Historical Foundation of Emmanuel Development Association (EDA) and Tessema Bekele’s Vision


Tessema Bekele’s Vision
A Founder’s Story

Who we are history overviewTessema Bekele, the founder of Emannuel Development Assocation, has a vision for the children of Ethiopia that he has actively been working towards since 1996, but his desire to help started long before.

At the age of two, Tessema’s father, a church priest named Woldegiogis Bekele, passed away leaving Tessema’s mother, Yeshi, with two daughters and two sons. The small salary that his father made at the church was all the income that the family had and without it life became very challenging. Tessema’s mother had to take care of her children without a permanent income.

Thanks to her resilience, she was able to create an income from petty trade and send Tessema to school. He had to say goodbye to his friends, the kids he normally played with on the street whose families could not afford to send them to school, and start his educational journey.

The road was a difficult one. One day, when Tessema was running barefoot home from school, he sliced open his foot on a sharp stone and came home bleeding. With tears in his eyes he went to his mother to tell her.

“My son,” she said, “don’t be discouraged and cry. Look at your friends who sit on the street in the dust. They don’t have the opportunity to go to school, but you do. If you work hard in school, then one day you can help these children by establishing a charity.” Tessema stopped crying. The words his mother said that day never left him and from that day on he knew he wanted to help poor children access education in the future.

Tessema was very successful in school. While in high school, Tessema worked as a coordinating leader to preach the word of Jesus Christ, but under the Military Dergthis was not allowed and Tessema was imprisoned for a year and tortured with electric shocks. Following this difficult year, Tessema joined the Air Force and trained as a pilot. This decision helped support his mother financially and his experience in the Air Force built his confidence and reinforced his commitment to helping others.

Thanks to Tessema’s academic achievements he joined the Addis Ababa University and completed a Bachelor’s Degreethrough the Business and Economics faculty in Business Administrationfrom the social sciences department. While in University, he began to better understand development and how to establish a charity. This led him to join World Vision Ethiopia, as a Program Coordinator in Northern Ethiopia. With this experience, Tessema got to learn more about child and community development as he managed 15 projects and led 200 staff. World Vision was vital in bringing a clear focus to Tessema’s vision. He wanted to establish a national development organisation in Ethiopia.

He shared this vision with friends and co-workers, but many people discouraged him by saying, “Don’t be ambitious and day dream, you have a very good position, salary and reputation here in World Vision.” This did not deter him, and the few friends who understood his vision committed to standing with him to save the lives of children in Ethiopia.

In 1996, Emmanuel Development Association was created. There were many initial challenges. The government required donor commitment before EDA could be registered as an official charity and at this point no international donors knew about the organization. Tessema convinced the government that he could raise local funds and was given a certificate to operate for only 6 months.

This was the point where Tessema had to decide how committed he was to his vision. He consulted with his wife, and with her support, he decided to resign from World Vision and raise funds for EDA. He took the $US 1000 which he got from World Vision and contributed it to EDA. There was no car, no office, just a committed board of directors and a community in need. EDA chose to help 30 street children who didn’t have access to basic education in the Akaki-Kaliti area. Within only 6 months, the project attracted the attention of the local community, the government and donors. Many private supports extended their hands and in one year the number of children EDA could support increased from 30 to 120. The first years were challenging, but thanks to community support, EDA survived. A room was donated as an office and many board members gave their free time to work for EDA.

From this point on, under the leadership of Tessema Bekele, EDA has grown to include not only basic education, but also child protection, water, sanitation and hygiene, community health, livelihoods and environmental sustainability. They have also expanded their work to the Amhara region, the Afar region and as of 2015 the Oromia region.

Emmanuel Development Association (EDA) is an indigenous development NGO, established in 1996 by its founder and Executive Director, Tessema Bekele. EDA envisions a bright future and protection for Ethiopian children. This vision was instilled during Mr. Bekele’s childhood by his single mother, who encouraged him to focus on his education and become someone who would give care and support to orphans and vulnerable children. Aspiring to help children and families below the poverty line, Mr. Bekele resigned from his job and accepted his severance pay of Ethiopian Birr 10,000, which he used as seed money to establish EDA.

The overall mission of EDA is to improve the lives of vulnerable children, youth, and women through integrated and community based development programs. With this vision, EDA’s activities are conducted in consultation and participation with beneficiaries and partners, fostering transparency and accountability with all of its partners. This has gained us the confidence and respect of our beneficiaries,government partners, and the donor community.

EDA’s program objectives focus on four interlinked areas, so that achieving one objective reinforces the achievement of other objectives. Ultimately, the four objectives contribute towards the achievement of one central goal—improving the wellbeing of children.

Here are EDA’s objectives over its current strategic period (2015-2019):

Objective 1. Improve child education and protection for 145,270 vulnerable children

Objective 2. Increase access to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WaSH) and community health services for 45,000 children and 100,000 community members

Objective 3. Enhance livelihoods of 41,000 households through improved environmental development

Objective 4. Strengthen capacity of 90 community based organizations (CBOs)

Note: Due to the dynamic nature of our development work, these objectives may be subject to change.

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