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The REAL strength is working within existing systems to educate girls

We support the education of girls in grades 6 through 12 within existing schools by engaging the help and support of the local community.


Our partners are community members who know the girls and their individual challenges, know their local schools, and understand the requirements of the national educational system.

REAL girls become leaders in their communities, because they are deeply connected and grounded in what is needed and effective in Ethiopia.

Since our founding in 2004, 472 girls have been supported by REAL
(including the 165 currently in the program).

Educated girls are the Resource that Enriches African Lives.

Our Mission

REAL supports the education of disadvantaged Ethiopian girls through mentorship and collaboration with their local communities.

Our Mission

Our Vision

REAL and its partners transform African communities by empowering girls and young women to complete their education and fulfill their true potential, uplifting their families, communities and countries.

Tsehai and Eva_cropped.jpg

Our Beginning

Tsehai Wodajo's life was changed by a young Swedish woman, Eva Nordin, who showed up in Tsehai's village in Ethiopia more than 40 years ago. Eva saw Tsehai's potential and made it possible for her to stay in high school and even to go on to university.


Tsehai never forgot Eva who made such a difference in her life and was inspired to find a way to provide that opportunity for other girls and young women. She and her friends Hanna Getachen-Kreusser and Ann Jensen had the idea for Resources Enriching African Lives — REAL. In 2004 Tsehai and Ann traveled to Ethiopia to establish the first REAL site in Nedjo, with a local supervising committee and a mentor for 15 girls.


REAL has come full circle. Eva Nordin now sponsors a REAL girl at our Entoto site.

Tsehai Wodajo and Eva Nordin

Meet The Board


Lidya Makonnen

Board Member

Lidya immigrated to the United States from Ethiopia at the age of four. After learning about her family's experiences and struggles, she was inspired to pursue a career in politics. Lidya is excited to use her experience and knowledge to support and empower girls through the work of REAL.


Tsehai Wodajo

Founder and Executive Director

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Tsehai has firsthand experience in and stands for the difference education and empowerment make for girls and women. Having a wide range of work experiences she brings a wealth of wisdom and knowledge in strength based business solutions. A founder and executive director of REAL, she is a recipient of a number of leadership grants and awards for her work in social justice and equality for women. Her education background includes BA in English Literature, and Masters in Social Work. 


Olga Tolle-Rodrigues

Board President and Chair

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Olga brings a wealth of experience in developing international partnerships and growing organizations. She knows firsthand the power of education as her parents, especially her dad who was illiterate and from a poor background, allowed her to attend school and pursue higher education. Education matters, and should be available to everyone regardless of their background or situation.


Kathy Coskran

Board Vice-President

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Kathleen's experience as a Peace Corps in Ethiopia inspired her life-long commitment to Ethiopia and to education. Upon returning to the United States, she trained to be a Montessori teacher. She eventually served as Head of Lake Country School, a Montessori school in Minneapolis for children ages 3 to 14. She is now retired.


Randy Hoversten

Board Treasurer

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Randy has built his career using his financial expertise and experience in bringing organizations (both non-profit and for-profit) to higher levels of productivity, growth, and effectiveness. Having served in a variety of financial capacities and roles, Randy is committed to helping expand the footprint of REAL so that its model can benefit deserving girls around the world.


Bontu Galataa

Board Secretary

Bontu was born in Oromia, Ethiopia and she immigrated to Canada as a refugee at the age of 10 with her parents. In 2019, she had the opportunity to visit Western Oromia and was devastated by the lack of opportunities women and girls had. She hopes to contribute her knowledge and time with REAL in the pursuit of making a much-needed impact for women and girls in Oromia. 


Her professional background is in the financial industry with a passion for social innovation and social impact. She is currently pursuing her MBA specializing in Entrepreneurship and Innovation. She is a strong advocate for social justice and social good and believes businesses could do better to bring forth the necessary change our society needs.  


Heather Laubach

Board Member

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As an Associate Creative Director, Heather brings a wealth of marketing and design experience to the organization. She was introduced to Ethiopia as young teen when her father sponsored many Ethiopian families. She believes everyone deserves a chance to thrive and reach their full potential.

We Need Your Support Today!

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