“I want to be a scientist because I want to innovate new things, which may solve the problems of my community,” 15-year-old Kalkidan told us, standing in the yard of her school.
When Kalkidan walks through her community – a shanty town built by migrants in the capital of Ethiopia – she can think of a lot of things she would like to change.
“Since most households in the community are poor there is food insecurity,” Kalkidan explained, thinking about what concerns her most. “Many children around my village are also facing different types of dysentery disease because of the shortage of latrines and sewage systems. And, there is a lack of awareness and implementation of family planning.”
These are big issues for any 15-year-old to tackle, but Kalkidan doesn’t seem fazed. She believes that she and her friends have the skills and knowledge to do it – and they’ve already proven they can.
Shaping a healthier community
In her role as the leader of the Civic and Health Club at school, Kalkidan received training from Canadian Feed The Children’s local partner MCDP on personal hygiene and environmental sanitation.
Her goal is to share this knowledge with her classmates by organizing activities that help raise awareness and change practices, ultimately reducing the spread of disease. She’s helped to shape a healthier environment at school.
Now, Kalkidan is brainstorming ways to help move these initiatives beyond the classroom, encouraging her friends to help clean up their local environment too: “I am living in a town which is very crowded and shanty. Our dry and liquid waste disposal system is very poor. Thus, I planned to solve the problem and gather my friends to work with me on this issue.”
As for the problem of food insecurity, like any good scientist, Kalkidan searches for the root cause. She explained that while there is enough food available to purchase in the city, many community members cannot earn enough money to buy it.
It is a problem that is all too familiar for Kalkidan. Her hardworking grandmother struggles to earn enough to feed them both. Kalkidan can only afford to go to school because of the generous support she receives from Canadian Feed The Children’s donors.
The solution to hunger in her community, Kalkidan believes, is a good education and better paying jobs. She is determined to get both, saying “I have a dream to reach the highest level of education. Then I will be able to help my grandmother, who is the model for my strength.”
As a scientist in the making, and with the education to get her there, Kalkidan is confident she can find solutions to food insecurity, poor sanitation, and the lack of awareness of family planning.
“I feel it is my responsibility to contribute to children’s and my community’s health improvement initiatives. I want to work more, and if I start it here [in my community], I can expand it further in the future.”