Where Generations Meet


Group around a table

Ethiopia, the world’s most populated landlocked country, is nestled within the Horn of Africa. With a population of nearly 95 million that grows by millions each year, Ethiopia is facing a dramatic disparity between its people and essential services.

Eyerusalem Tessera migrated from Ethiopia to Canada at a young age. She wanted to pursue a master’s degree in public health and the opportunity to work in health services. As her career progressed, Eyerusalem found she wanted to return to Ethiopia in a professional capacity. “I have very strong ties here,” she says.

In 2012, Eyerusalem took on a six-month Diaspora volunteer placement with Cuso International. She travelled to Addis Ababa to work with the Professional Alliance for Development (PADet), an organization that delivers critical community-based programs in sexual and reproductive health, food security, and HIV/AIDS prevention and care.

As a healthcare administrator, Eyerusalem worked to organize efforts, monitor programs, and ensure that resources were mobilized and distributed to provide front-line care to as many people as possible.

“Local NGOs in Ethiopia are very constrained in terms of the amount of funding they receive,” explains Eyerusalem. “The problem is, most of [it] is earmarked to the last cent.”

For PADet, this meant funding was largely assigned to efforts in the field, leaving little room in the budget for administrative costs, supplies, training, and staff salary increases. As a result, PADet faced challenges like organizational growth and retaining skilled workers. Eyerusalem was tasked with identifying ways the organization could overcome these challenges.

By the end of her placement, Eyerusalem produced a resource-mobilization document to help PADet raise more donations, as well as volunteer recruitment and training materials, to help attract university graduates and build capacity at the same time.

Throughout her experience, Eyerusalem paid many visits to rural field offices, where the need is greatest. It was there that she observed the direct impact her efforts had on local people. “I can see my grandmother in that context,” says Eyerusalem. “I can see my work in contribution to that. It’s very rewarding.”