Stories and Articles
SDSU Business Alum Builds School in Ethiopia
In 2011, Gemechu Abraham had a life-altering experience.
Because of that experience, the Ethiopian village of Simbo has its first-ever school building.
Abraham (’11, management) was a 21-year-old SDSU senior when he traveled to his parents’ home country of Ethiopia. There, he ended up in Simbo (pop. 400) where he was shocked to see that children had no school building, but were being taught each day under a tree. And those were the lucky ones.
“In some cases,” said Abraham, “students had to walk many miles to attend school.”
Upon his return to the U.S. he presented what he saw to his social entrepreneurship class (management 455) which is taught by SDSU faculty member and social entrepreneur, Michael Sloan. Sloan worked with Abraham to help launch World Entrepreneurs Do Good (W.E. Do Good) as a class project, but Abraham took it a step further and established W.E. Do Good as a full-time social entrepreneurship enterprise.
Social entrepreneur organizations are defined as businesses that provide support to a specific societal cause while simultaneously realizing a profit. And while he does not stand to profit from the construction of the school, Abraham realized that he could develop other projects that could help the people of Simbo while still managing W.E. Do Good as a profitable company.
"We received a generous donation from a private party who read our story in the newspaper."
W.E. Do Good sought ways of gathering the necessary financial backing to build the school, but this did not happen overnight. “W.E. Do Good initially raised money through the sale of donated skin care products and through the fund-raising efforts of a fellow SDSU classmate to purchase a tarp that covered the roof of a make-shift shelter constructed by the villagers,” recalled Abraham.
As more funding became available, the concrete block foundation of the school began to emerge, but progress was still slow. That changed nearly overnight when an article about W.E. Do Good appeared in the San Diego Union-Tribune. “We received a generous donation from a private party who read our story in the newspaper,” said Abraham. “Her gift made it possible for us to move faster with construction and we were able to complete the structure at the end of 2015.”
Today, students from grades 1 – 4 attend the school in the morning and there are plans to expand lessons for grades 5 – 8 to attend in the afternoon.
"I’ve learned that people are willing to assist you if you are sincere in your objective of trying to do something positive for others."
The children of Simbo are not the only ones having the learning experience: Abraham learned some lessons as well. “I’ve learned that people are willing to assist you if you are sincere in your objective of trying to do something positive for others,” he said. “Also the ideas or plans you have are irrelevant until you make the effort to accomplish your objectives.”
With the school construction complete, W.E. Do Good remains committed to their goal of helping improve the lives of Ethiopians through the development of a portable threshing machine that has been proven to harvest grain much faster and with better sanitation than existing methods. In addition, the company has recently begun engineering work on a cart that allows individuals to more easily transport goods where there are poor-to-no roads. Both products will be used to help villagers establish micro-enterprises, which creates employment for the people of Simbo and a small profit for W.E. Do Good.
To those budding SDSU entrepreneurs wishing to pursue social entrepreneurship, Abraham offers a word of advice: “Be patient – you have to be willing to adapt to unforeseen situations in your quest for success.”