Seeing Ethiopia with CFTC

Seeing Ethiopia with CFTC
By Tim Prince
Chair, Finance & Audit Committee
CFTC Board of Directors

I’ve been grateful and privileged to serve on Canadian Feed The Children’s Board of Directors since 2016 and as Chair of the Finance & Audit Committee since 2018. While I’ve lived and worked abroad during my life, I had a steep learning curve to get up to speed on how non-profits in the international development space function. And, of course, I’ve had a particular eye – given my training as an accountant – on the numbers.

While I’ll always be a strong voice for numbers telling a story, there is no replacement for real-life experience. So it was incredibly eye-opening seeing Ethiopia with CFTC, meeting the people and visiting the places that I had up to that point known only on paper.

In a nutshell, I under-appreciated the amazing work being done by CFTC and its local partners in Ethiopia. While CFTC staff does a tremendous job keeping the Board – and their donors and public – informed, there is really no way to capture the energy, the commitment and the tangible impact of our generous donors’ support in the field.

Innovative ways to make life better for children

With Jacquelyn Wright, President & CEO and, on right, Mulu Haile, Executive Director of MCDP.

Everyone I met impressed me with their professionalism and capabilities. I met award-winning educator and community leader Mulu Haile who runs the non-profit Mission for Community Development Programme (MCDP) which has partnered with CFTC since the mid-2000s. We attended the grand opening of a truly innovative concept that MCDP, in collaboration with CFTC and other funders, has launched: an early childhood care and education centre in a jail. Now, some of Addis’s most vulnerable children – those whose mothers (often single or widowed) are imprisoned – are not left uncared for and homeless, which is a real problem in the area.

Professional, capable local partners

Poring over the books in the offices of CFTC’s local partner, CHADET with Berhanu Ajema, Project Manager (on left) and Betselot Sisay, Project Accountant (centre).

I visited the offices of CHADET, another long-term CFTC partner, who generously and proudly opened up their books and processes to me. I was impressed with the strong financial and management practices CFTC’s local partners demonstrated overall and CHADET was no exception. Berhanu and Betselot are running a tight ship and their efforts to steward and account for donors’ dollars inspired a lot of confidence.

Women leading the way

Perhaps most impressive and even humbling were the women I met who are leading income-generating groups in remote, impoverished areas of Ethiopia.

One of the members of an Ethiopian Village Savings & Loans Association showing their business plan.

They are dynamic leaders with the tools and knowledge to bring about lasting change. They have faced, and will continue to face, many challenges due not only to their economic situation but also due to long-entrenched gender inequities. But these women have found their voice and are working in solidarity with each other to claim their right to a healthy, productive, more prosperous future for themselves and their families. I have absolutely no doubt that they will succeed.

Strong legacy and bright future

CFTC has done some excellent work over its tenure in Ethiopia, most recently in the successful wrap-up of the Global Affairs Canada-funded MILEAR project. I saw some key strengths that I know point not only to CFTC’s history of adding value to their partners and in the communities, but also to CFTC’s tremendous future potential. CFTC is well-aligned with GAC’s 2020 priorities of gender equality, evidence-based outcomes and financial stability. The resources that CFTC is providing to local organizations and communities are being well-stewarded and used to truly make a difference in children’s lives.

I’d encourage anyone involved on a board of directors to make sure to get out to visit the communities it is your organization’s mission to serve. Not only does it better equip us to act in our governance role, but it brings to life the full richness of the work. I have always believed whole-heartedly in CFTC’s mission and the strategies they are using to achieve it – but now I can share real-life examples of the people and places behind the numbers. I hope to be able to speak with even a fraction of the passion and dedication that I saw every day during my two weeks in Ethiopia!