Founding and History of Aerie Africa
The Aerie Africa story began in 2002 with Mekdes Kelemu, the wife of a local physician in Wolaita Soddo. She noticed a young boy begging for money in the town. Moved by his homelessness and poverty, she took the boy to her home and cared for him. Over the next couple of years, Mekdes encountered other children living on the streets in Soddo and eventually found herself caring for four of these children in her home. As she became increasingly aware of the problem of orphans and vulnerable children in Soddo, she began exploring ways to provide a safe and caring space for these children.
In May of 2002, Pam Rundle, CEO of Children’s Cross Connection International, helped Mekdes realize her dream by authorizing the establishment of CCC Ethiopia. CCC Ethiopia quickly laid plans to support a home for orphaned children. The early children’s home was a modest rental building with 2 small bedrooms, an outdoor kitchen and toilet, and water only from a spigot in the front yard. Staff and caretakers were hired, and the number of children receiving care at the home quickly grew to 40.
The next milestone occurred in 2004 when Dr. Romeo Bachand, a pharmaceutical executive and practicing US physician, launched a campaign called Seeds of Hope. The goal of the Seeds of Hope was to generate funds for construction of a new orphanage building with much-needed dormitory-style rooms, study space, a play yard, and a kitchen and bathrooms with running water. By September of 2005, thanks to many individual and corporate donors, the new facility was a reality. Since 2005, this home, called the CCC Children’s Home, has provided long-term care to orphaned and vulnerable children in the region.
After 2005, the Seeds of Hope campaign developed into Aerie Africa, Inc., a US 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Through our sponsorship program and fundraising, Aerie Africa provides the funds necessary to run the CCC Children’s Home. Aerie Africa provides both financial and visionary oversight to the home. CCC, now an independent Ethiopian Resident Charity Organization, is registered and licensed with the Ethiopian federal Ministry of Charities and Societies, providing direct care to orphans and vulnerable children in southern Ethiopia. Aerie Africa and CCC have developed as two sides of the same coin; Aerie Africa as the donor and oversight body, and CCC as the implementing partner.
Aerie Africa and CCC recognize the value of education and training to improve the future lives of the children at the CCC Children’s Home. Because of overcrowding at government schools in Soddo, the kids at the CCC Children’s Home all attend tuition-based schools from the KG level through 10th grade. After 10th grade, depending on their scores on national exams, students can then attend the government preparatory school for 11th and 12th grade, or they can pursue vocational diploma programs. (Students in Ethiopia must qualify for university programs based on their 12th grade national exams.) Aerie Africa is committed to supporting students through higher education decrees.
In 2008, Aerie Africa / CCC started its transition program. This program is for our children who have grown up at the CCC Children’s Home and have reached the age of 18. It’s a 3-year program designed to help these young adults integrate into the larger community, develop a level of independence, and mitigate some of the effects of growing up in an institutional setting. It also helps ensure that our young adults gain some footing to live and support themselves after they technically “age out” of the children’s home. Aerie Africa provides financial support to these young adults to cover monthly rent, food, clothing, education and medical expenses. CCC staff provide logistical and emotional support. Many our young adults have passed through it and have transitioned to live integrated and independent lives.