Today I spent the day with Dundee, the co-founder and visionary behind Strong Hearts – the recipient organization of the first two solar lights. An incredibly special day for me.

Dundee’s real name is Getinet Tafesse. A few years ago a couple from PEI, Canada saw Dundee opening a pop bottle with his teeth, thought he looked liked Crocodile Dundee and since then the name has stuck. He said now even his parents call him Dundee.

He picked me up at Guenet’s Hotel in the center of Addis Ababa (which actually hasn’t been a hotel for years) where we had set up our camp. Our first stop was the super cute Strong Hearts School filled with the cutest, best-behaved kids I’d seen in all of Ethiopia (OMG – well behaved children DO exist in Ethiopia!!!!!!)

I had to wonder if they had shipped these kids in from Kenya, they were THAT good.

About 100 children attend this school and are broken into three grades – the equivalent of Kindergarten, Grade 1 and Grade 2. The story behind these kids and this school is pretty incredible. All of the children attending this school were specially selected; their parents either have HIV, Leprosy or are affected by extreme poverty.

The school is located blocks from the only Leprosy colony in all of Ethiopia, also making it one of the poorest areas of Addis Ababa. It is also conveniently located next to the city garbage dump. Prior to opening this school, Dundee went into the area and interviewed kids about their future dreams (he said most kids in Ethiopia want to be one of three things when they grow up a doctor, a pilot or a teacher/professor). But when he asked the kids from this area what they wanted to be it was either a garbage scrapper/picker or a thief – other occupational choices did not even exist in their wee minds.

This school provides the children with two meals a day, breakfast and lunch. Everyone knows it is easier to concentrate in school with food in your belly!

Besides the school, Strong Hearts has ventured out into other areas of the community as well.

A mini micro-financing department was opened two years ago. Ten women from the community were provided with sewing training and a loan to start their own repair business in 2010. These women are all now self-employed, paying off their sewing machines and start-up supplies and will have their loans paid back by the end of 2012.

A housing project was also started last year. Twenty-five local families were provided with a place to live and Strong Hearts paid 100% of their rent last year. This year the recipients had to pay 60% of their own rent and next year they will be responsible for 100%. Once these families are 100% self-sufficient, Strong Hearts will support another 25 families.

The next stop in my day with Dundee was a new office space that will be used for nurses and pharmacists heading the new medical program at Strong Hearts. These nurses and pharmacists will provide home visits/care to cancer and HIV patients. It will only be the second hospice care organization in all of Ethiopia.

Two of the solar lights my community helped me raise money for will be donated to two local families connected to the Strong Hearts community. The first family’s parents are blind and are not able to provide their family with any kind of electricity. Their children will now be able to study after dark. The second light will go to a family within the Leprosy colony. The father is very ill, cannot work and again cannot afford any electricity. These recipients are extremely grateful for the gift of light into their homes.

My day with Dundee was extremely interesting. He is passionate about his country, gave me a lot of insights into the Ethiopian government and confirmed some of my personal thoughts about the current situation in Ethiopia. But this blog post is about my amazing day at an organization doing some incredible work ( I will write another blog post about my personal thoughts on Ethiopia later). Dundee does not believe in giving anything away, especially money. You have to work for it, and continue working. He is one man changing Ethiopia for the better and I was so happy to have had the opportunity to spend the day with him. Thanks Dundee, for being Dundee and for being such a rock (star) in your community.

Ps:- this page is written by one of our guest from Canada!


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