PCVs in Ethiopia

‘Kids for Kids’ Continues

by Swathi Ayyagari (Quiha, Tigray 2015– )

Abadi Abreha, founder of “Kids for Kids,” first approached me in the spring of 2015 because he was looking to expand on his vision to educate primary school youths on topics spanning health, environment, and social responsibility concerns in the community, with the help of the Peace Corps.

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Swathi at Swearing-In

As a Volunteer in Ethiopia’s education sector, my primary work is centralized around children and their education. This coupled with my role as a high school English teacher at my site, Quiha, Tigray, seemed to convince Abadi that I would be the right Volunteer to help him advance his efforts.

Before I arrived on the scene, Abadi had worked diligently for several years to create and distribute music videos with songs about various youth development topics. (See Benjamin Morse’s article in the February 4, 2014 issue of The Herald).  Abadi wrote most of the music and lyrics for the songs himself while a partner, Biniyam Abrehe, penned music to accompany several of them. Abadi’s wife, Genet Kidane, edited the music videos and other community members helped to provide translations.

For the videos, kids from a local high school sang the songs in the regional language of Tigrigna for the education of other kids, providing the inspiration for “Kids for Kids” as the title of Abadi’s program.  The video topics include hand washing, exercise, nutrition, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, fetal alcohol syndrome, gender equality, disabilities, school pride, cheating on exams, and tree planting, all of which address pressing community needs. Youth in the region often lack knowledge about these health, environmental, and education-related topics, and they stand to benefit greatly from kid-friendly exposure to the information.

Under Abadi’s direction, I began to facilitate the implementation of his Kids for Kids program. Our first task was for Abadi to bring me up to speed on what he had already accomplished, and what he ultimately aimed to accomplish by expanding the project. The Kids for Kids materials had initially been distributed to only one town in Tigray, but Abadi had broader ambitions. He sought to open access to the music videos to every primary school in Tigray. Thus, the DVDs, CDs, and accompanying manuals would have to be professionally duplicated and distributed to the local governmental offices, which would then distribute materials to the schools. Knowing Abadi’s ambitions, we determined a budget for the project and decided to write a grant through the Peace Corps Partnership Program.

While waiting for grant approval and for funds to arrive, we solidified an action plan and methods to measure outcomes and results of the project.

We knew there would be a risk of local governmental offices or primary schools storing away the materials and never putting them to use. We decided to implement a pilot program at a primary school in Quiha to gage community reaction to the project. We met with the school director and the mini-media club director (a club that uses audio to transmit morning announcements and other educational messages) and asked them to choose twelve students with a broad range of interests to work with us. We then distributed copies of the CDs and DVDs to the students, who were given two weeks to view them and formulate their own opinions about the messages and relevance of the project.

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At the interviews. CLICK

At the end of the two-week time frame we returned to the school  to conduct video interviews with the school community. I was truly amazed at the students’ enthusiasm to talk about the project, even sometimes without being prompted. They were singing the songs throughout the day and were excited to talk at length about what they had learned. The pilot program has proven a resounding success, and all of those interviewed unanimously agreed that Kids for Kids is an innovative and necessary project worthy of expansion.

What’s next for Abadi and Kids for Kids?
Receiving helpful feedback and encouragement from the primary school has encouraged us to conduct further interviews with students and teachers at the local high school, as well as with members of relevant community groups such as: the Women’s Association and the HIV Association. We will compile these interviews and present them to the Regional Education Bureau with the hopes of securing support and encouragement to help us monitor and evaluate any broader use of the music videos. Meanwhile, we are currently having the materials professionally replicated in preparation for distribution. By the end of January, we will finish the materials production and the Education Bureau will begin distribution at the local level. We plan to produce 530 copies of the various DVDs, CDs, and manuals so that nearly every primary school in the region will be reached.

Having recently entered my second year of service, I often think about the impacts and sustainability of my efforts as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I want my projects to continue without me. I want my students to continue to learn and grow without me. That being said, I am confident in the sustainability and continuation of Abadi’s Kids for Kids program after I leave. The dedication and obvious desire to improve Tigrayan communities is evident in Abadi and the communities themselves. This is, after all, their project, and I am simply an advocate for their efforts and supporter of their successes.

 

 

 

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