Read our latest news articles below, or browse through the archive by clicking a date on the left. 


    Project Update - November 2017


    David and I, two of the Directors of FGCF, just returned from an incredibly rewarding trip to Ethiopia.  We attended the opening of a new school in Wotet Abay and we visited our four existing schools (one still under construction) as well as three prospective new projects.  


    Our holistic approach is proving to be extraordinarily successful in terms of progress in teaching methods, school greening, and water and sanitation programs, and the buildings are bright, clean, and will be long lasting.  The approach is being recognized by the governments, communities, and educational institutions as very unique among NGO’s, and is being strongly supported.  As a testament to our reputation, the head of the Education Department for the entire Amhara region (equivalent to a provincial Minister of Education – there are 22 million people in the region) came to the opening of the Wotet Abay School, along with many other dignitaries.


    The Bahir Dar University has become a strong partner of FGCF, facilitating teacher training workshops and outcome measurement collection, providing a landscape architect and a forester to direct and supervise the greening of the schools, and donating approximately 3,000 fast growing, indigenous seedlings to each of our schools.  The University has also agreed to fund 30% of the cost of two new projects to be built in 2018.


    ICS, the international baccalaureate school that is our educational instruction partner, has not only provided teachers to give workshops, but has also facilitated a teacher shadowing program whereby some of the teachers from each of our schools shadow ICS teachers in their classrooms for a week at a time. ICS has also donated a large amount of educational materials to our schools.  The effect of the teacher training program is evident in the classrooms, as many more student-based learning materials are being used and the student participation is much greater than ever before.


    An expert in experiential and place-based learning, Bob Sharp, spent two weeks visiting Bahir Dar University and our schools in October, providing invaluable input into both our teacher training program and our greening program.


    A Dutch NGO, ISEE, has donated funds towards a special needs program, which not only accommodates special needs students in terms of infrastructure, but also provides numerous learning materials and resources specific to their needs.  In the old Wotet Abay school last year, there were 17 special needs students; 25 enrolled in our new school this year.


    We also have entered a partnership with an NGO called Operation Eyesight.  Under our agreement, students from the ophthalmology department at the University of Bahir Dar, along with staff hired by Operation Eyesight, will test students in our schools for impaired vision as well as eye diseases, and follow up on problems.


    On a go forward basis, with the additional funding from Bahir Dar University, we are hoping to do four school project schools in 2018.  Budget costs of the projects include classroom and latrine construction, books, furniture, teacher training, greening, sports equipment, and water and sanitation programs.

    Project Update - April 2017


    New Hire

    We are delighted to welcome a uniquely qualified professional, Abiyot Ashenafi, to our team. Abiyot has a master’s degree in Educational Psychology, a bachelor’s degree in Educational Planning and Management and fifteen years of experience in education related endeavours in both the public and non-profit sectors.

    He is based in Bahir Dar, the capital of the Amhara Regional State, and is responsible for all aspects of planning, facilitating, and follow-up monitoring the teacher training portion of our projects. (Read more at Our Team)

    New Projects

    Construction of two new schools in the Amhara region is underway: Wotet Abay Elementary School and Abay Mado First Cycle Elementary School. Wotet Abay involves tearing down and replacing broken down mud structures and Abay Mado is a new school. Both are desperately needed because of severe overcrowding in existing schools as well as poor quality of teachers and general education. Wotet Abay is home to 17 special needs students.

    Along with the physical construction of new school buildings and latrines, all furniture and books other than textbooks will be included in the project. Textbooks and staff are provided by the government.

    As with all FGCF projects, both Wotet Abay and Abay Mado will be based on our holistic approach, so teacher capacity workshops and water, sanitation and hygiene workshops will be provided, along with a greening program and sports fields and equipment. Additionally, follow up and outcome measurement of teacher training, student achievement, and student wellbeing will continue for three years.

    Read more at Wotet Abay and Abay Mado

    Project Update - October 2016

    David, Gina, and Danielle Gibbie, General Manager of one of our major funders, D. Keith MacDonald Foundation, recently returned from Ethiopia. The state of emergency restricted communications and some road travel; however, we were able to participate in the official grand openings of our two new schools, Azena and Abichikili, as well as visit our first school at Sebatamit. We felt incredibly rewarded by the happiness of students, teachers, parents, and administration alike at all of the schools and the apparent success of the teacher training and water and sanitation workshops at Sebatamit. We thank our donors from Whitehorse, Edmonton, Toronto and Calgary for your support in enabling such life changing opportunities for Ethiopians.

    In keeping with our mandate to measure outcomes as opposed to outputs, our quality of life survey (validated and widely used by the World Health Organization) is being administered in all three schools this week to determine a benchmark of student wellbeing. Further surveys will be administered for follow up and comparison to academic progress over the next three years in order to analyse effects of our projects and our holistic interventions.

    The bid opening for our next school, Abay/Mado, is expected to take place this month, with construction to start before the new year. The community is set to deposit 55% of the cost of this project (total cost $255,000) once the contract is signed. We visited two other schools in the region while we were in the country and approved them to be our next project sites, pending raising funds for them. 

    Our Executive Director, Yehalem is coming to Canada at the beginning of December and will be attending fundraising events and speaking engagements in Vancouver, Kelowna, Edmonton, Calgary, Whitehorse, and Toronto.

    Project Update - July 2016

    Yehalem, our Executive Director, recently traveled to the Amhara region to assess progress on the new Azena and Abichikili schools.  Construction on both is advancing well and they will be fully complete in August and ready for use well before the beginning of the academic year on September 28. The education department is responsible for assigning staff to the new schools and they have now almost finished, this after consultation with, and review of candidates by, Yehalem. Books have also been selected and ordered for the schools and plans are underway to make drinking water available. 

    Yehalem attended bid openings for local manufacturing of furniture for both schools.  The process is the same as for overall construction bids, whereby a number of contractors are invited to bid and the community is invited to attend the openings.  After the contracts are signed, a feast of goat and beer was held.  We are very pleased with the prices obtained, being well below the budgeted amounts for both Abichikili and Azena.

    David and Gina will attend the official openings at both Azena and Abichikili schools in October, hopefully accompanied by one of our donors.  

    At Sebatamit, the school on which construction was completed last year, the greening part of the project is proving to be very productive.  About 300 trees (including mango and avocado) have been planted and the first crop of cabbage has been harvested and distributed to families. 
    The best teaching practices and sanitation and hygiene workshops presented at Sebatamit have by all accounts proven to be extremely successful, with students and staff implementing procedures and taking them home to their families.  On his latest visit, Yehalem worked with the principal drafting an annual plan for the teachers regarding workshops and teaching and learning approaches.

    Our research consultant, Teddy Cosco, has located a metric for measuring wellness, as well as academic progress, which will be administered for the first time in all three of our schools in September, and re-administered on a continuing basis for longitudinal outcome measurement.  The metric has previously been used, translated into Amharic, the official Ethiopian language, and  validated in Amharic, by the World Health Organization.  

    The head of the regional education department has been commending FGCF’s model and contributions at every meeting he attends, and awarded us a certificate of outstanding contribution last month. 

    Project Update - May 2016

    Yehalem visited our projects at the end of May. Students and teachers are thoroughly enjoying their new Sebatamit school and show very encouraging signs of implementing the teachers training and sanitation and hygiene workshops. The latrine is fantastic! You would not believe the difference from the mucky hole cut out of a feces covered eucalyptus floor that existed before. 

    The students at Sebatamit are just beginning to plant a garden as per the greening and self sustaining part of the project. Meanwhile, school construction at both Azena and Abichikili is progressing well and on schedule. We plan to attend both of their inaugurations in October.

    Check out the galleries in the Sebatamit, Azena, Abichikili and Teacher Capacity Development Program pages for recent photos. 

    Also, if you have not had a chance to view the 3 1/2 minute video that we recently produced and put on our website, please check it out here.

    Project Update - April 2016


    Yehalem, our Executive Director, visited Sebatamit school to follow up on the Teacher Training and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene workshops held in January and February.  He was very pleased at the implementation of tools and techniques taught at both workshops – teachers being creative in the classrooms and the school compound and latrines clean and full of evidence of good sanitary practices.  He noted a vast improvement in hygiene awareness, and upon interviewing students and staff, learned that children have been taking the practices home and encouraging their families to dig their own latrine holes and use garbage bins.  The school has started implementing what they call the “Sebatamit Way: take care of yourself, take care of this place and take care of others”.  Tree planting has just started, and the school will shortly have potable water.

    Meanwhile, construction of the Azena and Abichikili schools are progressing well and both are expected to open in September. Community members have been continuously supervising the work being done and report to the Executive Director weekly.  They have been diligent and critical in their oversight, in one case, for example, sending back a full truckload of sand that they felt was of inferior quality.  Apart from these volunteer watchdogs, each project employs 15-25 local residents/day.  Teacher training and WaSH workshops are planned for both schools in September.

    Pursuing our holistic approach and praise for FGCF

    Holistic training

    In accordance with our holistic approach, in January both a five day teacher training workshop and a two day water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH) awareness workshop were held at the newly constructed Sebatamit Elementary School.  

    The teacher training was facilitated pursuant to our Memorandum of Understanding with the International Community School (ICS).  All of the 27 female and 8 male teachers at the school attended, along with the school heads.

    The WaSH program was funded by the D. Keith MacDonald Foundation of Calgary, Alberta, and put on by the Ethiopian Centre of CAWST (Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology). Twenty-two students were selected for the newly created WaSH club and they, along with three teachers, attended the workshop, learning facts about various diseases and the importance of water treatment and hygiene practices in their prevention.  A schedule has been set up for latrine and school cleanup, as well as a sharing by the students of their new knowledge with other students and family members at flag ceremonies three times a week. S

    Praise for FGCF

    The contract bid opening for the Abichikili First Cycle Secondary school took place in January. Yehalem reported that after the process and the usual feast, a number of those present stood and spoke. One parent said, “There were different capital projects that we were asked to contribute to. However, no one would think about involving us after collecting our cash. Today we were not invited to just watch the bidding process but to decide on who should bid, lead the bidding process and truly own the project from the start. For the first time today, parents’ opinions and decisions were sought more than our cash contributions.  I like to thank the charity for making feel us truly own the project.”  

    Another said, “Recently a charity paid close to 2 million birr to build two similar classroom blocks (more than twice today’s price). We were not involved in the bids and no one here knows how the contractor was selected. Hey guys, from now on we should not let this outrageous act to happen again! We have learnt so much today and we would like to thank FGCF for this eye opening and empowering experience."

    Directors Visit to Ethiopia


    Directors David Cosco, Gina Cosco, and JD Hole have just returned from two weeks in Ethiopia, where they travelled with Executive Director Yehalem Abebe, and attended two amazing celebrations: the grand inauguration of the now finished Sebatamit Elementary School and the contract bid opening for the Azena Elementary School, FGCF’s next project, about to start in December.  They also visited the extremely overcrowded existing Abichikili High School and the site that the community has chosen for FGCF to build a new one.  Click on the respective project pages to read more about the projects and view the pictures they brought back.

    Our first best teaching practices workshop with ICS

    Our first best teaching practices workshop, put on in conjunction with the International Community School of Addis Ababa (ICS), was a great success. 

    Thirty-six teachers, superintendents, and administrators attended the five day workshop and learned innovative, holistic teaching methods. FGCF is committed to a three year program of ongoing followup and mentorship of the participants. Check out a couple of pictures from the day below. 

    New Project - Azena School


    Great news - we are now embarking upon our second project, the New Azena School! We are now actively fundraising.

    The only existing school in the area draws about 2300 students from Azena town and 6 nearby rural villages. It is at maximum enrollment capacity.  Overcrowding, overage/delayed enrolment, school absenteeism, a high drop-out rate, and poor academic achievement have been identified as significant barriers to the quality of education in the school.  

    The proposed project is to build a new, more centrally located school that will reduce distance walked by many students by as much as 30 minutes.  At the same time, our holistic approach will include improving the quality of teaching and self-learning, improving water and sanitation facilities, greening the school, and enhancing family and community support to the students and the school.

    We encourage you to become a part of helping the Azena area children and building this project by making a donation. To find out more about this project visit the Azena School project page


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