doesn’t want to give handouts, but wants to equip them. Our school project plans to work with 20 students in the first year. The Kebele already has a group picked out that could very well be the first group of students at Yetesfa Mesk International Academy!

Needless to say, we are blown away by all of this. Many times it takes well over a year (if not 2) to have an international non-profit approved to work in Ethiopia. While we aren’t done with the process, we are nearly finished and it’s only been four months! God has been good to us and to Fields of Hope and we are excited about what lies ahead. We are extremely excited about being able to actually start working and be done with the paperwork side of things.

As you are probably aware, the school isn’t the only project that Fields of Hope plans to do in Ethiopia. We are also working on developing a business plan for a farm and for a coffee shop. The farm will provide a place of restoration for women who are too hurt and abused to simply re-enter society. The coffee shop will provide meaningful and fair-paying employment to women who are leaving prostitution. Through all of these projects, we plan to break the cycle of poverty, prostitution and despair that enslaves tens of thousands of women across Addis Ababa. Then, together with the women, we will build a new cycle of hope, freedom and restoration. While none of the projects are yet a reality, we can see them growing ever larger on the horizon!

We are so excited about all of this! To make these dreams a reality, we need your help. As the year is coming to an end, please consider giving a tax-deductible donation to Fields of Hope. We are so thankful for all of you who have consistently encouraged us through your prayers, donations and communication this past year.

Thank you so much!

By | December 16th, 2014|News, Uncategorized|Comments Off on Overdue update