Saturday, December 31, 2011

Fresh Water Comes to Fresh and Green

A basic necessity most of take for granted every day is a luxury for the majority of people in Ethiopia.
Drought and politics are two leading causes of water shortage. A study conducted by found that "42% of the population has access to a clean water supply" and only "11% of that number has access to adequate sanitation services"

Many of the students at Fresh and Green Academy suffer from intestinal problems due to the quality of the municipal water at the school and the stream water many of the families use at home. There was also a recent outbreak of Hepatitis A at the school that was thought to be caused by contaminated water.
This should no longer be a problem, thanks to the generosity of "A Child's Right" and their donors, Fresh and Green Academy now has clean drinking water, triple purified to kill 100% of harmful bacteria. The students will drink clean water at school and will also be taking water home for the rest of their families.

Friends of Fresh and Green Academy, along with the help of others is making the Kotebe neighborhood of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia a better place to live.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Human Trafficking Hits Home

Being an international flight attendant brings me many opportunities. One being my calling in Ethiopia. Another perk of my job is the exposure I have to a multitude of hotel rooms around the world and in those rooms I often watch CNN International. Currently CNN is running a campaign on stopping human trafficking. I have to admit, I was not aware of the many means humans are trafficked. I was under the impression it was mainly women and children being kidnapped and forced into the sex trade. I have learned that it is so much more than that and that some of our mothers in the "Friends of Fresh and Green Mothers Cooperative" have fallen prey to trafficking.
We work very hard to sell the Mother's goods and we send the group, which consists of fifty women, 100% of the money made but it is still not enough for them to feed their children who do not attend Fresh and Green and themselves and pay the $20-$25 a month rent. So a few of them have gone to work in Yemen and other Gulf countries to work as live in domestic help. They feel this is the only way to provide a better life for their children, who are left behind in Ethiopia.
Unfortunately four such children have had to leave Fresh and Green to stay with family outside the area of the school. These children may not be attending school or eating regularly the way they were while with us.
The other major issue with these women leaving is the abuse many suffer.

While I was told stories of abuse I thought they were isolated situations, I did not understand how wide spread and severe the situation really is. Human trafficking is hitting very close to home!

If you would like to donate to the Mothers Cooperative visit our website. We will also be featuring some of the items the mothers create on our site very soon.

Below is an excerpt from a story by Marina de Regt of the Netherlands, that explains the situation well.

Ethiopian women increasingly trafficked to Yemen
by Marina de Regt

Few know about the large numbers of Ethiopian women who migrate to the Middle East to take up domestic work.

“May what happened to me not happen to you,” begins a letter sent to Gebetta, a magazine for Ethiopians in Yemen. Many women have written to Gebetta with testimony of how they were trafficked to Yemen to be employed as domestic workers. They speak of deception, isolation, maltreatment, heavy workloads, unpaid salaries, confiscated passports and physical and psychological abuse. Many regret ever deciding to leave and advise other women not to follow in their footsteps. But the flow of young Ethiopian women desperate to improve their lives and those of their families continues to grow.

Until the early 1990s few Ethiopians – except those of Muslim/Arab origin – were interested in going to the Middle East. After the overthrow of the authoritarian regime of Mengistu Haile Meriam in 1991, Ethiopians were given the right to free movement. Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States have subsequently become major destinations for Ethiopian women in search of a better future.

Even a relatively poor country such as Yemen attracts many female Ethiopian migrants who take up paid domestic work. Changing family structures, the increased educational levels of Yemeni women, the growing number of employed women and changing attitudes towards domestic work explain the increased demand for domestic labour in Yemen. Socio-cultural constraints prevent Yemeni women from working as domestics – so migrant women meet the demand. Wealthier Yemenis prefer to employ Asian women but middle-class families predominantly employ Ethiopians because they are available and seen as good domestic workers. Somali refugee women also work as domestics but, unlike Ethiopians, do not generally ‘live in’.

Many Ethiopian women come to Yemen on tourist visas and find work via relatives and friends. Those illegally recruited by agents and employed on a contract basis are particularly vulnerable. All of the many recruitment agencies that arrange Ethiopian women’s employment as domestic workers to the Middle East are non-registered, they can be considered traffickers. Women are approached by the traffickers themselves or are introduced to traffickers through friends, neighbours and relatives. Trafficked women themselves are sometimes even involved in recruiting other migrants. Traffickers are often either of mixed descent – having a Yemeni father and an Ethiopian mother ­– or areYemenis born or brought up in Ethiopia. The Yemeni authorities lack the capacity to control the activities of illegal recruitment agents and it is often the case that traffickers are able to use influence with people in power to ensure that any legal actions against them are halted.

Women who have borrowed money from the agent or broker may end up in debt bondage, required to work long periods before they are able to pay off their debts. Many women have great difficulty leaving their employers and agents and physical abuse is common. Employers and agents often confiscate the women’s passports and forbid them to leave their place of employment unaccompanied. This makes it impossible for women to look for better jobs, to escape or to have contact with other Ethiopians. Trafficked women may, however, become aware of their rights and decide to run away and find better jobs. Some families therefore prefer to employ young rural Ethiopian women as they are thought to be more malleable and less likely to leave. As a result, traffickers in Ethiopia are purposely recruiting young uneducated women from poor families in rural areas, convincing them with stories about high salaries and educational opportunities. 

Please spread the word, tweet and post to your Face Book page. We can not ignore what happens to our fellow humans, we are more connected than we realize.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Soul Server

Time and time again I talk about how fortunate I am to know I am on the path that was intended for me. It may get old, but I truly feel it to be.

I just watched the movie "Soul Surfer" for the second time. (The first time was in Ethiopia) It is a very inspiring movie. The true story of a 13 year old girl who had her arm bitten off by a shark and how she found the strength to return to surfing and carry her message to the world. This girl happened to have a very strong Christian upbringing and an emense faith in God and Jesus.

I too feel I have a very strong "spiritual" side and it is getting stronger every day. I do not necessarily believe that there is any one religion, or maybe any at all that will "save" me or bring me to heaven. I feel our higher power will take care of us regardless because he/she/it is good, not because we are. I also believe that all religions are based on goodness and it is people that get confused. I know my Higher Power has led me to Ethiopia and I am doing the work not for myself but for the greater good. I am just a vechiel for that good.

I often struggle to do the job the universe has assigned me to the best of my ability. It is not always an easy task, but that is the way of the universe, life is not always easy. I am sure Bethany Hamilton (The "Soul Surfer") did not think her job of loosing her arm and carrying God's message was easy either.

I sometimes find it hard to believe that I have been trusted with such and awesome feat. But somehow I have, and I do not want to let the children, Muday, and my HP down. Many days I am stressed to the point of stomach aches worrying about how I am going to get the money to feed the children each month but somehow it always works out. Fornutatly, the Universe has sent the help of some very special people as well.

I believe we are all working as one to make the world a better place and I am happy to do my part.

Friday, July 15, 2011

How Peace Came to Be

by  Trish Hack-Rubinstein

I am blessed and honored to be able to help the wonderful children at Fresh and Green Academy. I have grown to love all of them and their families as well. I consider the director, Muday, one of my closest friends, the sister I never had.
Recently I was given the highest complement I could ever receive. I was asked to be the God Mother of Muday's newest baby and apparently that means naming the child as well.  I was so touched but at the same time pretty stressed out. (I actually thought, and kind of hoped she was kidding about the naming part.) Gregg and I do not have our own children so I have never had to contemplate what it takes to name a child.
I, of course, wanted the name to be meaningful and beautiful while respecting culture.
I looked up Ethiopian names, and enlisted the help of friends and family. I sent a list to Muday to choose from and in return, I got am email saying "you have to choose, even if it is an English name".
The stress mounted, I could not sleep. At this point the baby was a few days here on Earth already and she had no name. I wanted it to be perfect of course, I did not want to let my friends down.

Sooo... I turned it over to the Universe/God/Higher Power, if you will. I wrote a request for a name on paper and put it a very special box. Two days later, while getting on the subway to go to work an amazing feeling came over me. I started to cry and knew I had her name.
The word is Hindi for peace. I also offered my middle name, Lynn, which means waterfall in Gaelic. It was also the name of my Grandfather and Uncle who have both passed, as well as a childhood friend of mine who passed when we were teenagers and whom I believe to be one of my Guardian Angels.

I am so grateful for where I am in life and for the friends I have.

I have found "Peace" in Ethiopia.

With my great friend Muday, while she was pregnant.

With two of my great loves, Shanti and Gregg.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A Shift in Consciousness

Friends of Fresh and Green Academy Inc. has been in existence for over three years now and the change I have witnessed has been unbelievable. The change in my life has been pretty amazing too.
We have gone from three Flight Attendants who did not have a clue as to how to run a non profit to a small board of professionals with the connections to help us with what we have yet to learn.
I have read lots, attended seminars, done research, asked questions, and have received tons of advice. I am also currently taking a course on non-profit law and ethics by some highly respected people in the non-profit world.
I have finally learned how to ask for help and what kind of help actually is needed. 

I have begun a daily meditation and yoga practice that has truly helped center me. I still stress out a lot but I am better able to handle it. I can only do so much and as long as I am doing the best I can, the Universe will take care of the rest.

I have had some very spiritual moments lately.
-While at the school, I felt a moment when everything was in perfect order.  Dr. Gregg was adjusting the children, Lyuba was teaching yoga to the pre-schoolers, Elyse was working on a press release and Muday and I had just gone over the books.  I walked outside and I had an overwhelming feeling of joy.  All was right with the world at that exact moment.
-While on vacation in the Outer Banks of NC, I was making a point to not check my email before my morning routine. (when I do it seems to throw off my whole morning) So I went for a run, meditated, and did some yoga.  After my morning self care I finally checked my email on the iPhone.  I received the best news! We had done an online interview with CNN Online and the story was out!  We had such great response. I was answering emails for the next two days and watching the donations roll in. This was great exposure for us and it has gotten us some more child sponsors and a proper water purification system will soon be installed!

Things are going wonderfully and while it would be great to get that one big donation to take our worries away, I am very happy with all the support large or small. I trust that things will be what they will and am enjoying the journey. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Friends of Fresh and Green Academy Inc. has no opinion on the reposted story below. We only work for the betterment of the children and their families through education and nutrition.

I do want to bring your attention to (if you are not already aware of) a huge project in Ethiopia. Their leader says it will be very beneficial for the country and it's people.

Ethiopia's Grand Millennium Dam would be the 10th largest in the world - Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has officially laid the corner stone for Ethiopia's Grand Millennium Dam project to be built on the Blue Nile river. The project which is expected to generate 5,250 MW will cost $4.8 Billion dollar and will take four years to complete. Italy's Salini Costruttori is the prime contractor.

This massive project will be Africa's largest hydroelectric dam and the world's 10th largest. It will have twice the generating capacity of Hoover Dam in the United States and will have slightly lower than Robert-Bourassa, Canada's largest hydroelectric power plant which has 5616 MW generation capacity.

The Grand Millennium Dam would be by far Ethiopia's biggest infrastructure project to date. If all goes as planned, we certainly hope it will, it will be hard to overstate its importance to take Ethiopia out of poverty.

Hydroelectric power contributes 88% of the generation capacity in Ethiopia and 11% comes from Diesel and just 1% from Geo-Thermal. Ethiopia has a total generating capacity of 2,060 MW as of April 2011.

In the past 10 years, five hydroelectric power plants have been built and put in service with a total capacity of 1,437 MW, several more are under construction.

Reposted from

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

You Can Help by Sponsoring a Child

Monetary donations are a crucial part of the existence of Fresh and Green Academy and the “Child Sponsorship Program” helps guarantee the school will operate and the children will be fed. Every month barely enough money is sent to cover the costs of teachers salaries, food and rent. With your generous donations all the children will receive three meals a day and a quality education.

During the month of April the school expenses were as follows:
Food for 111 children three times a day-$1380.00
For $25.00 a month, the price of a dinner out, you will help all 111 students of Fresh and Green Academy eat three nutritious meals a day, have access to medical care, and continue to thrive in a loving and caring learning environment. You will receive periodic updates on the specific child you have sponsored but will be helping all the children.
Visit our website at to sponsor a child today!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Friends of Fresh and Green Academy's photostream


On March 24th, 2011 Friends of Fresh and Green Academy hosted it's "Good Karma" Spring Fundraiser. Over $5,000.00 was raised for the children and a great time was had by all!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Jetting to Ethiopia; Volunteer Trip with Friends of Fresh & Green Academy

Jetting to Ethiopia; Volunteer Trip with Friends of Fresh & Green Academy

by Lyuba Halkyn

Thanks to an interesting career that I have chosen, I am able to travel with my job while on the clock and on my days off from work. Throughout this year, I have been to London, Amsterdam, Thailand, just to name a few.

By far, the most inspiring and heartfelt trip that I have taken was to Ethiopia just a few weeks ago. The main objective of my trip was to volunteer with a non-profit organization called Friends of Fresh & Green Academy. This organization raises money for a private school, Fresh & Green Academy, located in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The 110 children that attend this school range from ages three to ten and are among Ethiopia’s poorest children. These children are not orphans, but live in conditions that would be unimaginable to most people living in the United States.

Fresh & Green Academy is able to provide three nutritious meals a day for the children and a nurturing environment for them to learn. The director of the school, Muday Mitiku, added a dinner meal for the children after overhearing a conversation between two of her students. The children discussed how hungry they were the night before at home, and how they could not wait to come to school that day to eat breakfast.

I was able to spend three full days with the amazing and bright students of Fresh & Green. These children are intelligent, and eager to please. They are patient, and full of love. The director of the school, the teachers, and the entire staff are extremely dedicated.

I was fortunate enough to travel with my good friend, Trish, who is the President and Co-founder of Friends of Fresh & Green Academy. Along with a non-paid board and many other volunteers, this organization raises money through fundraisers, donations, and child sponsors to keep this school afloat.

The advantages of Fresh & Green Academy versus a government school in Ethiopia are many. At this point, I must say that I have not personally visited a government school in Ethiopia, so all of what I say is based on conversations with highly regarded sources. Some of the benefits that these children receive at Fresh & Green are nutritious meals, clean clothing, and a place to take a shower, including soap and a towel. Their educational curriculum besides basic studies includes English, art, music, and a creative form of physical education. I was able to observe the children in these extra curricular activities where a music teacher and physical education teacher came to the school to add a creative touch to learning.

Also, in Ethiopia, kindergarten is not mandated. Fresh & Green Academy began as a kindergarten and has expanded to include a prekindergarten. The school now can accommodate many of the siblings of the older children.

While visiting the school, the kids taught us games and songs. We worked on a project with them. We also spent some time introducing the kids to some basic yoga, while Muday's husband translated for us. The kids had fun and were very patient with us. They are natural born yogis!

Muday Mitiku has also created a mothers’ cooperative. The children's mothers are able to come to the school one day a week to make local crafts, which provides a small income for them. Most of the children live with their mothers only. It is very common for fathers not to live with their families and in many instances to leave the mothers once the babies are born. Also disease and sickness is prevalent among the moms, including HIV & AIDS. Some of the children also suffer from similar issues but according to Muday, proper nutrition helps these kids to stay healthy.

I cannot explain in words, the joy that I have felt since returning from Ethiopia. In our daily lives as Americans, I feel that sometimes perspective is lost by the life of convenience and privilege that many of us lead. I will speak for myself when I say, I do not know what it is like to be hungry or poor.

My friend Trish told me before I left for Ethiopia, that this trip would be life changing. It is not that I did not believe her. I have traveled to poor places before. My travels throughout the last decade included a trip to visit family in Ukraine in which some of them did not even have indoor toilets.

With that being said, I believe my friend was right. The gifts that I have received from this trip are immeasurable, truly a unique experience. I noticed that while I was in Ethiopia, I was very present not thinking about the next moment, but truly engaged in each present moment. What a gift, not to be obsessing with unnecessary chatter in my head. I felt clear and happy the whole time I was there. I have found a hidden treasure in a school in Ethiopia with 110 plus smiling faces.

The kindness and generosity, which was shown to me by my new Ethiopian friends, was genuine. The food at Fresh & Green, that was prepared in a kitchen with not one modern day convenience, was delicious.

My adventure continued with a weekend excursion to Northern Ethiopia where I saw my first hippopotamus, not in captivity, but on Lake Tana, the source of the Nile River. We visited many small islands and interesting Orthodox monasteries with ancient artifacts. We hiked to the bottom of the Blue Nile Gorge Waterfall accompanied by local village boys who were very interesting and very eager to speak with us.

I was told many interesting stories, including how coffee was discovered. A goat herder, named Kaldi, noticed that his goats would come back from grazing everyday extremely happy. Kaldi followed the goats, and saw that they were eating an interesting plant, which made them very excited. This turned out to be what we today know as the coffee plant.

I was also privileged to eat at one of Addis Ababa’s most premiere Italian restaurants located in an area called Piazza. Ethiopia has an Italian influence due to the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in the 1930’s, under the reign of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie.

My trip was rich in culture, history, and adventure. Most of all, I was able to see with my own eyes, what a difference one school can make for some children and their families.

I plan on returning to Ethiopia to visit Fresh & Green Academy. I urge everyone to volunteer and find a cause to support, even if it is right in your own community.

For more information on Friends of Fresh & Green Academy, please visit