The early origins of ECF lie in a mission that founder Anna Getaneh undertook in 1993 to visit refugee camps on the border of Ethiopia and Kenya. During the visit, after many years away from her homeland, she could not rationalize away the sad plight of the extremely disadvantaged children whom she met that unforgettable first trip back to the region. Unable to turn her back to the silent cries and despair, she resolved to get involved and make a real difference. Anna organized an international group of committed friends, individuals and set in motion the beginnings of ECF. After several fund raising activities, initially assistance was provided to existing organizations in Ethiopia, in 1997 ECF registered as an NGO in Ethiopia. This led to ECF's first project: the conception, construction and establishment of the ECF Village ' Education & Development Program in Aleltu ' ECF-EDP.
ECF-EDP was established on 37 acres (15 Hectares) of land adjacent to the very poor village of Aleltu, located 55 kilometers from Addis Ababa. Aleltu ' a part of Berehe-Aleltu Woreda, a population of 150,600 ' was chosen due to its deprivation and poverty. The main stay of the population is agriculture: predominantly crop production and animal rearing. Gender disparities are high in the area, with low female school participation. Other factors that hinder children from going to school include: school distance from home, the need for child work in the home economy, direct educational costs and negative cultural perspectives on childhood.
Aleltu has virtually no public or private investment. There is one elementary school shared by several communities, but it is overcrowded and highly inadequate. Approximately 65% of the children in the area have no access to primary education. Less than 1% of the child population participates in pre-school or early childhood development programs. There is only one small clinic, also highly inadequate, and out of reach for the majority. The site is rural, but not too far from the city of Addis Ababa, and allows for regular interaction between the program and its benefactors and monitors, who are based in Addis Ababa or internationally.
ECF was established to help eliminate some of the deprivations in Aleltu. In 1998, twenty students were enrolled. Today, ECF has reached an unprecedented 610 children, from Kindergarten to University, as well as vocational level, between the ages of 4 and 20 with complete gender equality. ECF will continue to enroll additional students annually.