Vision School: Serving the Poorest of the Poor

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Yerus—a six-year-old girl at Vision School—looked up, holding her bowl. The cook plopped down a serving of rice, beets, carrots and cabbage. American students might have gagged in disgust. But Yerus’ mouth turned up in a smile. You’d have thought she’d been served chocolate ice cream!
That smile was one drop of a recent rain of blessings for our ministry. Thank you Jesus, who said “let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-14, 16).
Jesus’ command to help the poor and to help children empowers this urban slum school. Please join us in obeying Jesus and empowering these incredible children.

Serving the urban poor

Vision School is a low-budget school nestled in the urban slums of Addis Ababa. It’s operated by Christ-centered Ethiopians for children who are the poorest of the poor. The school provides education and moral teachings, with a breakfast/lunch program that may be the only food the children receive during a day.

Vision School is Gigi and Scott’s growing priority for empowering children and the poor. We believe it is here that we can best serve the most children in a cost-effective manner.

This non-profit school educates 267 students in grades pre-school through Grade 5 (2019) and it is growing each year. In charitable schools, it is a federal policy that local government chooses those who are most in need, including orphans, some with HIV. A majority of the students are raised by single parents, or by other family members. All live in the adjacent urban slums and struggle for money to survive, usually making items for sale. There is no “welfare” system in Ethiopia—people get by the best they can.

Meet the Christian founders

Dedicated servants of God operate the school and sincerely believe in serving the poor. Mrs. Ferihiwot Gugessa is the ‘mother’ of almost 300 children in her “Raa’iy” (Vision) Academy, which she started and has been running for the past twelve years. She runs the school with her husband, Mengesha Gebere-Yesus. (For an in-depth interview with this couple, please read a great story here.

They are a very prayerful couple and self-sacrificial. They once operated a highly successful for-profit school and initially funded Vision School from that school’s profit. As Vision School grew, they felt God calling them to sell the for-profit school and put all their efforts in the free school for the poor.
The school has 24 employees (teachers, cooks, guards) and they rely on the Lord to provide funding.

How you can help:

[NOTE: The Covid virus cancelled plans for the 2020 Mission Trip and stopped all fundraising before it could begin. For 2021, we plan a scaled back plan that focuses on ensuring the child have monthly food. We’ll investigate their most critical needs and plan for that in near future.]

Immediate Priority 2020:

  • 1. Help sponsor the school’s food program. This may be the only food the students eat daily, so it is critically important. After school, many children sleep, often on the floor in a corner of a room, without eating dinner. These are slum kids in one of the fastest growing urban areas in the world. Our goal is supplementing the food program with $1,000 per month, about half the current food budget.
  • Help build a new kitchen. Our 2018 project equipped an old kitchen with appliances and utensils.  Last year, a mudslide took away a wall from that old mud-and-stick building, and it’s definitely time to build something more long-lasting.
  • New wall for security. The mudslide also wiped out the tin fence providing security for the school and must be replaced with a more permanent structure. It would keep the kids safe in the school.
  • Build new classrooms. The school has been expanding fast because of demand. They require new classrooms as the school adds one new grade level each year. There is a need to improve tin-constructed classrooms into more permanent classrooms and add new rooms. In addition, tin sheets cover the large dining hall, far from ideal.

And building and supplying a library and media center: In the modern world, the students must have good information, and good technology. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it has to be a good start for future learning. 

Heart-warming stories:

There are so many heartbreaking and heartwarming stories occurring daily at Vision School. Let us share one from school master Mrs. Ferihiwot Gugessa:

Losing a Mom

“I remember there was a boy about three years of age. His father abandoned the family, and the boy lived alone with his ill mother. One day his mother got critically sick and wanted him to call for help from the neighbors. The boy was only three, and he had been through a lot of traumas with his sick mother. When his mother asked him to open the door and call for help, the boy remained helpless and he could not open the door. His mother died before his eyes… This boy shared this story when his teacher asked him to open the door for her, and he broke down crying. This boy is now 2nd grade student and in a better condition, though there is nothing we can do about his guilt of losing his mother.”

Please pray about helping these needy children, children like the girl, Yerus, and also the boy above.



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Scott and Gigi Martell have served with New International since 2009. Scott worked with Project Mercy in Ethiopia from 2007-2009. In 2009, Scott and Gigi established a mercy ministry in Ethiopia that empowers women and children and follows James 1:27.

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