Alemu Tadesse is an 18 year-old orphan who works as a night guard in a local church, which provides a shelter for him to spend the nights. Everyday he takes a bath in a river nearby before going to school.
After finishing middle school, Alemu thought he didn’t stand a chance in life. Then a glimmer of light appeared as he learned about the Youth Career Initiative (YCI) programme through a teacher from school who put him forward for the training. He realised this was an opportunity he simply couldn’t afford to miss. Nine other young people in similar dire circumstances had also won a place to participate in the fourth year of YCI in Ethiopia. In August 2011 they started the 24-week intensive training programme that would teach them life and work skills at the Sheraton Addis Hotel.
In February 2012 the ten participants successfully finished the training and Sheraton Addis organised a beautiful graduation ceremony where the youngsters could celebrate their achievement alongside their family and friends, as well as their teachers and mentors at the hotel.
20 year-old Mekasha Mulu spoke on behalf of his fellow classmates at the graduation ceremony:
“Before we came to the Sheraton Addis, life was difficult and hope was far away. We completed Grade 10 (equivalent to middle school) and we had no chance to educate ourselves further because we were so poor, that we could hardly think where our next meal would come from. Then we were accepted onto the YCI programme and we developed our skills over the course of 6 months. We are now more confident, we feel we can find a job, and we can change our future. We feel that we are independent and have something positive to offer our community. We are no longer in the dark about our future”.
"At the Sheraton Addis, we help deserving young people reach their potential by unlocking and cultivating their capability through mentoring and specialized on-the-job training and life skills. These help build their confidence to find jobs using the skills they learned from the hotel. In helping others, we help our business in a sustaining, positive cycle of success."
Sheraton Addis first implemented the YCI programme in 2005 and so far 35 young people in four cohorts have been through the initiative and have moved on to find jobs in the hospitality industry, as well as in other service-based sectors such as banking. Mrs Edna Tamondong, Director of Human Resources at Sheraton Addis, has been a dedicated and passionate force behind the local programme. She has coordinated YCI in Ethiopia since it first launched, from identifying deserving candidates from the local communities, organising and tracking the delivery of the training programme, to arranging job placements for the young participants upon graduation.
Sheraton Addis, as part of the Starwood Hotels Group, is committed to the local communities through its “Opening Doors to Opportunity” strategy, which seeks to generate the most positive, long-term impact by empowering members of the community. The hotel operates YCI as part of this strategy. Mrs Tamondong says:
“At the Sheraton Addis, we help deserving young people reach their potential by unlocking and cultivating their capability through mentoring and specialized on-the-job training and life skills. These help build their confidence to find jobs using the skills they learned from the hotel. In helping others, we help our business in a sustaining, positive cycle of success.”
Over the next year, the YCI Global Team will look into expansion opportunities to grow the programme in Ethiopia.
Image below: graduates of the YCI Ethiopia 2011 cohort