Edmontonian Meheret Worku and her husband have supported the education of hundreds of Ethiopian children through their charity, SEEDS (the Sustainable East African Education and Development Society). 

By Roberta Bell (CBC News)

The nine-year-old girl showed up for class with her little brother, too young to be a student himself.

It turned out there was no one at home to care for the boy, said Meheret Worku, an Edmonton-based philanthropist whose charity sponsors 100 children at the Biruh Tesfa school in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The children’s mother had gone to work in the middle of the night, collecting garbage for the local landfill behind the family’s small home in exchange for money.

“She brought him because she wanted to be at school,” Meheret said. “This is the stable space for the kids. That’s why they show up.”

For 21 years, she and her husband, social worker Scott Smillie, have led a non-profit from their Edmonton home, supporting hundreds of Ethiopian children as they complete their education.

“I am here because of the opportunity I was given,” said Meheret, who grew up in Addis Ababa in the 1960s and 1970s. “They are me. They can do it.”

Meheret Worku, who teaches at Westbrook School in southwest Edmonton, spent most of July and part of August in her homeland.

“It opens your eyes,” she said. “Difficulties, poverty, money, opportunities, it all depends on how you see it.

“Because that’s what they have… they don’t look at it as a challenge.”

A position of privilege

Meheret Worku was the sixth daughter of an army general and his wife, born at a fragile point in Ethiopia’s history. The country, in constant conflict with neighboring Eritrea, was about to erupt into civil war.

Her father wanted his children to be safe, she said, and saw education as the key to ensuring that.

Continue reading this story at CBC News
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