Bekelech Demessie Rorisa

Bekelech Demessie Rorisa was born in the rural area of the eastern part of Ethiopia, in the Adama District Village of Didimtu. Her vision was to work among the marginalized community, taking a holistic approach to community development. She is a true hero, with the courage, tenacity, and optimism to make even the most challenging of dreams come true.

Everyone has the potential to be an agent of change and this change starts with family.

Bekelech began the path to making her vision a reality by attending a teachers’ training institute, after which the Gudina Tumsa Foundation (GTF) hired her as an elementary teacher. GTF supported Bekelech by funding her further education for four years. She graduated with her first degree in Bible and Theology from Addis Ababa Bible College.


Living and working in the rural area of Fantelle among the Karayu people gave Bekelech insight into the lack of opportunities, education, water, food security, gender equality, and more. Bekelech has a strong belief that all people born in the image of God have wisdom, knowledge, the right to live, the capacity to work, the capacity to learn, and the capacity to manage the environment around them. But in the rural areas all things seemed entirely the opposite. There was a lack of awareness and understanding of the potential that is found in every person.

Still, Bekelech knew that everyone has the potential to be an agent of change and that this change starts with family, neighbours, village, and town and spreads to the world. She was ready to apply her own God-given potential to make a lasting difference in the economical, social, and spiritual life of the community.

Her Vision

Bekelech began her life’s work by helping 24 people from two villages—Didimtu and Bati Kalo—using her teacher’s salary of 270 ETB (less than $40/month). She found a like-minded supporter in the person of Worknesh Begi. She too went to the villages, saw the many problems, and gave of her own salary to help the communities survive a drought at that time. Starting with $400, Bekelech and Worknesh bought hens, farmland, seeds for the farm, and grain for the people to eat.

At this time, quite coincidentally, a team of Rotarians from Westlock, Alberta, Canada, was visiting the school where Bekelech was teaching. The Canadians saw in Bekelech a special quality and dedication that convinced them to help with the work she had begun for the poorest of the poor. With their donation, Bekelech gathered 10 other poor women from Didimtu village and bought calves for the women to fatten in order to get a better price at the market. She repeated this with more and more women until 138 women in the Didimtu area were being helped to generate income to ensure their children were fed and that they were sent to school.

The revolving fund set up then is still working. The women formed a women’s association and proudly saved 15,000 ETB (nearly $2,000) in their bank account.

Further development came with support from Rainbow for the Future, who by now knew the “power of Bekelech” and her vision. A small goods shop was built and supplied, and the community constructed two school classrooms using local materials and labour. Drought and famine were never very far away. In 2008, the region waited for rains that didn’t come and crops failed. Fifty widow women were given corn for food to survive to the next harvest.

In 2009, Rainbow for the Future partnered with the Canadian International Development Agency to bring a large development project to Didimtu. The project included construction of a school for grades 1 to 4 and a Kindergarten facility, a grain store and grinding mill operated by a women’s cooperative to generate income and relieve the burdens of women, and a clean, reliable water system for the community. With the help of Alberta Rotary clubs, a residence was established for the teachers at the new school and a health post was built nearby.

On December 3, 2008, Bekelech registered her own licensed NGO, the Sageda Development Association. Through this organization, she continues to heroically change the lives of people in truly profound ways.

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