WHAT WE DO


Partners in the Horn of Africa, a Canadian charitable organization which undertakes aid projects in the Horn of Africa, operates on several simple but effective premises.

Partners does not use donated funds for administrative costs and 100% of donations go directly into our projects in Africa. Fundraising and other administrative work in Canada is done by Partners’ Canadian directors on a voluntary basis. In Africa our associates assist us in selecting projects and then overseeing their satisfactory completion. Again, this is done without cost on a voluntary basis.

Partners only undertakes projects in which local volunteer groups share the cost. Typically, Partners requires its African “partner” to contribute 15-20% of the overall cost of the project. Our “Partners'” contribution may be in cash or in labour. This ensures that Partners’ projects respond to real needs in local communities while at the same time involving Africans more directly in “helping themselves”.

Partners in the Horn of Africa favours small scale projects which are within reach of the local volunteer groups we work with and who are required to contribute towards the costs. Partners’ projects typically involve building medical and educational facilities or footbridges across rivers that are impassable in the rainy season. In the drought prone areas of the country we dig shallow wells and protect fresh water springs…essential in a country like Ethiopia where less than 25% of the population has access to clean water.

Partners is also involved in non-construction projects. In Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, Partners and its local “Partners” operate a group home/orphanage for children whose parents were lost to the HIV pandemic. Partners also runs programs to make older orphans and caregivers employable. We enrol students and cover their expenses in basic construction and cooking programs – with the idea of putting them in a position where they can support their younger siblings. We also are heavily involved in micro financing of marginalized women and in assisting them to participate in income generating projects where they can realize a decent income.


A Video Introduction to Partners

Watch “Gilgel Abay – Bridge Over The River Nile”, our introduction to Partners (here we are featuring a new shorter 10 ½ minute version with HD available) or click here to view our video gallery (including the original 15 1/2 minute version).

► Watch the video

Types of Projects

The Agarfa Footbridge

img.bridge_agarfaPartners' first project in Ethiopia involved the construction of a footbridge near the town of Agarfa in the Bale Mountains of Ethiopia. Bale is a wheat growing area in central Ethiopia located approximately 11,000 feet above sea level.

Footbridges are extremely important to the people of rural Ethiopia. Most Ethiopians live in small villages and travel to town by foot. Since all essential services are located in towns, access to them is crucial for medical care, schooling, shopping, and other necessities. During the rainy season the runoff in the steep mountains - and most of Ethiopia is mountainous - changes small streams into impassable rivers. In a society where all essential services are centralized the impact can be staggering. If you are seriously ill during the rainy season, you cannot get treatment. And with no access to local markets there is no way of generating income or buying necessities. Schooling has to be abandoned if you live on the wrong side of the river. Children who try to cross swollen rivers often risk drowning.

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Two kilometres outside of Agarfa there is a village of several thousand people which formerly was cut off from the town when the Weyb River became impassable during the rainy season. Partners decided to make a footbridge over the river its first project in Ethiopia. Partners entered into an arrangement with a local village group called Agarfa Self-Help Organization or "ASHO". ASHO agreed to contribute the local materials which would be required in the construction of the footbridge and to provide all the labour that was required. Partners then contracted with a local Ethiopian construction company to design and build the bridge in sections and transport it to Agarfa. Partners' contract with the construction company provided that on-site labour and local materials were to be provided by ASHO. The labour was significant. 1,000 man days were required because four, six-metre steel sections of footbridge had to be carried and then held in place by men standing on scaffolding while the welders fastened the sections together.

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The bridge was constructed on time and on budget and dramatically changed the lives of the villagers who had previously been isolated from services for three months each year. Villagers carrying sections of a footbridgeA year after the bridge was completed the real benefit of the project became apparent. At that time ASHO approached Partners with two more projects they wanted to proceed with. One project involved a high school library where the villagers had already raised 50% of the hard costs. The other project was another footbridge across the same river about 10 miles from the first - this one serving 25,000 people. Already local materials had been assembled at the site and bids solicited from two construction companies. ASHO had proceeded with these projects in the hope that another agreement could be reached with Partners but failing that, in the belief that they could make other arrangements if necessary. This, of course, is exactly what international aid should be trying to achieve - empowering people to bring about changes themselves.

Injera Ovens: A Success in the Making

img.assembled_injeraAzilda pats the cement mixture into one of the six moulds. Another of the women, Yelgathso, makes sure that the mould is filled and packed firmly enough so that the other women can remove the mould. Assembled Injera OvenEach mould is examined and checked for any cracks. Like a jigsaw puzzle, when the cement pieces are put together, they will form a new design of an injera oven - a simple thing which will transform these women's daily lives.

Injera, a pancake like bread, is a mainstay of the Ethiopian diet and served with every meal. For centuries, injera has been cooked over an open fire requiring large amounts of firewood.

As the supply of firewood decreases, more trees are cut down, causing more of the topsoil to erode. Since 70% of Ethiopians live off the land, this erosion is having devastating effects on their ability to farm and raise livestock.

It also means much more work for rural women who often go on foot as far askms. to gather firewood and then return carrying bundles of wood that weigh more than 30 kgs. It is literally back breaking work, withwomen stooped over like question marks.

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The new injera oven solves many of these challenges facing Ethiopians. The new design is a "closed" oven which uses about a quarter of the firewood required for an "open" fire.

Partners and AWWA, a grassroots Ethiopian charity that focuses on the welfare of women and children, are now involved in producing and distributing these ovens. As with all of Partners' projects, the local community is directly involved. Local women, like Azilda, are employed making the ovens. Other women are selected from each village and brought to the manufacturing site to learn how to assemble and operate the new ovens.

The ovens are sold to rural households for a modest price...about $5.00, paid for over time. There is no shortage of customers as local women see how these ovens can dramatically reduce their workload. This year's pilot project has produced and sold over 1000 ovens. Next year 4,000 more ovens will be manufactured and distributed.

img.sewing_programAccess to capital is one of the most difficult for the great majority of people in countries like Ethiopia. Many studies and practices have shown that one of the most effective ways to empower people is to give them access to capital. Partners in the Horn of Africa has partnered with Ethiopian local NGOs like Abba Woldetensae (AWWA), in Ethiopia to give small loans to mostly poor women in different parts of Ethiopia. The amount of money ranges from $80 to $300 depending where the project is and the woman’s borrowing record.

img.carrying_wood The stipulation of to the loan is that each person has to pay 5% interest, make regular repayment of principal and put approximately 2% of the loan amount into a personal savings account. Once the money fully paid off and the business is evaluated, then the merchant will be given double the amount of the original loan. The interest collected will be recycled to newcomers. The pictures show some starting and others are successful. These people…and we have almost 1000 women in three projects with AWWA, could become the most untapped powerful economic engine of Ethiopia.


Micro-financing Profiles:

Name: Alameetu Eshefae; Age: 40

Question Posed: Paraphrase of Recipient's Answer
What were you doing before you received the loan? Before micro-financing Alameetu was borrowing money from people she knew in the community to sell Tela (local beer). She was also a maid.
Amount and term of current loan: 450 Birr for 12 months (about CDN$56). She started out borrowing 50 Birr.
What are you using the loan for? i.e. What are you selling? Now she is selling food in a small restaurant. However, she says the money is not enough for expenses so she is still borrowing from friends.
How has this improved your life? This opportunity has produced very good changes in her life. Now her children are able to attend school. Other people charge her much more interest then micro-financing. Making tela was very hard work. She worked night and day and had no time for her family. Now the whole family is involved in the preparation and running of the restaurant.
What are your plans for the future? i.e. What will you do with more money? What are your goals? For the future, she wants to make her place much bigger. From her profits, she rents farmland for growing wheat. She eventually wants to own the farmland.

Micro-financing Profiles:

Name: Shamsu Idrise; Age: 65

Question Posed: Paraphrase of Recipient's Answer
What were you doing before you received the loan? Before micro-financing Shamsu was collecting and selling firewood. She sold a few spices. She was borrowing money from friends.
Amount and term of current loan: 300 Birr (About CDN$37)
What are you using the loan for? i.e. What are you selling? Now Shamsu sells many more spices and incense.
Why did you choose to sell this product? This is much easier on her health.
How has this improved your life? The interest on a micro-financing loan is much lower than alternatives. Now she has time for her children. She can now provide for her children and grandchildren. They can all go to school. They all have everything they need to survive. She says, however, she would like even more financing. Even though she is healthy, strong and happy, she has such a large family now and needs much more financing. Three of her grandchildren have lost parents to illness. These children, however, help her in the market to setup and dismantle. They also collect water and wood for her.

Micro-financing Profiles:

Name: Amena Alemu; Age: 56

Family Description: Amena is now widowed. Her husband died 15 years ago in the war with Eritrea. She has 5 grandchildren. She had 8 children but lost 7 of them. She does not know where her one remaining daughter is. The daughter left with a military man, leaving her 5 children with Amena 15 years ago.

What are your plans for the future? i.e. What will you do with more money? What are your goals?For the future, she plans to complete her house. She needs to provide for her orphaned grandchild. She wants to sell many more spices.

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Question Posed: Paraphrase of Recipient's Answer
What were you doing before you received the loan? Before micro-financing, Amena was selling shamata, a non-alcoholic drink.
Amount and term of current loan: 150 Birr which was repaid (about CDN$19). Next loan will be 250 Birr
What are you using the loan for? i.e. What are you selling? Bread and cheese. She rents a small restaurant from an individual.
How has this improved your life? She now has enough money to pay for her children to eat, have clothing and pay for her rent. Before receiving the loan her children were hungry a lot.
What are your plans for the future? i.e. What will you do with more money? What are your goals? She would like to eventually sell meat products. They are worth much more. Now she only sells fasting foods.

Pit Latrines/Bio Gas

Recently Partners completed an exciting project involving pit latrines and the creation of bio-gas in two elementary schools in West Gojam, the region in central Ethiopia surrounded by the Blue Nile.

Rural schools in Ethiopia defy understanding by people coming out of the North American school system. Ethiopia, a country the size of British Columbia, has more than 70 million inhabitants and a per capita annual income of less than $150 . Poverty is crushing and the resources available for education are scant. Schools run in two shifts: from 8 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. In the rural areas classrooms are typically built from mud over a eucalyptus frame and usually have neither electricity nor running water. Inside between 60 and 100 kids sit on benches, often without desks, writing on notebooks balanced on their knees. Light comes from two or three window-like openings cut out of the walls. Schools in the urban areas usually have outdoor pit latrines. But in the rural areas pit latrines are rare and kids must relieve themselves around the perimeter of the school grounds. The first step in improving educational facilities is to make schools fit places to spend time.

Partners has build pit latrines in two elementary schools in West Gojam which are novel, useful and educational. In each case two structures were built on the school grounds. The first building consists of four latrines on each side of a central wall - one set for girls, the other for boys. Waste from each latrine drains into a sealed, underground concrete tank. The tank itself is a bio-gas system creating methane gas which is transmitted through a copper line to a second cement block structure about 100 feet away. This is a lunch room where the methane fires burners so meals can be heated and tea warmed. A large outflow trough from the concrete tank allows neutralized waste to be extracted and applied to a vegetable garden. Waste no longer soils the ground and threatens the health of students. And in the process methane gas is created in a living educational experiment.

And even more recently Partners installed a huge Bio Gas digester in the main prison in Addis Ababa, converting the human waste and grey water of 2000 prisoners into methane gas than now fuels cooking stoves in the prison kitchens.

img.assembled_injeraWe are excited about our new sericulture project where rural Ethiopian women raise silkworms in their homes and then spin and sell silk from the cocoons. The silkworms eat the leaves of castor plants that grow wild throughout the country.

Our project is a low-tech operation with the women requiring nothing more than a couple of cardboard boxes for raising the silkworms and a drop spindle for spinning the silk. And because the work is done in the home it is one of the only ways for housebound moms to earn income. A great project!

New ClassroomPartners’ main focus in Ethiopia is on improving schools and facilitating access to them. We build a lot of classroom blocks and outfit them with desks. Presently, in most rural schools in Ethiopia kids sit on crude benches (and often on rocks or logs) taking notes on pads balanced on their knees. And the schools are very crowded, often with upwards of 100 kids in classrooms. We can put up a very good cement block building consisting of 4 classrooms for approximately $50,000 and supply it with excellent desks (three kids to a desk) for another $6,000. At the end of the day it is hard to find a more predictably successful way of assisting a country like Ethiopia than by investing in its education system. That system is presently in very poor shape and this at a time when the population is skyrocketing. Everywhere there is a need for more schools and educational facilities.

img.new_libraryEthiopian rural schools are crowded and without toilet facilities. Kids “do their business” in and around the school and, not surprisingly, the premises are not very nice places to spend time. So, Partners tries to provide sanitary latrine facilities at the schools where we build classrooms and libraries. These are particularly important for the girls who are too modest to use the fields around the school and, as a result find attendance difficult.

Recently Partners started a project which provides modified panties and washable sanitary pads to several thousand rural students. Before this, young girls would simply stay at home a few days each month as they have no access to the kind of supplies which young Canadian girls take for granted.

Check out these profiles of some of our school projects:

➤ 50 School Libraries for Gojjam Region

➤ Dembecha Elementary School

➤ Gubaya High School - Completed in 2008

In Ethiopia only 22.5% of the population has access to clean water. This shortage has many adverse consequences, not all of them immediately obvious. First, as one would expect, there is a high incidence of waterborne diseases. There are also medical problems related to personal hygiene when water is too scarce to allow regular washing. Not so obvious is the impact a scarcity of water has on girls’ education. In areas where water is not easily accessible young girls often have to spend several hours each day fetching water from far off locations. And, in the result they are often held back from school in order to bring water to their households.

In order to address this issue Partners devotes a lot of time and energy to digging shallow wells and protecting springs. These projects are ideal for Partners’ model. Digging wells is an activity that a community can easily participate in and which requires no special skills. It also provided immediate and obvious benefits to the community and fosters a strong sense of “can-do” in the process. And, by and large, wells are not expensive. Partners can put a well in place that will serve a community of 1000 people for approximately $4,000. Protecting existing springs is a little more expensive but requires less maintenance over the long haul.

Featured Projects

Partners in the Horn of Africa - Project Summary for 2014

Our 2014 Project Summary demonstrates the diversity of our projects. These projects are proposed by the communities themselves, or by the community-based organizations already present and working in these areas to address unmet needs. Partners’ model requires communities to contribute at least 15% of the project’s total cost and to be a part of the project’s design, implementation and ongoing monitoring.

One of our new partners this year is the Ethiopian Cancer Association. They are are opening a centre where very poor patients, often from remote areas, who are receiving treatment at the only radiotherapy centre in the country, can find free accommodation, food, transportation to the hospital, and care and pain management.

The latest World Giving Index ranks Canada as the second most generous country in the world (after the U.S.A.) in terms of charitable giving, volunteering, and helping a stranger. At Partners, we see this spirit of giving in action every day. Thanks to supporters like you, together we can play a role in assisting individuals, families and communities in Ethiopia to meet their own needs and goals.

2014 Project Summary

ClubPenguinLogo-120wClub Penguin believes that one person, big or small, has the power to change the world. The Club Penguin team is there to help their players make a difference, in their own communities and around the globe through programs like Coins For Change. Every year Club Penguin gives a percentage of their net profits to support this vision in the following three areas:

Build Safe Places

Club Penguin thinks every child deserves a safe place to live, learn, and play. Through their donations, they help build playgrounds, schools, libraries, and community centers around the world.

Protect the Earth

Club Penguin wants to be friendly neighbors to all the amazing animals in the world. Through their donations, they help educate kids on how to protect endangered species and their habitats.

Provide Medical Help

Club Penguin wants to help kids and families live longer, happier, healthier lives. Through their donations, they help provide communities with medical training, access to clean water, and hospitals.

Club Penguin (clubpenguin.com), is the #1 virtual world for children. Club Penguin works to maintain a fun and safe online entertainment experience by using filtering technology and live moderators. The award-winning virtual world of Club Penguin contains no third-party advertising and is free to use and enjoy, however a subscription membership provides access to additional features that enhance the play experience. Club Penguin, headquartered in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada, is enjoyed by children around the world, and can be played in English, German, Portuguese, French and Spanish.

Dembecha-Elelmentary-School

Students in a new classroom at Dembecha Elementary School funded by Club Penguin and the community

Club Penguin has become an enthusiastic supporter of Partners in the Horn of Africa since 2007 and we are very thankful for their support. They have built entire schools and library additions and funded ongoing support for education, play therapy and activities for orphans of AIDS and for our micro-financing programs.

Their "Coins For Change" program enables players of Club Penguin every December to work together to support projects around the world. Their support of Partners has raised our profile immensely around the world.

Since 2007, Club Penguin has made the following projects possible with their generous support of Partners in the Horn of Africa:

  • Libraries, books and reading rooms for 34 rural elementary schools! (2009-present)
  • Support for orphans and vulnerable children attending Adet Kindergarten and Group Home (2009-present)
  • Dembecha Elementary School comprehensive project: classroom and library construction, latrines, biogas digester, and income-generating bakery & tea room (2009)
  • Gubaya High School construction, furnishing, and books supply (2008)
  • Micro-financing programs for women (2007)
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Two girls reading in a new library funded by Club Penguin and the community


EBA_logo_smEBA Engineering Consultants, a TetraTech Company and their employees have made a generous 10 year commitment to work with Partners in the Horn of Africa to support Ethiopia rural aid projects. Through corporate aid, staff contributions, and on-the-ground participation, EBA has worked in several rural communities in Ethiopia, constructing new water wells, rebuilding and equipping village schools, and undertaking critical reforestation/ground stabilization projects.

The following profiles their first project with Partners, the Wollo spring protection project:

img.mendina_finishedsprWhen Terry Hillaby, a vice-president of EBA Engineering Consulting in Edmonton, was planning the celebration for the company’s 40th anniversary, he knew he wanted to reflect a company core value –“improving its communities.” After hearing about the successful work that Partners in the Horn of Africa and its “partner,” the Ethiopian charity, AWWA, were doing in the drought stricken region of Wollo, the engineering firm knew it could help. EBA decided to assist and fund the construction of “cribs” and reservoirs to protect and retain water from year round springs. Partners and AWWA have been working with the local villagers in this Northern Ethiopian region for the past couple of years to improve the residents’ supply of drinking water. Water borne parasites are one of the leading causes of death and disease in Ethiopia. Less than 25% of the population has access to clean water. The spring protection project undertaken by Partners, AWWA and EBA will develop and protect five separate water supply systems.

img.mendina_springThe company chose Brian Adeney, one of its senior engineers, as the project leader. “ I was selected because I had a background in water resources and could judge how EBA’s resources could best be allocated to benefit the project. I was also excited about sharing the information with the rest of the employees and willing to travel in harsh conditions, having previously helped out with hurricane relief in the Caribbean.”

Brian worked with Tesfaye Tefera, an Ethiopian engineer who prepared all the costing, scheduling and supervising of the work. Their goal was to provide separate collection areas - one for drinking water and one for livestock and washing. Their team looked at 10 potential sites for spring protection. They tested the water and selected 5 with suitable water flow and easy access for the villagers. More than 1,000 people will benefit from each of these sites.

The Ethiopian rainy season begins in June, so construction started in March with some urgency. All supplies, including hand shovels, cement, rocks and piping, had to be carried to the work site by donkey or man. And, as it true in all Partners’ projects, the local villagers provide the labour as their contribution to this much needed and appreciated project.

img.tesfaye_springThe benefits to the Ethiopian villagers are obvious. However, the excitement about the project within EBA has been enormous. Brian has given 6 presentations of his Ethiopian experiences within the company and in February he spoke to senior managers and clients about EBA’s involvement to an enthusiastic response. A second engineer, Katherine Johnston from EBA’s Whitehorse office has been chosen to go to Ethiopia in May to oversee some of the construction. She also will be taking CARE packages with her for the villagers from other employees of EBA.

For Brian, his excitement extends beyond EBA. Once construction work is completed in Ethiopia, he plans to speak to other engineering groups and associations. He says, “It has been an incredible experience not only to share my engineering knowledge but also to learn so much about the Ethiopian people by living and working with them for a common goal.”

For Partners in the Horn of Africa, the spring protection project marks a new form of “partnership”, one involving the “hands on” participation of Canadian firms helping Ethiopians to help themselves.