THE LALIBELA FUND AND PROJECT
Kevin and Patricia “Patty” Brabazon founded the Lalibela Fund on their wedding day – August 25, 2019 – following a very moving and inspiring visit to Lalibela, Ethiopia organized by Unity Earth, an interfaith, global peace organization. The mission of the Fund is to eliminate extreme poverty and hunger in the City of Lalibela and reduce poverty overall by providing access and supportive services necessary for all children to graduate high school. The work of the Lalibela Fund is a demonstration project for the NGO Committee on Intergenerational Solidarity at the United Nations (COIGENS) which promotes Social Security systems as the most effective way to eliminate extreme poverty and hunger globally. In this context, the Lalibela Fund is working within the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through 2030.
Intergenerational approaches to community development and social work have many different influences, but in all cases, they embody the implementation of the two most important concepts regarding the social systems humans build, namely: Honor your Father and your Mother and Love your Neighbor as yourself (the “Golden Rule”). This approach focuses on the three-generational family as the core structure in society, the concept advocated by Generations United, the NGO Kevin represents at the United Nations.
GOALS AND OBJECTIVES OF THE LALIBELA PROJECT
1.Eliminate Extreme Poverty amongst the target groups in the City of Lalibela, namely Older People and People with Disabilities. Globally, these are two epicenters of extreme poverty – poverty that is characterized by insufficient food and therefore insufficient calories to do a day’s work even if employment were available, and very often, too few calories to perform the basic activities of living. What follows is an impaired immune system wih greater susceptibility to illness.
- Supplementary Income is provided on a monthly basis that lifts 200 participants out of extreme poverty
- Health insurance is provided, and participants can add up to four other family members to the policy: adult children and grandchildren are typically added.
The ultimate goal of this program is to show the Government that the Project is economically positive, i.e. contributes significantly to economic growth, as well as social development. As a sponsor of the Lalibela Project, the goal of the NGO Committee on Intergenerational Solidarity is to convince the United Nations to set up an office that will assist governments to set up similar national programs. The potential impact of this project is truly global.
2.Fnsure the Graduation of all Children from High School. There are many barriers to high school (in Lalibela the high school is in the city center): some students live too far away to commute daily; some have to walk 2 or more hours each way and work on family farms when they get home; some have no families; some can get to school but have no food; some get home after dark to villages with no electricity and study is difficult; some have no shoes and won’t go to school because they get bullied; some have no uniforms which are now required by the government; and more situations we find frequently.
-The primary service we provide is a stipend to students for working with an older, isolated person. Students work one day or two half days a week. They provide escort services, collect firewood, wash clothes, take grains to the mill, and “visit” for conversation and companionship. They provide other volunteer services in school holidays, working with the project director.
-A sample of other services include a feeding program for 40 students for primary and high school students; a generator and computer purchased for an elementary school (all their equipment was stolen in the civil conflict when the city was occupied) – the school agreed to provide electricity to the village and house a study group for high school students who could only study after dark. We recruited two retired teachers for our stipended older adult volunteer program as tutors for the program which includes over 30 students. We buy shoes and uniforms as needed and we recently started providing teachers and a library in the prison, at the request of the Arch Priest, where 63% of prisoners are illiterate. We use a modified “Settlement House” approach for this part of the program, identifying needs and resources as they arise. Where we find “barriers to service” or students at high risk of dropping out, we try to remove the barriers and provide the means and incentive to stay in school.
3.Stabilizing Families with Elder Volunteers/Foster Grandparents. Older volunteers have valuable life experience and knowledge that can be valuable to families and children. The volunteers help to stabilize families under stress and retired teachers provide valuable teaching and tutoring skills.
-Volunteers receive a stipend similar to the students. Twelve volunteers are currently placed with single parent households in which the husband/father has abandoned the family. Mothers left with large families and difficulties working and also looking after young children get support from an older, wiser “grandmother”. Eight retired schoolteachers bring their knowledge and experience to young people struggling to get the support they need.
Operation of the Fund was assumed by the New York State Intergenerational Network (NYSIgN) which began the Lalibela Project in April 2020, partnering with an Ethiopian NGO, “Dires for Development”, which works in various parts of the country with people with disabilities. NYSIgN is a tax-exempt nonprofit organization and donations are 100% tax-deductible.