Sunday, October 16, 2016

An Exciting New Chapter for Open Heart Big Dreams Fund: Supporting Literacy, Education, Leadership Development to Equalize Opportunities in Ethiopia

When we brought our little girl home from Ethiopia in 2008, we committed to her and ourselves that we would make a positive impact in her birth country.   
Leyla arrives in Seattle on my birthday 2008
And with her substantial involvement, we are thrilled to share we have done just that and are ready to do more.  We started by donating books and then funding a library in Bahir Dar, her birthplace, which we have been able to visit twice so far.
Visiting the site of the Bahir Dar Library in 2011
Dimitri reading to Leyla in the Bahir Dar library in 2014
Leyla with the plague in her honor in school "February 23"
Then we took a big leap of faith and launched our first OHBD event on a wing and prayer plus an amazing network of support.  I remember waking up the morning of gala having just had a nightmare no one showed up.  But thankfully, people who cared about kids in Ethiopia showed up.  In fact, so many we had to turn some away; all with Open Hearts to support Big Dreams for deserving children. 
Thank you card front for OHBD 2011
And they continued to show up in bigger numbers each subsequent year growing OHBD to an event that consistently raised over $100K.
With Jane Kurtz (Advisory Board Member) OHBD 2012
Leyla wants all kids to get to go to school OHBD 2013
Thank you card back OHBD 2013
Our goal with this event was to create a predictable source of funding to one organization, Ethiopia Reads.  It was doing great program work in country but every year required many people taking on small fundraisers.  We worked with Ethiopia Reads to test other vehicles, on-line and family friendly events, plus provided strategic advice and guidance.  As we grew and raised close to half a million dollars in total, we realized we needed a different structure to continue to increase our impact beyond one organization and one event.
OHBD 2014 with Betty Gronneberg (Advisory Board Member)
Leyla speaking for up for kids and education OHBD 2014
My husband Michael and I, with the support of a talented group with HUGE hearts, are now ready to take these efforts formally to the next level.  Through doing so, we hope to dramatically increase our reach.  So we took another leap of faith and created a stand-alone “Open Heart Big Dreams Fund” Not for Profit.  (I  have heartd from some who thought this was already the case.)  
OHBD 2015 -- Family Affair -- everyone is growing up; both Damian and Leyla spoke
We want to support more good work being done for kids in Ethiopia by organizations like Ethiopia Reads, Seeds of Africa and International Leadership Academy of Ethiopia, each founded by one of our Advisory Board Members.  

should NOT depend on where you are born

The need and opportunity is greatEthiopia’s population is 44% children ages 0-14 (43 million out of 97 million total).  Only 5.5% of children attend pre-school or kindergarten.  Only 68% of ages 7-12 attend primary school.  Adult literacy stands at 49% with men at 57% and women at 41%.  Only 7.5% of the adult population have any post-secondary education.

Currently we have an amazing board, advisory board and volunteer base who has signed on with us to get started on this important work.  We will feature their stories in the coming months - each is inspiring!  Our 5013c paperwork is submitted, our website in development, and Yeggy Michael, long time supporter and amazing artist, is designing our new logo.  
Yeggy Michael at OHBD 2013
Our target “customer” is the small to medium sized not for profit (501(3)(c) working in Ethiopia focused on literacy, education, and increasing leadership capabilities.

Our Mission:
Inspiring and enabling youth, their parents, their communities and the organizations who serve them by providing literacy, education, and leadership opportunities.
We plan deliver against the mission in three ways:
  1. Raising funds and providing grants to organizations for projects that deliver these services in Ethiopia.  They will need to meet specific criteria including working with local populations, impact, sustainability, and collaboration.  We are targeting one large event as we successfully done previously (raising over $450K over the last 5 years, $100K or more the last three), and testing 2-3 other models including on-line.
  2. Sharing expertise, best practices, and resources for 1) fund raising through traditional donations and commercial efforts, 2) creating and running this type of not for profit focused on areas they can benefit from traditional small business approaches and the use of technology, and 3) volunteer and donor recruiting and relations.
  3. Connecting volunteers (board and project based) with the organizations we support who need them.
Our initial focus will be raising fund and providing grants.  We will share expertise, best practices and resources opportunistically as we build up on webpage content through our board and volunteers as well as those associated with the organizations we support.  We will begin to build out a platform to connect volunteers with organizations and projects likely end of 2017 or early 2018 although we will be opportunistic there too.

We want to take the best of business and technology to increase impact and drive collaboration. We are excited for the future of these new efforts and the futures of the kids they will support.  Thank you all for your amazing support, friendship and inspiration.  We look forward to seeing that continue in this new chapter.
Leyla and OHBD Fund Board Member Rajitha Boer at Efeste kick off event 2016
Selam!  Onward!! 


  1. Much gratitude to the Angelidis family, you came and did what everyone thought was impossible with such razor sharp focus to detail. It was an eye opening experience for most of us...I hope we learned a thing or two from your successful dinner and auction events for the last five years. The funds raised from those events have sustained the Ethiopia Reads
    programs in the years past, and as you venture in a new direction, I want to wish you even more success and for your vision to be realized.

    1. Thanks so much Frew! I look forward to continued collaboration with you and Ethiopia Reads.

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