Oromia Foundation was incorporated in 2016 in Maryland, USA to help newly arriving Oromo refugees to soft land and transition to a stable, productive life in the US. However, the short-lived political change in Ethiopia that dominated the headlines around the world in 2018 through early 2019 compelled the Foundation management to rethink this strategic goal. The management assumed the change will end refugee outflow from Oromia and the need for the associated resettlement support services. The management also assumed the change will open new opportunities for diaspora Oromo to support development efforts at home that they have always craved but denied since their country’s occupation in the late 1980s, thus the new objective. New focus In 2019, the Foundation management conducted a quick needs assessment survey to identify Oromia’s development priorities to inform critical investment decisions for which volunteers, especially diaspora Oromo scholars and professionals, have a comparative advantage to engage. The assessment revealed human and institutional capacity in Oromia as the weakest, compared to those in Amhara, Tigray, and SNNPR regions. Accordingly, the Foundation identified the following interventions for immediate action:
- Complement teaching and research staff efforts in Oromia Universities and vocational schools
- Establish a center of excellence with recreational facilities and small business opportunities for unemployed youth
- Support small business opportunities for unemployed youth -e.g., training and access to finance.
- Support diaspora Oromo youth to visit and spend some time in Oromia to reinforce the bond with the homeland and contribute to its development.
Soon after the Foundation redefined its priorities, the much-celebrated sweeping political change wasn’t only halted but reversed. The nominally new regime (the same ruling group minus TPLF) indiscriminately apprehended and jailed opposition party leaders and activists, its security forces conducted extrajudicial killings with impunity in opposition strongholds and resumed a full-blown civil war in northern regions and throughout Oromia. The deteriorating security situation in Ethiopia and the COVID pandemic significantly hampered the Foundations’ ability to implement its plans effectively. In addition to the security and logistical challenges referred to above, the founding Executive Director of the Foundation abruptly resigned in December 2021. This further delayed the Foundations ability to get things done but facilitate the transition process by more than a whopping 7 months. Achievements Despite the challenges listed above, the Foundation registered noticeable accomplishments as follows:
- Successfully conducted virtual seminars and online training on: 1. Introduction to Oromia Foundation; 2. Volunteering to bring positive change, and 3. Narrowing the knowledge gap, bringing Oromia science and technology to the 21st century.
- On the management front, established accounting and financial management systems, and obtained Tax Exemption status
- Held public meetings and discussed (a) the Importance of Networking for community development, (b) the current networking among Oromos, (C) Networking from an Oromia perspective, and (d) the Action Plan for impactful volunteering
- Successfully transferred the Foundation’s assets, systems, and program and financial management oversight responsibilities from the departed ED to the remaining members of the Executive Team volunteers.
Plans – Immediate
- Reconstitute an IT training group, create IT training infrastructure, and jump-start a planned virtual IT Training.
- In collaboration with a University in MD, USA, offer intensive online leadership training for junior and mid-level leaders and managers of Oromo organizations -civic, public, private, religious, etc.
- Conduct capacity needs assessment, identify deliverable priority themes, and design and conduct appropriate capacity development interventions.
Plans – Medium
- Contact the President of the Association of Oromia Universities and explore the prospect of deploying volunteers to Oromia
- Identify the number and areas of specialization of Oromo professionals willing to volunteer to serve in Oromia Note
The Foundation needs funding to pay for its IT technology and communication/digital/internet service needs. In the long-term, should the reality in Oromia change, funding is required to cover the travel cost of volunteers to travel to and support Oromia Universities and young diaspora Oromos to reinforce their bond with their homeland for three to six months. Donations from all Oromos and Oromo Friends are greatly appreciated. We wish to assure our donors a detailed accounting of their donations, including our individual contributions, will be publicly available and shared with every donor. Please note that your donations are tax-exempt.