HMA Groundbreaking

EEI December 2018 timeline .png

Dear Friends,

Happy New Year! This is Rebecca Haile. Jean and I are just back from Ethiopia where we celebrated the official ground-breaking for the Haile-Manas Academy – a truly joyous event!  Our guests included government officials, community leaders, representatives from various organizations, and many friends and family. Beyond the ceremony, it was exciting to see a couple hundred construction employees working in parallel on over a dozen school buildings, many of which are already at first floor level.  We are making great progress! 


Most of you are aware of the school project, but might not know the full background, current status and future timeline. I hope this first blog post and email informs you fully and perhaps inspires you to join us in this exciting and timely endeavor.  You can find even more information on our website.

The background. Two years ago, we launched Ethiopia Education Initiatives (EEI) to provide world-class educational opportunities for talented Ethiopian students. As a refugee who left Ethiopia as a child, I’ve always been grateful for the extraordinary education that opened doors for me in the US. I’m committed to creating similar quality education opportunities for Ethiopian kids, because a quality education is the ultimate long-term investment for maximum long-term return.

EEI’s first step is the creation of the Haile-Manas Academy. The Academy will be a world-class co-educational secondary boarding school for 400 students of promise recruited from across the country and admitted without regard to financial circumstances.  It will be a model school in and for Ethiopia - the first of its kind.

Why Ethiopia?  With a GDP of just $783 per person (PPP $2,100), Ethiopia is one of the world’s poorest countries, yet it had one of the world’s fastest growing economies in 2018. It has a population of over 105 million with a median age of just 18, a geopolitically significant location in the Horn of Africa, and is currently undergoing unprecedented political, social and economic reform under dynamic new leadership. Ethiopia is ready to transform itself into a regional leader and economic powerhouse – and Ethiopia’s young people, its greatest asset, must be equipped to forge the way forward. 

Work to date. During the two years prior to the ground-breaking ceremony, we secured the support of the government and an eight hectare (twenty acre) building site in the town of Debre Birhan, about two hours from Addis Ababa. We hired Flansburgh Associates, a Boston-based firm with over 50 years experience with school design, to create our Master Plan. Renowned Ethiopian architect Fasil Giorghis translated that plan into beautiful, contextually appropriate buildings with a focus on local materials and sustainability.  In October 2018 we engaged Rama Construction, a top contractor. Along the way, we sought and received the support and good counsel of innumerable people in the US and in Ethiopia, as well as critical financial commitments.

The Ceremony.  Our ground-breaking ceremony took place on December 30, 2018 under predictably brilliant blue skies. Jean, as Chair of the EEI Board, delivered opening remarks which connected the school full circle to my family’s departure many years ago.

Jean’s remarks were followed by ceremonial shovels in the ground – honors went Ato Nigussu, Head, Prime Minister's Press Secretariat, the most senior official in attendance, Jean and me.

Jean’s remarks were followed by ceremonial shovels in the ground – honors went Ato Nigussu, Head, Prime Minister's Press Secretariat, the most senior official in attendance, Jean and me.

At the lunch that followed, I spoke about our inspiration for the school and thanked the many people who helped get us to this point.

Forging Ahead! The Academy will open its doors to its first class of 9th graders in September 2020. In coming months we will post on social media and send periodic updates on our progress. In the meantime, we would love your participation and help. Our most pressing need is for fundraising, and we are particularly focused on recruiting to the Founders’ Circle, comprised of donors who commit $50,000 over five years. But every dollar matters, and we welcome both smaller donations and larger ones which come with building and other naming opportunities.

That’s it for this first writing! We invite you to come to Ethiopia with us on some future date to plant your own tree on our campus. Join us as we build this model school and transform lives.


Rebecca Haile

Executive Director

Ethiopia Education Initiatives

Rebecca Haile