Q&A: How A Former Model Built A Dream School In Ethiopia

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Written by Ann Brown
Courtesy Seeds of Africa
Courtesy Seeds of Africa

AFKInsider:  Why was an organization like Seeds of Africa necessary?

Atti Worku: Organizations like Seeds who focus on improving the quality of education and working with the family as a unit are necessary because without such efforts, it will be difficult, if not impossible to fight chronic poverty. In order for children to succeed and communities to come out of poverty, they need targeted programs that look at the family as a unit and provide the necessary interventions that lead to success. These include providing high quality education to children and supplementing the educational programs through family interventions that remove most barriers to success such as lack of healthcare, nutrition, and family income.

AFKInsider: Since you are headquartered in the U.S. do you get a lot of support from Americans?

Atti Worku: Yes we do, we get financial support as we do most of our fundraising in the US. We also receive support in the form of volunteers, interns, and generally people who are contributing their skills to support our programs.

AFKInsider: Does Ethiopia support your effort?

Atti Worku: Yes, we receive support from Ethiopia in terms of facilitating legal and other details for our programs.

AFKInsider: Switching gears from education, how did you get involved with beauty pageants?

Atti Worku: It was almost accidental. I was in college in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and started modeling around the same time. Then I was recruited to do a Miss Addis Ababa Pageant. After that, I competed in two pageants before becoming Miss Ethiopia in 2005. I never thought I would compete in beauty pageants, but I understood the tremendous prestige and opportunity that came out of winning a pageant that could help me launch an educational program that I have always been interested in.

AFKInsider: What was your experience like as a Miss Universe contestant?

Atti Worku: It was an interesting learning experience about how to be present in a group of over 80 women and still have your own identity. I have learned a lot from this experience, and saw some of the most beautiful places in Thailand. At the same time, it was a very stressful experience as you could imagine.

AFKInsider: What are your goals for 2015 for Seeds of Africa?

Atti Worku: Our main goal for this year is to break ground and start construction on the Dream School. The Dream School will be an Ethiopian academy that meets the highest international standards, preparing our students to succeed in high school, college, and beyond. It will house Seeding Education and Sowing Community programs for 600 students between Pre-K and 12th grade.

AFKInsider: What are your long-term goals?

Atti Worku: Our long-term goals are to expand Seeds of Africa’s work into other communities than Adama, Ethiopia. We plan to do this in the next five years.