A quarter of a century has elapsed since the inception of the Gudina Tumsa Foundation (GTF). In June of 1992 a year after the downfall of the Derg and thirteen years after Rev. Gudina Tumsa’s abduction and murder his family friends and colleagues gathered in Addis Ababa to attend his reburial ceremony and pay their condolences. His daughters Lensa and Aster returned home after years of exile to hear testimonies of his life and ministry. It was during this brief reunion that his daughters resolved to follow in the footsteps of their father and carry on his legacy. Rev. Gudina Tumsa’s faith compelled him to oppose injustice and brutality committed against the defenseless people of his country by the authoritarian regime. He chose to stand up for justice and human rights and it was these beliefs that led to his eventual death.
His Thoughts, Visions and Aspirations
Gudina Tumsa’s worldviews were heavily impacted by his studies in the USA at St. Paul theological seminary in Minnesota. His studies in the early 1960scoincided with the civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King Jr. This exposure expanded his awareness of cultural, social and political issues and enriched his thinking about the role of the church in society. Upon his return to Ethiopia Rev. Gudina Tumsa became heavily engages in matters regarding the spiritual, social, economic and political life of the Ethiopian people. Gudina challenged the imperial government on matters involving human rights, feudalism and land reform. He also confronted Western Churches on moral and theological issues.
His trip to South Africa in the early 70s is a great testimony of his fight for justice. Rev. Gudina Tumsa was the only black person to arrive at Johannesburg South African with a Lutheran delegation, he resisted moving to the “Black Only” section and remained with the rest of the delegation in the area designated for whites. As one his travel mates later testified taking notice of his towering stature (he was almost two meters tall) and unflinching determination none of the Apartheid police dared to ask him to move. Upon his return from South Africa he was received as a hero and was featured on the country’s leading newspapers—the Ethiopian Herald and Addis Zemen.
Worthy of Existence
Rev. Gudina Tumsa felt that the church should serve as an example for society. He believed that since the church had been participating in democracy for some time they should encourage participation by the people from the bottom up and aspire for justice, and respecting human rights and the rule of law. In his 1974 speech in Nairobi he argued that a true biblical church had a political role to play: “Holistic Theology is an effort in rediscovering total human life. Apolitical [non-political] life is not worthy of existence, uninvolvement is a denial of the goodness of creation and of the reality of incarnation… The history of the people of God in the Old testament starts with the liberation of a group of slaves from oppression. Nothing is more political than this Biblical narrative. In our continent what is prevalent is the basis to define economic policy, agricultural development, foreign relations – Politics decides who should die and who should live. African theology should develop a political theology relevant to the African political life.”
Voice of the Voiceless
Upon his return to Ethiopia Gudina Tumsa became heavily engaged in matters of the spiritual, social, economic and political life of his people. Under the imperial government of Emperor Haile Selassie, who had ruled Ethiopia for half a century, the Ethiopian people were subjected to harsh expropriation of resources for the benefit of landlords and central authorities. Gudina Tumsa challenged the Imperial government on matters involving human rights, justice, feudalism and land reform. In 1971 he sent a letter urging Haile Selassie’s parliament to take action to rectify the injustices committed in the areas of land rights. Rev. Gudina Tumsa’s advocacy continued even after the Marxists Leninist Derg regime came into power. His activism in this political context eventually led to his death. His Christian identity and position as a church leader with high-level contacts in the West made him a target, his refusal to serve Mengistu Hailemariam’s government by going on a propaganda tour in Europe and his founding of an ecumenical church council independent from state control made him a threat. Although he knew about the immense danger, he faces he rejected leaving his country behind and this decision led to his eventual death and martyrdom.
Call To ActionGO to GTF US
Using Wholistic approach GTF stives to empower disadvantaged communities to see themselves as whole and capable human beings.
GTF’s vision is to see communities, who are empowered to perceive themselves as capable human beings, equipped to actively engage in all aspects of spiritual and physical human life.
"...an integral human development, where the spiritual and physical needs are seen together is the only right approach to the development question in our society." It is based on this statement that GTF has crafted its entire approach to development within Ethiopian society.
In Reverend Gudina Tumsa's own words:
Empowering women is empowering the whole society. This is a truth that GTF has adopted in its programs to lift individuals and communities as a whole out of poverty. GTF has focused its women empowerment program through various holistic programs, such as livelihood support and economic empowerment, access to basic services such as water sources, improved food chain management, improved agricultural practices and alternative fuel supply options. ... GTF began training and organizing women into women’s cooperatives to run shops, grinding mills and many other types of petty trades. Within a decade the number of microfinance groups in Fantalle had reached one hundred fifty-five, the most successful of these are run by women. Income generating activities including poultry and vegetable growing & selling and traditional craft production have provided women with economic freedom and a sense of achievement. GTF will continue to keep empowering women in various ways as means both to lift and strengthening the role of women, as well as lifting communities out of poverty.
Water Resource Management
Water is the source of life and a human right – despite this access to clean and safe water is scarce in various places around the world. One such area which has been deprived of access to safe and adequate water for its human and animal consumption with its large number of cattle is the area of Fantalle with its Karayu population. At the first glimpse of Karayu territory one might attribute the acute water shortage to the lack of rain and resultant dryness. The complexity of the problem and its political dimension was revealed when a visit was paid to Merti Sugar Plantation which is irrigated by the Awash River. ... land in 1994 the staff witnessed hundreds of animals flocking to the only borehole at Dhebiti village. The animals waited for their turns which lasted for hours and hours into the night. The trial became even harsher when the only generator pumping the borehole broke down or when the diesel ran out. With no experience in running water projects GTF embarked on undertaking the expensive task of drilling boreholes in various villages of Fantalle. As time went on other ways of providing water for humans and animals continued to be explored. GTF became a pioneer in building a sand dam in a village known as Banti-Mogasa where runoff water from the mountain was channeled through rocks and sand into a huge reservoir. The clean water could be used for irrigation of vegetable farms, in addition to watering both humans and animals. More emphasis was placed on rainwater harvesting by building underground cisterns, roof catchments and rock catchments. Life for humans and animals has become more bearable as a result woman no longer have to walk long distance to fetch water, neither do animals have wait in line for long hours to be watered. It should be noted that a new legislation regulating the use of the Awash river has been passed, called the Strategic River Basin Plan for Awash Basin (June 2017, by Awash Basin Authority), and with this GTF is hopeful that it will open up new opportunities for using the natural water sources in the area benefitting the communities at large, by watering animals, growing vegetable and having farms along the river side. Integrated Water Resource Management by the Awash river is something that GTF will continue exploring in the coming years to ensure that the communities can access and benefit from the river that their forefathers have used in generations before them.
For GTF education is more of a passion than a project. Two decades ago, when GTF built the very first school in Dhebiti, Fantalle there was not a single educated person to be found among the Karayu pastoralists. Proximity to the capital city did not do any justice for the Karayu, they were more underprivileged than the rural population in the most remote areas of the country. Dandi Gudina School, Dandi Gudina School, which hosted only 45 students at its establishment in 1995, was upgraded to include a high school within a decade and as a result it could host up to one thousand students. ... The need for education could not only be addressed through formal education, more and flexible alternatives had to be sought out. GTF is active within the Education as one of its key priority sectors. It is and will continue to be a passion for GTF to bring Education opportunities to those that could otherwise be left behind. During 2018-2019 GTF will be build three schools; two high schools within Oromia region and one Special Needs School (including boarding facilities) for children with visual impairment, which will be located within Addis Ababa. GTF aims to both provide physical education facilities, as well as quality training for teachers and to support the Education sector as a whole. Needs assessments have been undertaken in newly started Afaan Oromo schools within Addis Ababa, where the need for both physical infrastructure support, as well as training for teachers, is assessed and confirmed. Where needs and opportunities arise GTF is willing to extend its support to ensure that every child within its possible reach have access to Education, just as the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child states.
In the last eight consecutive years, volunteer medical mission teams from United States of America and Australia have been cooperating with GTF by providing medical services in the rural parts of Ethiopia in Fantalle District in the Upper Awash Valley of Oromia Regional State, in Daye town in Southern Nations & Nationalities Regional State and in rural villages around Suluta Town outside of Addis Ababa. The annual medical missions The annual medical missions, in addition to treating acute and chronic diseases, have been conducting short trainings for the rural health workers to upgrade their capacity in detecting and referring diseases, in treating minor medical complications,etc. ... The medical personnel, in addition to delivering treatments, brought along warmth and love to rural villagers who have had no opportunities of seeing medical doctors in their life time. The sporadic and brief medical missions developed into deeper and profound relationships amongst the various stakeholders. The networking across three continents — Australia, North America and Africa — paved the way for periodical medical services. Common disease types were identified and pertinent medical terminologies translated into the local languages of the respective areas and made available in print. The initiative of setting up the GTF-US Foundation emerged with the anticipation of providing more meaningful and sustainable medical services, by building medical clinics and Autism are Centers in rural parts of Ethiopia. GTF expresses its deep gratitude to City Life Church of Australia, the pioneers of the medical missions, and to the Trinity Lutheran church who accepted the torch to carry on the race. In 2018, after two years of upheaval in the country and a state of emergency which have prevented the medical missions to take place, GTF is now ready to restart the much needed medical missions to provide services in remote and neglected areas.
Building community resilience and mitigating climate change in hot and semi-arid lands such as Karayu Land, which is located in the Ethiopian Great Rift Valley, includes transforming the environment to be less hostile and dry and to introduce multi-purpose trees and water solutions. The Karayu land, where GTF has been active for over two decades, is Argely dominated by acacia trees and thorny bushes and it receives an unreliable 400 to 700 millimeter of rainfall per year. At the arrival of GTF the staff were enthusiastic in planting trees and transforming the arid, sun scorched climate into an oasis. Little did they know that every living being in the territory opposed the idea of planting trees. ... The pastoralists idealized an open grazing area for the large amount of cattle they owned, they saw no need for more trees. The water, in addition to being boiling hot, contained high amount of fluoride. Warms consumed seedlings at an early stage, not to mention the resistance of local government bureaus who saw the distribution of tree seedlings to the villages as politicization of the pastoralists. Against all odds GTF persisted in taking critical innovative steps such as the planting of indigenous multi-purpose trees that could withstand the harsh ecological conditions of the area, as well as the establishment of forage reserves by enclosing sections of the rangelands. The main aim has been to mitigate the low water levels, to attract rain and to transform the landscape through tree planting. The positive effects on both human and animal lives have been tremendous. Over two decades thousands of trees have been planted. The impact has been phenomenal and multidimensional tree species such as Moringa Olifera are nowadays being used for their medicinal and nutritional purposes while Lucaena, commonly known as Tropical Alfalfa, in addition to being fast growing and protein rich, serves as nutritive animal feed. GTF continues to work on scaling up and replicating its innovative efforts to other parts of the country in its relentless struggles of mitigating the worst effects of climate change.
- women empowerment
- water development
- medical missions
These are Team Leaders under GTF
Lensa GudinaExecutive Director
Aster GudinaDirector of Finance & Administration
Iyobed YonasDirector of Programs
Desaglegn AbdissaConstruction Manager
Deme DebelaLivelihood Officer
Dhaba HundeEducation Senior Officer
Addis Ababa, Bole Subcity
Yerer Bere Street
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