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The IKEA Foundation Villages

Stories of growth & progress from year one

Story by A Glimmer of Hope April 5th, 2017

During Glimmer's first year of work in Medebay Zana, in partnership with the IKEA Foundation, we experienced stories of growth and progress. Across this community of 12 villages and 94,500 people, we found deep commitment to our five-year plan for education, clean water, health care and livelihoods projects, as well as great potential for long-lasting impact.

We hope you enjoy reflections from the past year through the photos and words of the people who are part of our work.


Rolling landscapes beginning to benefit from Glimmer irrigation projects. Families invested in the future of their community. Joyful, beautiful children.

Welcome to the vibrant community of Medebay Zana in the Tigray region of Ethiopia.

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Partnership at every level

Glimmer is working alongside village leaders and the local government to create a brighter future for families and children in Medebay Zana. This is a deeply committed community that has invested cash and labor in support of our projects. The local government is also supporting the success of projects with staff, materials and training.

Our local NGO partners and our Addis and U.S.-based staff regularly visited the community to take part in planning and monitoring of the projects. We also welcomed IKEA Foundation staff as they visited our projects and met with the people.

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"Knowledge is Power"

Improving educational opportunities in Medebay Zana was a high priority during year one. One primary school stood out as an example of what is possible when an existing school community is given the chance to reach more children with a quality education.

At Adi Habesay Complete Primary School, the incredibly dynamic principal, Nechay Beche, created a strong school community despite the terrible conditions. The existing school buildings were so dilapidated that the classrooms were unsafe for the children and teachers.

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Principal Beche lives with his family an hour-and-a-half walk from the school. He is so dedicated to the school that during his seven years as principal, he has stayed near the school during the week and walks home every weekend to be with his family.

Today, Principal Beche has the opportunity to provide the education he dreamed of for the school community he loves.

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"Knowledge Is Power," painted on the old crumbling school building at Adi Habesay, is a reflection of the deep dedication to education at this special school.

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With the brand new campus completed, the full power of education is unleashed for all the children living in this village. Now, the teachers and principal can truly ensure knowledge is theirs.

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With few opportunities to attend secondary school, many children in Medebay Zana are forced to drop out after grade eight. Glimmer began to address the gap in education during our first year of work with a brand new school in Adi Bearaj Village, where the people are incredibly committed to the future of their children.

To rally support from all villagers, a community leader wrote an open letter and visited churches to talk about the importance of secondary education. The now-vice principal of the school, Yamarshet Kidane, mobilized the community to make small donations per household to fund the ongoing operation of the school.

Students began enrolling as soon as the new school opened in October 2016. Two of the new students are leading the way for their children and their community – showing what is possible when you have the chance to pursue a complete education.

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Hadush, a father of four, left school when he started a family years ago, and seized the opportunity to attend his village's new secondary school.

“I know many talented students have been unable to continue their secondary education without a school near home. I never dreamed to go back to school. I’m highly excited and inspired when my village was chosen to get a secondary school. I would like to be an agriculturist to educate and further transform my people.”
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After Kewanit completed her primary education, her parents could not afford to send her to board at a high school in another town. She dropped out of school and married at a young age, putting a halt to her dreams. Now that Kewanit is attending Adi Bearaj Secondary School, her seven-year-old son will get to see her restart her journey and finish school.

"This is a life-changing opportunity that came to my village. Though it is terribly painful to spend so much time out of school, I’m glad to resume my education. I want to be a doctor after I finish university."

investing in family income

In year one, Glimmer began important irrigation projects that will build income and increase food security.

Letebrihan, a 50-year-old single mother of seven children, is one of 140 farmers who directly benefited from our first irrigation project here. When we first met Letebrihan, she was struggling to grow enough food to feed her family and relied on the government's food program to try to make ends meet during the dry months.

Today, the vibrancy of her irrigated land is a remarkable change.

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Letebrihan can now grow maize, onions and tomatoes on her irrigated land, increasing her harvests from one to three times annually. The increase in her crop production will help provide food to feed her family and sell at the market. She is incredibly excited to graduate from the food assistance program and support her family on her own.

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Negusie, an administrator in Kibirto Village, participated in Glimmer's planning meetings and advocated for a health center in his village during our first year of work. He knew that a higher standard of health care was needed to combat the fatal liver disease that disproportionately affected his village.


Negusie also participated actively in the construction process and ensured that materials were up to standard, even rejecting an order of 1,000 concrete blocks of inferior quality.

The new lower health center also received significant support from the regional government, which upgraded 17 kilometers of road from Zana Village into Kibirto at a cost of €1.1 million. The support from both the community and the government allowed us to prioritize this project for our first year of work.

Now that the new lower health center is operational, it will play a critical role in improving the health care for this remote, vulnerable population.


Our thanks to the IKEA Foundation for ongoing support and commitment to this important work we are engaging in together.

A map with the full list of projects Glimmer completed in the IKEA Foundation Villages during our first year can be viewed here: