Due to the ongoing crisis in Ethiopia, the regular work of our nonprofit, Friends of Mekele Blind School, has been gravely interrupted. We have no communication with the entire region of Tigray, where the school is located, due to a communications blackout. The banks are closed and food is scarce. We continue to get updates through word-of-mouth and stand by at a moment's notice to help when and where we can (such as our donation to "mama kits" in 2021). We thank you for your continued interest and concern for the students there. They are top of mind for us as we seek out additional information during the most distressing time since our group was founded.
We urge you to contact your respective local government officials and urge them to pressure the Ethiopian government for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
In the meantime, know that we are safely guarding your donations to jump in as opportunities arise to help. We thank you for your trust and confidence in us to redirect funds as needed and as we are able during this dire emergency situation.
Watch this wonderful video from Tom Pullen, a photojournalist graduate from Falmouth, UK. He returned from a visit to the blind school and put together this incredibly moving piece. Please visit Tom’s page to see more of his talented work: http://www.tompullen.co.uk/.
Helping Blind Children in Ethiopia
The Mekele Blind School in northern Ethiopia is a boarding school for approximately 90-130 blind boys and girls, ages 6-16. With the highest rate of preventable blindness in Africa, Ethiopia has a great need for this little school. Conditions at the school are harsh. The school has been water-insecure for years, and the quality of the water is poor. The students eat a very limited diet of white bread for breakfast and a pancake of injera for dinner. We have improved the diet since 2007 by sponsoring a fruit delivery twice per week. In addition, with the help of the Torrington Rotary, we have built a wonderful garden which grows chard, onions, zucchini and tomatoes. These are added to the meals, which we believe has bolstered the health of the children. In addition, we have hired a full-time gardener and pay his monthly salary.
When we first came upon the school in 2006, there were very few learning materials, no Braille books, no games or balls to play with, and no real supervision. There are three classrooms, and still only 2 qualified teachers. The children attend classes from 9:00 until noon, so meaningful learning simply cannot happen with the large student body versus the few instructors. Since then, we have made many improvements, including the building and staffing of a Braille library, now filled with over 500 Braille volumes. There is also a games room attached to the Braille library. Thanks to the generosity of so many of our supporters, it is now filled with learning aids and games for the children.
The status of the school is very complicated. It was started approximately 30 years ago by an Irish religious group, and along the way, management was abandoned. The Ethiopian government stepped in out of necessity, but the will to educate and care for these children by their government seemingly is not there. They are a neglected group of intelligent children, eager to learn anything someone might be willing to share. We are reminded of this every time we go to Mekele. These children teach us more about the capacity of the heart than one can describe.
Thank you for visiting our site. We feel certain that you will enjoy meeting the wonderful children at the Mekele Blind School as you peruse the pages here. Please feel free to contact us at anytime. We are always looking for donations of Braille books, learning aids, modified games and toys for blind children, first aid supplies or, of course, money.
Thank you for your support!
Chris Hanley, President and Founder
Friends of Mekele Blind School (FMBS)