"We can do no great things, only small things with great love."

Mother Teresa

Background information about Yirgaalem and the Charity


Yirgaalem is one of the oldest towns in the southern part of Ethiopia and it used to be the capital city of the then Sidamo region. During that period the first comprehensive high school, the first Norwegian Evangelical elementary and secondary school and the first modern hospital in the southern part of Ethiopia were established in Yirgaalem. The development of Yirgaalem began to slow down when it lost its status of being the regional capital city to Hawassa in 1967 and its status of Zonal town again to Hawassa in the beginning of the 1990’s. Such administrative measures forced various institutions to relocate to Hawassa minimising the resources that should be allocated to the infrastructural development of Yirgaalem. Despite this Yirgaalem and its surrounding villages along with neighbouring districts continue to produce one of the best coffee brands in the world, the Sidama coffee, contributing to the wider economy of Ethiopia.  


Demographically the Sidama zone in general and Yirgaalem and its adjacent villages in particular are among one of the fastest growing in the country, thus making it difficult to meet the growing demands of school places for children. Prior to the involvement of the Yirgaalem Appeal Trust (the Children of Yirgaalem appeal Trust) it was even harsher for the poor families living in and around Yirgaalem to send their kids to school due to lack of spaces as well as their inability to fund for educational materials and school uniforms for their children. The first badge of visitors (later trustees) travelled to Yirgaalem in 2004 with Dereje Retta Geleta, (a naturalised British citizen who grew up, studied and worked in the town). This was more or less a fact finding mission led by qualified social workers from the Home finding and fostering Agency, UK. The trip was sponsored by Terry Casey the managing director of the Homefinding and Fostering Agency and headed by Glyn Charlton.


The group, having carried out its assessment, was convinced that there were thousands of children in the town who aspire to go to school but unable to do so due to lack of resources. It was agreed to set up a Charity, The Yirgaalem Appeal Trust, whose aim it is to fill this gap and provide educational opportunities to some of the children of Yirgaalem.


Our Trustees

Gail WestYirgaalem

“I live on a farm in Kent and trained at Plumpton Agricultural College winning the dairy prize. I had a dairy herd until 12 years ago and now have a beef suckler herd with calves. I am a member of K.C.A.S. I sing with several choirs.

I became interested in the Yirgaalem Charity soon after it’s inception and had the opportunity to donate sufficient funds to build 2 classrooms at Dongora – a remote village south of Yirgaalem. I have visited Yirgaalem and Dongora on 3 occasions. The latest visit demonstrated to me what can be achieved by providing facilities for education and the enthusiasm and willingness for Ethiopian children to learn.”


Mark Lumsdon-Taylor

Mark Lumsdon-Taylor is Director of Finance and Resources for the Hadlow Group comprising Hadlow College, West Kent College, Ashford College. Betteshanger Sustainable Parks, Hadlow Rural Community School, Hadlow Community Pre-school and Produced in Kent. Mark is a director of the Kent County Agricultural Society, a director of Rural Plc (Kent) and a Kent Ambassador.

He has undertaken substantial voluntary work for a hospice organisation that supports terminally ill children and their families. Mark has led the £40m Betteshanger Sustainable Parks project – designed to regenerate an area of East Kent that has suffered a series of socio-economic setbacks – from its inception six years ago. From April 2014 until the official take over by Hadlow College of the failing K College in August 2014, Mark was instrumental in restructuring the finances and resources to ensure a bright and sustainable future for the newly named West Kent College and Ashford College.

Mark has been the recipient of numerous awards including Accountancy Age UK Finance Director of the Year (Public Sector) in 2007. In 2008 Hadlow College was awarded the title ‘KEIBA Large Company of the Year’ for its performance in business. In 2014 Mark was the recipient of the Business Finance Awards title ‘UK Finance Director of the Year – Public Sector and Voluntary’.  The same year Hadlow College received the KEiBA award for Commitment to the Environment. Originally from the north of England, Mark is committed to the economic and social progress of the county he has adopted. He lives on the Hadlow College campus but escapes to his apartment in Dover whenever time allows.



Glyn Charlton

Glyn spent the early years of his life in practical agriculture until he was fortunate enough to be engaged by Unilever in their subsidiary BOCM Silcock as a cattle specialist. In 1994, he started his own buying cooperative called the SKS Dairy Group which included a large percentage of dairy farmers in Kent and Surrey. Since retiring early in 2002, Glyn has been a Parish Councillor in both Tovil and East Farleigh and is currently Chair of them both. Having recently retired after 10 years as a Governor of Hadlow College, Glyn is still a trustee of Hayle Place Country Park, East Farleigh Allotment Association, East Farleigh Recreation Field and The Yirgaalem Children’s Appeal Trust based in Ethiopia. He has been Finance Director of the Kent County Agricultural Society for the last 4 years and is currently in his second 3 year term.



Dereje Retta Geleta

“I grew up in Yirgaalem. Studied and worked locally before leaving for Europe at the age of 28. In the UK I spent most of my working life supporting and helping unaccompanied minors and mainstream young people in my capacity as a social worker and manager in the organisation I set up and as a consultant to the Homefindiing and Fostering Agency.

When I traveled back to Ethiopia in 2004 I decided to provide educational materials to 30 disadvantaged students selected from my old schools in memory of my late mother Abebech Feyissa. The Director of the Homefinding and fostering Agency, Terry Casey, was sincerely moved by my humble intention and decided to sponsor a fact finding group to Yirgaalem, which laid the foundation for the inception of The Yirgaalem Appeal Trust –  A Charity dedicated to helping the children of Yirgaalem and its adjacent villages.

Over the last decade the Charity built a school,which was named after my late mother,  helped the expansion of at least two schools and supported various projects locally. I can only say how privileged I am to have come across such wonderful British individuals and institutions committed to working with children of Yirgaalem. Hope the good work will continue in the future so that we can reduce the burden of poverty by providing access to education to thousands of children.”