On a cool overcast afternoon at the top of the ridge overlooking Maji town, the rhythm from a single drum carried down the valley. Two young women took turns playing while a group of young men and women danced and sang their praises to Caroline Kurtz and her late father Harold, for giving them a shot at a better future.
In the 60s, Harold was a well-known figure in Maji, where he helped nurture the community’s economic and social growth, while charged to expand the Presbyterian Church’s following. Decades later, the compound once home to Caroline is still owned by the church but is now also home to a group of students who attend the only high school in Maji. Today, Caroline carries her father’s legacy, and is known as Maji Work, Amharic for “Maji Gold.”
There are 37 elementary schools scattered throughout the district, but only one high school which is located close to the town. Elementary school students who do well in exams qualify to advance to the secondary or high school, but often the number of students who actually do attend shrink. Because most of the families live in the outlying areas, it simply becomes too difficult to walk an hour to and from school each day.
Up on this ridge, the church offers free living quarters for the students, where they cook and care for themselves. Their daily journey to school is now just a 20-minute walk. When they heard Caroline was coming back to Maji, they wanted to sing, dance and say thank you.
And they know electricity is also coming soon.