Dear BNCO supporters,
The year 2014 is coming to a close and the holidays are upon us. It is a time to reflect on the past year and look forward to the next. The year for BNCO started with a challenging leadership transition at the Richard Oslund Memorial Clinic (ROMC) and ended with solid leadership, new partnerships, equipment upgrades and some great statistics demonstrating the impact of the clinic’s services.
Statistics drawn from the BNCO Ethiopia Annual Report for 2013-2014 illustrate how BNCO’s efforts directly benefited 6905 Ethiopians over the 12-month report period. Of those 6905 people, 45 were sponsored orphans and the balance were ROMC patients. With an annual budget approaching $40,000, the ROMC provided healthcare to 6860 people at a cost of just $5.83/person. That healthcare included 1139 vaccinations, 1959 family planning visits, 3300 laboratory services, 155 antenatal care visits, 63 HIV counseling sessions and supplementary food support for 20 children found to be malnourished during medical examination. Bravo BNCO!
The challenges of 2014 began in Q4, 2013 when the Ethiopian Government audited ROMC. The audit findings made it clear to BNCO’s Board of Directors that a change in clinic leadership had to occur in order for the Richard Oslund Memorial Clinic to remain in compliance with Ethiopian Government standards. As a result, Selamawit Kifle, the fearless and passionate founder of Blue Nile Children’s Organization, is now pursuing other interests. BNCO rowed through rough water during the Q1, 2014 leadership transition and I expect some ripples to continue into 2015. Organizational transition is a challenging task - the BNCO Board of Directors and the Ethiopia Advisory Board (EAB) have embraced that challenge and are committed more than ever to continue helping orphans and building community in Ethiopia.
In January 2014, Belay Tessema joined BNCO as the ROMC Clinic Manager and BNCO Ethiopia Country Representative. Belay brings to BNCO his 16 years of experience at Mary Joy Development Association, where he served in roles that included Health Educator, Instructor, Supervisor, Communication Officer, and Income Generating Activity Officer. Over the past 12 months, Belay has led the effort to address the issues identified in the Q4, 2013 Ethiopian Government audit. The final discrepancy was resolved in early December 2014. Congratulations!
In addition to clinic leadership transition in Ethiopia, the BNCO Board of Directors experienced leadership change in 2014. Secretary Dr. Britt Nederhood resigned from the board in August 2014. After many years of faithful service to BNCO, the secretarial duties and the 4+ hour round trip travel time between his home and BNCO’s boardroom had taken their toll on both Britt and his faithful Ford Ranger pickup. Thank you for your service, Britt.
Another leadership transition includes my time travelling throughout Africa with my family in 2014-2015. Given my time away from the boardroom, BNCO’s Board of Directors unanimously approved Vice-President Fran Kremen as Acting Chairperson during Mark’s absence. I fly through Addis Ababa, Ethiopia quite frequently and have visited with ROMC Clinic Manager and Country Representative Belay Tessema often, a point that the board considered in maintaining my appointment as BNCO President.
The annual BNCO fundraiser was held on May 10, 2014 in Bloedel Hall at Saint Mark's Cathedral. With 113 BNCO supporters in attendance, the group raised over $36,000 during a night filled with joyous Ethiopian food, dance and music. Thank you BNCO supporters!
The annual dinner and auction has been BNCO’s primary funding source for many years. Thanks again to all our BNCO fundraising supporters. Going forward, BNCO is positioned for growth, which brings a need for additional funding beyond that which the annual auction provides. In an effort to broaden BNCO’s base of support, Belay Tessema engaged Christian Relief and Development Association (CCRDA) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. CCRDA is a consortium of non-profit organizations throughout Ethiopia. Under Belay’s leadership, BNCO was approved for membership in CCRDA. Membership will raise BNCO’s visibility and pave the way for additional partnerships with other organizations.
Through a generous donation from Miki Takada, the ROMC opened a computer lab in Q4, 2014 for orphans and the clinic community. Six computers are available for use by young and old alike and there is now a full-time computer teacher (a BNCO orphan sponsorship graduate!). Many children in the ROMC community would not have the opportunity to use computers without this computer lab. Thank you, Miki!
Finally, BNCO closed orphan sponsorship operations in Bahir Dar in Q4, 2014. The relationship between BNCO and the local Bahir Dar government had been challenging for years. Recent negotiations with the local Bahir Dar government did not result in an agreement that BNCO could financially sustain at this time. Every reasonable effort is being made to transfer the ten Bahir Dar orphans to another organization. Sponsors of the ten orphans will be notified and encouraged to sponsor a child in Addis Ababa. Closing BNCO’s Bahir Dar operations was not an easy decision but necessary given the unrealistic financial agreement terms.
Looking forward to 2015, the Board of Directors and members of the Ethiopian Advisory Board will begin development of an organized and thoughtful strategic plan in Q1, 2015. This strategic plan will enable BNCO to partner with a diverse group of other organizations both local and international, large and small, to diversify BNCO’s future funding sources. Thank you to Susan Poisson-Dollar and her family foundation for the funding that will make the strategic plan possible!
With the ROMC financially sound and compliant with government requirements, Belay Tessema will now have time to work with the Orphan Coordinator to improve orphan communication and enrollment. BNCO started with orphan sponsorship back in 2001. Over the years, sponsorship growth has been slow but steady. BNCO’s agreement with the Addis Ababa local government has a specific orphan sponsorship goal. Belay and the Board of Directors will strive to reach that goal in 2015. Thank you sponsors!
If the ROMC is to ever stand on its own two feet financially, additional cost recovery ideas must be investigated. Mark, Belay and Ethiopian Advisory Board members have brainstormed ideas including a lunch café to promote nutrition and a healthy diet, an internet café to provide access to computer technology and health information, and a sliding scale ROMC fee structure to help recover the costs of new life saving lab equipment. Thank you to everyone who supported BNCO at our 2014 fundraiser. Please join us at our 2015 fundraiser on May 2, 2015!
The challenges of 2014 tested BNCO’s Board of Directors and tested BNCO leadership in Ethiopia. I whole-heartedly believe we passed the test and are stronger as a result. I am proud to be part of such a dedicated group of individuals who are working tirelessly to bring positive change to Ethiopia. I look forward to engaging with BNCO leadership as we plan for 2015 and beyond.