21 May 2012

Ethiopia: U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer Helps Renovate School

Washington — Young students in one Ethiopian community will have a better chance to continue their education thanks to Peace Corps volunteer Michael Waidmann.

Waidmann, a James Madison University graduate from Arlington, Virginia, is working with his community to rebuild and expand nine classrooms in the local primary school. The school has more than 1,500 students who share 11 classrooms made primarily of mud and eucalyptus branches.

"In a country where education is the only means to a better life, the reality of the primary school is heartbreaking," said Waidmann, according to a May 18 Peace Corps news release.

"By adding cement flooring, a brick exterior, and one extra classroom, the spread of disease will be drastically reduced, rats will be kept outside, flooding will be prevented, and the classroom held under a tree can move to a proper school environment."

The renovations will replace the walls of the classrooms with concrete and brick and provide new floors. The reconstruction will help create a safe and inviting learning environment for students and allow more students to attend the school.

With their basic educational needs addressed at the primary level, the students are more likely to succeed in higher education and attend secondary school.

"A school does not exist without a classroom," said Waidmann, who has been living and working as a business volunteer in Ethiopia since September 2010. "If this project is not completed, more kids will drop out, more kids will contract diseases, and the desire to learn will be drowned by a claustrophobic, cramped and diseased environment."

Experienced local contractors, designers and developers have already partnered to support the project, and the community and the local government have donated 40 percent of the total cost.

A portion of the funds for the project will be raised through the Peace Corps Partnership Program, which solicits donations to help support Peace Corps volunteer community projects worldwide. In order to receive funding through the Partnership Program, a community must contribute 25 percent of the total project cost and outline what will make the project a success. This helps ensure community ownership and a greater chance of long-term sustainability.

There are 133 Peace Corps volunteers serving in Ethiopia; more than 3,150 volunteers have served in the country since the program was established in 1962. Volunteers work in the areas of education, health, agriculture and the environment. They are trained and work in Amharic, Oromifa and Tigrinya.

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