In 2001, a major drought threatened over 16 million people in Ethiopia. Jo was working at the Economic Commission for Africa located in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She convinced her colleagues to play an active part in ameliorating the situation and created a task force called the Ethiopian Children’s Appeal. By also engaging the local community, schools and the Rotary Club, the project raised enough money to make the first delivery of three tons of nutritional biscuits, clean water, and school supplies to over 300 students at a rural school in Sodore, Ethiopia.
When Jo moved to Geneva a the end of 2003 to return to her former organization, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the idea traveled with her, and the Appeal’s scope and support network expanded. Since 2004, Jo has organized Spring and Winter charity bazaars in Geneva every year, selling Ethiopian artisanal products such as cotton scarves and textiles, baskets, coffee and silver jewelry. The bazaars have been such a success that Jo and her colleague, Brigitte, started designing and making jewelry as well. All proceeds from these efforts support ECA projects. A few years ago, Jo created an online shop at Etsy.com/Shop/Schoolery. Jo has taught her Artist for Charity granddaughters how to make jewelry and their creations are now being sold at the fundraising bazaars and will soon be available for purchase online.
Since 2004, Jo has traveled at her own expense, to Ethiopia every December to make the deliveries to the schools, spend Christmas with the AFC children, and oversee construction projects with local volunteers. She has organized seven annual trips for friends and colleagues to visit the schools, meet the children, and visit Ethiopia and its historical sites.
Jo is now retired from the UN and is living between the US and Ethiopia and is volunteering most of her time to activities in support of the Ethiopian Children’s Appeal.