“You have given our community a special gift. We are now one family sharing the same bond. You will always have a special place in our community and hearts.”

An outside view of the school blocks at Chicho

The newly-built classroom blocks.

That is the heartfelt words from Genene Abera, the local district administrator in Chicho, where we recently unveiled the brand new Giving Tree School.

The facility features eight classrooms, an early childhood education center, library, and gender-segregated latrines. It’s furnished with desks and chairs and well-equipped with books and teaching aids.

It was all possible thanks to Reed and Katie Colley, who are parents to two children born in Chicho. While on a return visit to Chicho with their four children; Jake, Olivia, Noah and Zoe; the family noticed the need for an improved facility so that the many kids in the village could get an education.

The Colley Family decided to partner with imagine1day to build a school to benefit the entire community.

“The Chicho community has given our family the most amazing gift – our two youngest children were born there – so we are proud to help provide a greater opportunity for the children of Chicho,” says Katie.

Reed says their family is especially proud to be a part of ensuring girls feel safe and comfortable attending school.  “As the father to two daughters, I want to help support a cultural shift in Ethiopia to invest in girls since their potential is unlimited.”

At 1462 students, the Giving Tree School has a burgeoning roll and had struggled to cater for every child in need of education. The school split its day into morning and afternoon shifts, and was still left with 72 students filling each classroom. These tiny spaces measured just 377 square feet (or 35m2).

Meanwhile, termites were eating away at the wooden frames, leaving the school buildings dangerously warped. The school’s sole toilet was out of use, as the corrugated iron sheets were burned by urine.

A young boy inside the new Chicho school

A young boy inside his new classroom.

That has all changed thanks to the love and generosity shown by the Colley family. The students of the Chicho community now have a modern, spacious environment to learn in, one built to withstand the elements. Proper, gender-segregated latrines provide a hygienic and private environment – particularly important for allowing teenage girls to continue attending school during menstruation.

Along with the Colley family, the Chicho community itself made an important contribution: raising $10,000 towards the school construction.

This is a colossal amount in one of the poorest countries in the world. It is a clear sign that the community is committed and invested in the long-term future of the school it helped build.

It means that the Colley family gift is not just for the Chicho students of today, but for generations to come.