By Etenesh Abera @EteneshAb
Addis Abeba – It was in 2001 when Muday Mitiku graduated from Kotebe Teacher’s College in Education and opened a preschool across the street from the college at her young age. Muday and her partner opened a private preschool academy. Muday is a founder of The Muday Association and is serving as the Executive Director of Fresh and Green Academy and the Mother’s Cooperative. Muday is married to Anteneh Legese, with whom she has three daughters and many adopted children.
The school enrolled students who are capable of the monthly payment but Muday decided to enroll the street children from the surrounding without payment since they were ready to join the school. “While I was on my way from work to home I encountered less fortunate families on the street along with their children who were supposed to join the school. These families were incapable of paying even for government schools that askes for very minimal amounts of money,” says Muday as she tells her story going back to when she started her charitable work.
She then decided to accept street children and provide them with meals and school uniforms along with the regular students from paying families. Discomfort however came from some families who don’t want their children to sit with the street children. But there were still few who said it was okay as long as it didn’t harm the education environment in the school. After a while though, Muday completely changed the school to be a home for orphanages and vulnerable street children including their mothers as part of her dream to empower women.
The Muday charity was virtually funded by Muday’s personal income, which sets it apart from similar charities and local non-governmental organizations. “When you establish a charitable organization back in the days, for most people, it seemed like a means of personal business that you profit from it in the name of the less fortunate, although it has changed now. However, from experience we know that the exact fund that reaches the needy is not more than 10 percent of the whole fund raised,” says Muday.
The charity association became popular when it got an operational license in 2012, as Muday Association was formed becoming a registered charity in Ethiopia and has been working for more than 22 years now. She adds, “We merely took the license as a charity association because donors cannot support us legally while we have a profitable business organization license.”
Muday also said that in the current years, the changing attitudes of society about volunteering in such organizations, proactively encouraging such endeavors. “Love week is another method in which the center appreciates volunteerism in the society. It is an annual week-long event in where our 650 children meet professionals of different backgrounds and be optimistic for their future while appreciating the volunteerism.” she explains.
In more than 22 years of service, Muday empowered more than 1300 mothers directly. Inside the association compound more than 750 children, mothers, and elderly live together while more than 350 children are supported outside the compound living with their families. “The 1300 mothers have become financially independent by launching their own businesses or being employed somewhere after taking training from our training center. We have further supported more than 5000 students for different specific reasons, in addition to about 100 students who graduated from college and university.”
The founder highlighted the ‘forgotten pandemic HIV’, Muday said it is one of the many challenges she encountered in her association. “Currently, we have 450 mothers in which more than 75 percent of them are HIV patients who were sex workers and street beggars. My first adopted son was also HIV positive, alienated from the local society, and lost his mother to the virus. I am glad he will graduate this year.” she said. Her fear is that since the problem is not spoken out properly, many are losing their lives to the virus. In connection to this, regarding medications, she indicated they are working with government health centers.
For Muday, working with prostitutes and needy women is a priority because she believes that they are the foundations to many families in different ways. Muday to this aspect said, “Most of my staff are from those vulnerable parts of the society.” During the interview, Addis Standard observed trainers of different traditional waving and production of materials inside the small compound and small showroom in which products are ready for display and sale.
One of the very recent challenges of the Association that has a broader extent is the advancement of Covid-19. “Our association has survived for the last 22 years because it was funded by another business of mine which is baking and exporting injera, traditional outfits, and preparing spices,” said Muday. Unfortunately, Covid-19 forced them to quit the export and depend on volunteer individuals who were themselves tested by the expensive living cost and with the mercy of the other remaining businesses run by her. Inside her business, she employed more than 1000 individuals who are supporting the charity work indirectly.
According to Muday, her sole wish is to make the charity association continue her legacy even if she is not around. “This place is a rental house, and we are paying 180,000 ETB per month. The owners gave us a second warning to leave the place until March 2022, our deadline. What we need is a permanent solution before March 2022, otherwise, we will be forced to dissolve the center that would leave the elderly, mothers, and children to find themselves back on the streets.”
Muday sadly recalled that there were some elders who decided to commit suicide last June out of frustrations of going back to the streets when the first warning from the house owners came.
Last April, Addis Abeba’s Mayor, Adanche Abiebie, promised to provide land and build a shelter which, however, has not yet happened to be practical from their end, according to Muday. “We are grateful for the financial support from the Mayor, but we dearly need the land since we are running out of time and March 2022 is very close,” Muday says that the city cabinet was allocated land, but it has not yet been freed from former settlers of the identified land.
If they get the land, Muday says she wants to build a temporary shelter for immediate use and a transitional period, until they build a proper building. She said, “This issue of the land should not be my only burden, rather everyone is responsible.” The founder of the charity association is courageous enough to be an example for others, as to make it possible to run a charity organization from your own resources.
Likewise, the number of internally displaced people is the other challenge for Muday. ”I don’t know the exact reason but Internally displaced elders are coming in huge numbers from time to time. As you can see we don’t have enough places to be a shelter for them because we will feed them on a daily basis. Our homes are open for volunteers.’’
Where can I go from my home?
Selamawit (Name changed) is a mother of two, staying in the association for more than ten years. ’’I am working as a babysitter for children including my own son. Muday is a mother to all of us. That’s the word. I have nothing to add.’’ Selamawit brokenheartedly replied when asked where would they go if they are to lose the place they are staying. “Where can I go from home? The government should give us a solution,’’ said Selamawit with a tearful eye. AS