Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Updated: Jun 12, 2020

Aviation for Humanity was honored to visit the Sele Enat Mahiber shelter (meaning “on behalf of mothers”) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  Located amongst the cacophony of city noise, this shelter does an excellent job providing a safe haven for orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children.

This humanitarian story actually begins 8300 miles away on an island just outside of Seattle, WA.  Aviation for Humanity gathered school supplies, toiletries and kids clothes from volunteers on Whidbey Island. These items were loaded into a two-seater aircraft, flown to Seattle, and then transported by another pilot flying to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 

Aviation for Humanity met with Leulsenaye (nicknamed “Prince”), the shelter’s Project Manager, to tour the facility and see how best to collaborate.  While grateful the supplies, he explained that the shelter sees many short-term volunteers. Children lack an opportunity to bond with volunteers as there is little consistency in personnel.  Therefore, they have created a sponsorship program for volunteers to support a child or single mother from afar in hopes of gaining long-term support and creating a bond with a benefactor. 

When a boy grabbed my hand and refused to let go, it was explained to me that the boy was fearful I would leave. Which I did, eventually.  It was evident that the children crave connection but lack the opportunity with the inconsistency of volunteers. 

Courtyard Classroom

Sele Enat Mahiber’s mission is to “alleviate the unbearable suffering and unnecessary loss of life of orphanage children by providing them with their basic needs while keeping them in the community where possible; arranging and connecting families for those who do not have close kin; and building the economic independence of women heads of household...”

Bedroom, newborns to age 2 Bedroom for toddlers

The capacity of the facility fluctuates based on available funds, which come solely from donations.  Donations are unpredictable and sometimes unreliable, so the shelter aims to create a self-sustaining system by building a multi-use space where it can rent out store-front property to support the children.

Currently home to 32 children, the shelter can support a maximum capacity of 85 kids aging from newborn to fourteen. The staff find unique ways to raise awareness through community engagement, a variety of sponsorship programs, and college credits for volunteer hours.  

Through their special needs program, the shelter supports children abandoned due to the stigma of their condition.

During the tour, I witnessed genuine love and support for the children in the way Prince played with the kids, how the staff utilized a nutrition plan to prepare five meals a day, and in the longingly optimistic way the staff spoke about the need for continued support.   Aviation for Humanity vows to advocate for Sele Enat Mahiber, provide information on their sponsorship programs, and visit whenever in Ethiopia.  For more information on ways to get involved, please visit their website: And, when you find yourself in Ethiopia, please reach us at: and consider bringing supplies.

A huge thank you to Susan Mashibe, Dawit Lemma, and all the people who donated. And, a special thank you to the staff and residents of Sele Enat Mahiber for sharing their morning with me. I am grateful for the community the aviation industry creates.


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