Fresh and Green Academy: A Flight Attendant’s Involvement with an Innovative School in Ethiopia

Trish Hack-Rubinstein, pictured center on the top right photograph, is President and Co Founder of "Friends of Fresh and Green Academy Inc.," a U.S. based non-profit organization, that supports a school by the same name in Ethiopia. (Photo courtesy of FFGA/Flickr)

Tadias Magazine
By Tseday Alehegn

Updated: Wednesday, February 29, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – In 2008, Trish Hack-Rubinstein, a flight attendant based in New York City, joined several of her airline colleagues on a volunteer trip to Ethiopia, and it became the beginning of new friendships and lasting connections to the country. That’s when she met Muday Mitiku, an Ethiopian teacher and founder of Fresh and Green Academy – an innovative elementary school in Addis Ababa that provides not only academic curriculum but also meals and showers for impoverished school children. At the end of each day, when the students are ready to go home, their caregivers also pick up clean water supplied by the school’s water purification system. Muday Mitiku has been serving as Fresh and Green Academy’s Director since 2000, and the school is striving to add one grade level each year with the support of Friends of Fresh and Green Academy in the United States.

Initially Fresh and Green was started as a fee-paying kidergarten, but Muday quickly realized the dearth of access to education for street children living in the area. As she decided to enroll these children into the academy free of charge, some parents pulled their kids out of the school. The venture was at the crossroads when Trish and her friends visited Fresh and Green four years ago.

“The school had no other source of funding as it was a private school started by this amazing woman,” Trish said in a recent interview with Tadias Magazine. “But when she started to bring in the poor children from the streets the money ran out.” She added: “I fell in love with the kids, moms, staff, director, and everyone else and knew I couldn’t just go back to the USA and leave them to fend for themselves. So I started Friends of Fresh and Green Academy Inc., a 501(c)(3) that supports the school. ”

What’s a normal school day like for a student at Fresh & Green? Trish describes the youngsters arriving at school at 8am, eating breakfast, brushing their teeth, taking showers, and putting on clean clothes and then having their academic lessons in accordance with the national curriculum. Extracurricular activities begin after lessons end at 3pm, which include classes in art, drama, music, computers, and physical education. “The students have been helping with the planting of vegetable gardens, which produce some of the food they eat,” Trish explains. “By 5pm the school children have eaten dinner and await their caregivers to pick them up from school.”

What makes Fresh and Green stand out as a model school for under-served communities is that it not only provides free education, clean water and nutrition services for students, but also supports the mothers of the children as part of its Mothers Co-op program.

“The Mothers Co-op has grown tremendously since it was started in 2006,” Trish said. “It began as 20 mothers helping to prepare school meals in shifts, and also meeting once a week to string beads. It expanded to 50 women cooking, beading and weaving, as well as working in a store in front of the school.” Looms and sewing machines have been installed on school grounds where the mothers are also learning to sew and make clothes. The Mothers Co-op also incorporates social networking traditions such as the Ethiopian coffee ceremony.

Through the assistance of Friends of Fresh and Green Academy, the overhead rent of the store is paid for by donors. Speaking about her non-profit organization Trish noted, “We have very little overhead, and no paid employees, so over 80% of the donations go directly to the operation of the academy.”

Friends of Fresh and Green Academy hosts quarterly fundraisers including child sponsorship programs, a silent auction and raffle event at Cielo in downtown New York in May, and a poker fundraiser in September. Fundraising is also conducted using various social media-based campaigns.

“Tadias readers can help us spread awareness, attend fundraisers, donate goods and services like clothing, shoes, fabric for the coop,” Trish said. “We can always use volunteers with fundraising ideas, accounting skills, grant writing and PR experience. But of course, most of all we need funds.”

Ultimately, Trish and other supporters of Fresh and Green Academy would like to see a self-sustaining institution. “Our dream is to build a school that can accommodate students through grade 12, with a boarding facility, a center for the Mothers Co-op, a working farm to cut down on the cost of food and possibly provide income for the school,” she said. “And a guest house for volunteers to rent rooms, which will also provide some income for the school.”

Reflecting on her work with the academy, Trish shares, “For the first time in my life I truly feel like I am doing what I was put on this earth to do. Nothing gives me more joy than to see the children eating playing and learning. Every time I visit the school (three times a year) I am smothered with hugs and kisses and I couldn’t be happier. I look forward to the day when I see them graduate from university and make a difference in their community and country. Everyone has the right to food and education.”

To learn more about the organization, visit: www.friendsoffreshandgreen.com.

11 Responses to “Fresh and Green Academy: A Flight Attendant’s Involvement with an Innovative School in Ethiopia”


  1. 1 Victor Feb 28th, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    Great story!! He/she who opens a school door, closes a prison!!!

  2. 2 Elyas Feb 28th, 2012 at 10:53 pm

    Count me in for the poker fundraiser. I will be in touch through your website!

  3. 3 girma Feb 29th, 2012 at 7:45 am

    Thank you Tadias for publishing such a wonderfull contribution from this person. This may initiate Ethiopians both at home and abroad to participate inorder top make sure for this project to continue and change the life of so many Ethiopian children who are in need.

  4. 4 Mimi Negash Feb 29th, 2012 at 10:30 am

    Wonderful and inspiring! All the best wishes!

  5. 5 Hiwot Feb 29th, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    Good job!

  6. 6 Meaza Feb 29th, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    I know Muday personally and she is a beautiful person inside and out and a brilliant mind. I appreciate what Trish is doing through her Friends of the Fresh and Green Academy organization. It’s an example to all Ethiopians especially in the diaspora that show how simple it can be to make a difference if you have the will power. Keep up the good work!!

  7. 7 JFK Feb 29th, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation. – JFK

  8. 8 Stephen Feb 29th, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    Innovative cocept. The country needs educational institutions like this to foster growth and development. An idea to be emulated. Thank you Tadias for giving the deserving publicity.

  9. 9 Sabataa Dubbii Feb 29th, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    I believe the citizens of the nation should take initiatives to open venues for better distributions of educational opportunities in the country. The people can accomplish more than the regular governmental schools if they are united and determined. If individuals achieve so much, group of people with one mind and one heart could create a miracle in educating every child in Ethiopia. We need local leaders who can activate and motivate neighborhoods and communities. Muday is such a leader in her community in Addis Ababa. She has organized the available manpower to contribute towards creating educated citizens. This is a great pilot line to be a model all over the city and the regions of the country. I thank Tish for her involvement in contributing to the success of such unique academic initiative. It is a needed complement to the existing elementary school systems-very grounded and effective.

    Sabataa Dubbii

  10. 10 MZ Feb 29th, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    @Sabataa Dubbii I wish the existing elementary school systems in Ethiopia was well grounded and effective as you suggest. As a teacher myself, at the moment I would say it’s more like on life support.

  11. 11 Food for Thought Mar 1st, 2012 at 11:24 am

    There are 3 billion young people under 30 years old around the world and 90% of them are in developing countries. What does that tell you about the future? And the future is not some abstract concept. It’s fiver years, ten years from now. Fresh and Green Academy is on the right track a head of its time for the country! I am your supporter!

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