The history of Eritrean refugees in Eastern Sudan dates back to the late 60s and early 70s when hundreds and thousands of Eritreans began to arrive in Eastern Sudan, fleeing Ethiopia’s systematic and massive civilian persecution carried out in the form of burning entire villages, destroying crops, killing livestock, and executing those suspected of aiding and sheltering the Eritrean freedom fighters. Throughout the Eritrean independence war and until 1991, close to one million Eritreans left their country and settled in Eastern Sudan, and few others made their way to the Middle East, Europe, and North America. Until 1990s, UNHCR in cooperation with the Sudan Commissioner for Refugees (COR) provided health, basic education, and other needs to the Eritrean refugees. And Eritrean refugees continued to be welcomed by Sudanese government until 1990.
After Eritrea gained its independence in 1993, the new government of Isayas Afeworki drifted into dictatorship and began implementing repressive policies, resulting in withdrawing from the repatriation accord it signed with Sudan and UNCHR, and effectively preventing Eritrean refugees from returning to their country. In addition, since the current government of Eritrea came to power, thousands of Eritreans have been fleeing the country into Eastern Sudan and Ethiopia due to massive persecution and human rights violation perpetrated against them by the regime.
The repatriation program being out of option and the refugee status of Eritreans not fully recognized by the UNHCR and Sudan, Eritrean refugees in Sudan began to face tremendous financial and other aid challenges, particularly two institutions: the Eritrean refugee school at Wadisherifey and the disabled Eritreans in Kassala that used to get aid from humanitarian agencies.
Since UNHCR aid became no longer available, Eritreans and friends of Eritreans of good will began to explore the possibilities of raising funds for both Wadisherifey Eritrean Refugee School and disabled Eritreans. In response, three nonprofit organizations, EDA, ADE and ASEE, were formed, now in operation worldwide. The purpose and function of these nonprofit organizations is to fill the void left by UNHCR and to raise funds through various fund-raising events and cover some of the basic expenses of both the school and the disabled Eritreans.
1. EDA and Its Operations
The Eritrean Democratic Association (EDA) has been in existence for the last seventeen years. It has so far been giving relief and rehabilitation services to Eritrean refugees in the Sudan. It now plans to extend its services to Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia. For many years, EDA has been supporting an Eritrean refugee school and a war disabled victims’ center in Kassala, Sudan. It also runs the “Sponsor a Child” program which has helped many Eritrean refugee children.
EDA is founded for public and charitable purposes under the State of California Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation Law. With 501 (C) (3) nonprofit status, EDA has the ability to apply for both federal and state tax exempt status. Donations made by individuals or entities to EDA are all tax deductable and reach the beneficiaries with no overhead expences.
EDA plans to work with all local and international charity organizations and UN agencies in carrying out its activities. EDA urges the public and charitable organizations to support its mission in alleviating the suffering of Eritrean refugees.
Wad-Sherifey, Eritrean Refugee Children’s School:
Wad-Sherifey Eritrean refugee school was instituted in 1984, i.e. 35 years ago, to provide elementary and junior high school programs for Eritrean children between the age of 5 and 18. In 1988, the school was constructed by a budget donated from a charity organization, BISSCHOPELIKJE VASTENAKTIE in Holland with the purpose to provide a modern facility and to accommodate larger number of students. After some years, the buildings had gotten in bad shape with dire need of repairs. Thus, in 2005, it was renovated by Father Marino Haile of Milano and his supporters who raised substantial funds from church goers. It offers an integrated conventional elementary and junior high school programs, including, Eritrean national language instruction. The curriculum is designed to provide Eritrean refugee children the necessary tools to pursue higher education and be part of society where they can have the opportunity to work and live.
The Wad-Sherifey school teaches between grades 1 and 6 to Eritrean children in Eritrean curriculum through the medium of Eritrean languages (Arabic and Tigrinya). Grades 7 and 8 are taught in English. Beyond grade 8, children who pass the exams join high schools either in the Senior High School of the Catholic Church in Kassala (formerly the ELF run and UNHCR supported high school in Kassala) or other Sudanese schools.
Wad-Sherifey School students lined up to enter their respective classes
Since its foundation in 1984, the school has operated on funds entirely contributed by private individuals, and by members of EDA in partnership with nonprofit humanitarian organizations whose mission is to help educate refugee children.
The school uses contributed funds for high priority expenditures of the school, which includes: • Students’ textbooks and supplies • Salary for 18 fulltime instructors, including one school administrator and his assistant • Two fulltime school guards • To provide clean drinking water and school uniforms for students
Wad-Sherifey School classes in session. Students taking their final exams. The Eritrean Refugee School of Wad-Sherifey, located near Kassala in Eastern Sudan, completed its 35th academic year on 17 March 2019 with 90% promotion in the exams. The school's director Ato Teklehaimanot Elfu (Wedi Elfu) informed EDA's representative that out of the 604 students who sat at the final exams, 339 were boys and 265 girls. He added that the school has also opened with total of 790 students registered for the 2019/2020 academic year.
Administered by the Eritrean Red Cross-Crescent Society (ERCC), which started it way back in 1984, the ever successful Wad-Sherifey School for Eritrean Refugees is actively supported by charities like the Geneva-based Association Suisse Enfance-Erythrée (ASEE), the California based Eritrean Democratic Association (EDA) and individuals of good will.
2. Association of Disabled Eritreans (ADE), A France based association, has chapters in different parts of the world. Its main focus is to cover the expenses of food, medical care, and maintaining the ever-deteriorating house that they live in. The ADE has a volunteer board of directors. The fund it raises comes from Eritreans and friends of Eritreans. Although the ADE is continuing to engage in raising funds, the current basic expenses of the disabled Eritreans is far more expensive than the fund the ADE raises. In addition, expenses for maintaining and repairing wheelchair, crutches, and other walking aids used by the disabled Eritreans is another area where the ADE is struggling to find ways to address it.
3. Association Suisse Enfance-Erythree (ASEE) is a Geneva, Switzerland based nonprofit organization, and it works in close cooperation with the residents of Milano, Italy, and their partners. They have been active for the last fifteen years in raising funds for Wad-Sherifey School and in covering the major expenses of the school, notably operating expenses of the school and other overhead expenses. In one year alone, the ASEE raised 15,000 US dollars by organizing a fundraising event at the Annual Geneva Music Festival. Members of the ASEE sold native Eritrean and Sudanese drinks/foods, as well as Swiss foods during the event and the result was remarkably successful.
Both the Wad-Sherifey Eritrean Refugee School and the Association of Disabled Eritreans do not get assistance from governmental or humanitarian organizations. All their expenses are covered by money donated by Eritreans and friends of Eritreans every year. Members of ASEE, EDA, and ADE are volunteers and all money raised in any fundraising event is sent both to Wad-Sherifey School and to the disabled Eritreans in Eastern Sudan. Both institutions have continued to function for the last many years because of the generosity and personal resources of Eritreans and friends of Eritrean individuals who are steadfastly devoted to helping Eritrean refugee children stay in school, as well as to assisting and supporting Eritrean disabled persons with their basic needs.
EDA and its partners appreciate your continued willingness and commitment to support both the Wadisherifey Eritrean refugee school and the Association of disabled Eritreans. We need each one of you to join us as we continue our fundraising campaign to make a sustainable difference in the lives of those less fortunate than us, the Eritrean refugee children and the disabled Eritreans. The Wad- Sherifey School and the Association of Disabled Eritreans count on your donations. It is through the generosity and commitment of donors like you that the Wad-Sherifey Eritrean Refugee School and the Association of Disabled Eritreans continue to function.
We also thank you the hundreds of tireless volunteers who continue to lend their valuable time freely to organize and facilitate our fundraising campaign each year.
Remember, all donations are tax deductible and all donations go to support these two institutions. Donations can be made by cash or check in any fundraising event or you may send a check to the below address at any time. Without your donations, the two institutions may close down. Don't let that happen! In Addition, we are looking for help finding potential donors in your neighborhood, in the town you live, or in your work place that would be willing to donate.
EDA, Inc. 5438 Giuffrida CT San Jose, CA 95123 USA
Sincerely, D.F. Hagos / President EDA Board of Directors Copy: Asghedet Mehretab / Secretary EDA Board of Directors
EDA, Inc. is an IRS-approved 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Since no goods or services were received in exchange for your gift, 100% of your contribution is tax deductible as allowed by law. Please retain this letter for your tax records.