Atti Worku, Founder Seeds of Africa Foundation
Everyone knows that glowing skin tends to arrive when we are happy and healthy. As studies have demonstrated, happiness is the best recipe for an inner-glow! But many may be surprised to learn that helping others kindles happiness. In fact, when researchers at the London School of Economics examined the relationship between volunteering and measures of happiness, they found the more people volunteered, the happier they were.
In honor of International Women’s Day, we sat down with former Miss Ethiopia, Columbia University Grad, and change-maker Atti Worku to learn about why investing in women is investing in the future. Founder of Seeds of Africa foundation, an innovative NGO that works with children and women in communities in Ethiopia, Atti has spent the last ten years helping others, a true inspiration for us all.
What is Seeds of Africa?
Atti Worku: Seeds of Africa is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization whose mission is to educate and nurture children and their families by providing quality education and community development programs. We move beyond the traditional aid model by shifting from mere relief efforts, to providing students, families, and communities with the resources and skills they need to support themselves and find local solutions to fight poverty, increase civic participation, and enhance community re-investment.
How did you start Seeds of Africa?
Atti Worku: I decided to start Seeds of Africa because of the experiences I had growing up in Adama, Ethiopia where our current programs are located. I learned that due to the lack of education and economic opportunities, families live in chronic poverty generation after generation. After doing some research, I realized that in-order to make long-lasting change, we need to invest in quality education and make it available to children who live in poverty. We also need to focus on working with the family as a unit because strong families are essential to raising children who will become leaders of their communities.
Since I did not have the experience of creating a not-for-profit before Seeds, I was nervous about starting an organization and launching programs. I was very lucky in the beginning because my girlfriends in New York at the time came onboard to support the work. We became a volunteer team with different roles (Education, Community Development, Fundraising, Administration and Marketing), and started with a very small pilot after-school program. We did not have any money so my mother, who lives in Adama let us use her house as the first location for our pilot. We then raised some funds, developed the program further and graduated the pilot into a full-time School. After working closely with the families, we added the community development component.
Why did you focus dually on education and Women's empowerment?
Atti Worku: We focused on women and children because they are the most vulnerable members of society. They also bring the most promise, investing in women and children is investing in the future. Our goal to make it possible for families to overcome poverty can be attained if we work on the root causes of poverty that target the most vulnerable.
What are the biggest achievements to date for Seeds of Africa?
Atti Worku: Being a witness to the direct impact our program has on women in the community is encouraging and inspiring. The women we work with report a significant increase in their income within a year. We see tangible change in their lives because they can afford to fix a leaking roof, buy furniture for their homes, provide adequate food and clothing for their children and start saving money.
What women inspire you most and why?
Atti Worku: I am inspired by girls and women who come from difficult circumstances but find a way to make a better life. I am inspired by most of the mothers we work with because of their dedication to change their lives, their business acumen, their focus and desire to give their children the opportunities they did not have growing up. That act of service is truly inspiring.
What advice would you have for a woman who wants to start her own organization or company?
Atti Worku: First, be sure you really want to do this and commit to the long run, it truly is a marathon. Then spend time researching your idea and if there are others with similar ideas out there, focus on something specific and you can build up layers on it. Surround yourself with the right people and most of all, just do it, don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid to fail, you learn a lot from your failures and you become a better entrepreneur.
Follow Seeds of Africa’s #BelieveinHer campaign and learn more about the organization Here.