Through generous donations from more than 50 percent of Georgetown McDonough’s Executive MBA (EMBA) class of 2016, an orphanage has opened in Lalibela, Ethiopia, that houses eight girls between the ages of 14 and 18. Called the EMBA 21 Fund, the money raised provides a caretaker, housing, nourishment, and clothing to the young students who live in the home. The contributions to the EMBA 21 Fund are managed through Making the Grade, a nonprofit based in Atlanta that provides aid to Ethiopian children, within which a separate fund exists specifically for this cause.
For their final residency project, a group of nine EMBA students in the program’s 21st cohort traveled to Ethiopia to study health care in the country. The students, who called themselves the Africare team, were inspired to start the EMBA 21 Fund after traveling to Lalibela, a religious town in the mountains of Ethiopia. A friend of Adam Winder (EMBA ’16), a member of the Africare team, had opened several orphanages in the area through the organization Making the Grade. It was through this connection that the Georgetown McDonough students created the EMBA 21 Fund and opened the new orphanage.
Although the idea originated within the Africare team, the opening of the orphanage was made possible through the efforts of all EMBA 21 Fund donors.
"This isn't a group that went to Africa, came back, and started a fund,” said Winder. “It’s people who went to Africa, came up with an idea, had a personal connection, and then the whole class rallied together to build something big for these girls and help a group of smart, young scholars."
The girls were identified by the Ethiopian government as having harsh economic backgrounds and/or having no parents. Orphans in Ethiopia are considered an adult at the age of 14. Many are forced into marriage because they do not have the means to attend high school. The EMBA 21 Fund enables the girls to study instead.
"It became real for me when we were sent a picture of these girls on the very first day, and they all looked kind of scared and kind of intimidated,” said Erin Ryan (EMBA ’16). “You could tell that they came from a less than ideal home situation. And then after maybe three or four weeks, we got another batch of pictures, and they all looked really happy and so much more carefree.”
The EMBA 21 Fund seeks to assist the girls through high school. Its vision is that most donors will contribute for at least four years in order to meet this goal. According to Winder, the model will eventually expand to include a mentorship program and a direct connection between the EMBA class of 2016 and the girls through email.
Although the EMBA class of 2016 has already left the Hilltop, they remain connected through this cause.
"[The EMBA 21 Fund] ties in with what we learned from day one at Georgetown, following the Jesuit principles, but the program also is focused on the global nature of business and our world, and that it’s a small world,” said Caroline Nielson Decker (EMBA ’16). “Even though we are involved with the development and education of these girls thousands and thousands [of miles] and half a world away, it is extremely meaningful and important."