Established in late 1991, the Tigrai Development Association (TDA) has worked to free Ethiopia’s Tigrai region from poverty and set it on the road to prosperity by strengthening its infrastructure, providing aid, and building and supporting schools. TDA was founded in Washington, D.C., by volunteers from the Ethiopian diaspora, and after a few years its headquarters were moved to Mekelle, Ethiopia, so the organization could be closer to the people that it serves. The organization now has branches around the world, including locations in Australia, Europe, North America, and the Middle East.
A tax-exempt nonprofit organization
A tax-exempt nonprofit organization, TDA is registered with Ethiopia’s Ministry of Justice Charities, and it now has more than 1 million members all over the world. The organization often works where the government is unable to act, building local and international partnerships and initiating programs to improve people’s health, offer job skills training, and provide local governance.
TDA concentrates its work on the Tigrai region, a state in the northern region of Ethiopia. Its history is intertwined with neighboring Eritrea, where about one-third of the Tigrai people still live. The region’s mountainous topography and sporadic weather patterns make agriculture—which provides a majority of Tigrai’s income—challenging. A lack of Western-trained doctors makes it difficult to access health care, and there are many Tigrai people with chronic and parasitic diseases such as malaria. Children often die from communicable diseases, including chicken pox and measles. While education has improved in recent years, many children still must walk great distances to attend secondary and preparatory schools.
Comprehensive series of strategies
In addition, TDA has developed a comprehensive series of strategies to best address issues facing Tigrai that include constructing secondary schools to improve education in the region, expanding non-formal adult education, and boosting technical and vocational education and training. TDA also provides medical supplies such as drugs, equipment, and chemicals to improve the quality of health care available in Tigrai, and it promotes tourism and healthy development through good governance. In order to support Tigrai’s youth, TDA supports sports and new job opportunities for young people.
Here is a sample of projects that TDA has completed:
- Built hundreds of primary, secondary, and preparatory schools, including Kalamino Special High School, a full-scholarship boarding school that provides high-quality education for children in need.
- Provided programs that have trained more than 7,000 unemployed young people for jobs in metal and wood work, construction, and painting.
- Built 10 micro dams and nine wells in rural areas, developed 13 forage and vegetable seed multiplication centers, and gave away 36,000 kerosene stoves to combat deforestation.
- Provided resources to develop sports centers and other programs to develop youths’ talent. In addition, TDA founded Circus Tigrai and football and cycling teams.
- Along with establishing 75 health posts and health centers, as well as a hospital, the organization trained and deployed Community Based Reproductive Health Agents and Traditional Birth Attendants to remote parts of Tigrai to provide maternity services in an effort to reduce infant mortality.
- Constructed 19 public libraries and distributed references materials, books, and used computers to schools across the Tigrai region.
- Founded the Conflict Resolution Project to provide skills training, trauma healing, and help for psychosocial stress to people impacted by the Ethio-Eritrea war.
- Helped Tigrai residents to build community and preserve their cultural values by founding and hosting the annual Mekelle family festival.
Strategic partnerships with local communities
TDA funds many of its endeavors through strategic partnerships with local communities, foreign individuals, and groups who support its work. TDA believes that all successful projects have a buy in from the community, and all of the projects that it designs include an element of community involvement. For example, through TDA’s campaign to transform makeshift buildings to classrooms, more than 400 temporary structures were converted over a three-year period. About 70 of these buildings were converted by local businesses and other organizations, and the remaining ones were converted by the community.
Moreover, TDA enlists aid from partner organizations to bring resources to Tigrai and to accomplish large projects that have benefited millions of people. One of its primary partners is A Glimmer of Hope, which has brought aid to people affected by severe drought, drilled wells to remote villages where residents must spend hours each day walking to obtain water, and has built schools and housing for teachers. USAID has built a sesame warehouse to benefit small farmers and provided resources that TDA has distributed through local channels. In addition, TDA worked with the Mark Gelfand Foundation to construct a preparatory school in Mai-Knetal, and the foundation has been instrumental in working with TDA to provide books and computers to schools across the region.
Once the projects are completed, TDA ensures that they are properly entrusted to the community, which is expected to manage, finance, and sustain the work. Community leaders and local organizations, such as parent-teacher groups, are involved throughout the project so that they can seamlessly take over when TDA and other outside organizations complete their work.