Malibu native Christine Waljeski, along with her husband Julien Dubois, are raising money toward paying for the expenses of a total of 325 teachers and government officials to go to one of several sites in Ethiopia for leadership training. The couple has now raised $12,500 toward their goal of $20,000, with a deadline of Feb. 14. Fundraising efforts by others in the U.S. and Canada will bring the total to $120,000.
Waljeski has committed to raising $20,000 to go on the trip — essentially paying for the expenses of 67 Ethiopian educators to travel from rural communities and attend the training. She is one of 12 instructors who will be donating their services and traveling to Ethiopia at their own expense to deliver “Lightyear Leadership” training at a conference over a four-day period.
“It will be North American leaders working with Ethiopian leaders,” Waljeski said. “There will be a mix at each location, and we’ll have translators.” She has been studying for over two years in her spare time to become a qualified instructor in these courses.
The gist of the training is to lead teachers to recognize their unique contributions and impact on the world. They leave the training with a set of 10-year goals and leadership tools.
“It’s how to take planned goals and a vision to bring a project to life,” she said.
“There’s a tradition for children to do chores instead of going to school among Ethiopians in rural communities,” Waljeski explained. “The community needs to honor tradition, yet still examine it and implement change to move forward. Most teachers aren’t trained to envision their job as creating change and inspiring the people around them.”
The nonprofit organization Waljeski and Dubois work with, imagine1day, was formed in 2007 by Canadian billionaire philanthropist couple Dennis (“Chip”) Wilson and Shannon Wilson, founders of the Lululemon Athletica clothing line. In addition to an endowment, the organization raised $2.2 million in public funds in 2015.
The goal of imagine1day is to “be part of a movement to give all Ethiopian children access to quality education, free from foreign aid, by 2030.” The nonprofit directs 100 percent of donations toward school construction, teacher training, leadership development, education materials and supplies and high school scholarships. Salary and travel costs for field staff, fundraising costs, and occupation costs are covered through the endowment.
The organization’s website states they have now reached out to 487 schools and communities in Ethiopia, affecting a quarter-million children each year — a 300 percent growth in the last three years. Imagine1day has also completed 35 new schools with five more under construction, trained 6,451 teachers, principals and community leaders, and delivered 29,211 library books.
Why Ethiopia? Waljeski and Dubois explained: “Ethiopia was the sixth-poorest country in the world, yet they had formulated a vision to become a middle-income country by 2025. Imagine1day became aware of this goal and said, ‘There’s a will, so let’s help them find a way. We’ll concentrate all of our revenues in this one country as an example.’
“It’s a partnership with the community, not just aid,” Waljeski said. “The community invests between 10 and 20 percent in each school.”
Waljeski, who grew up in Malibu’s Las Flores neighborhood and graduated from Malibu High School, met husband Julien Dubois in 2004 when they were both geology majors in graduate school at UC Berkeley. The couple has now been together over 10 years, and was married in 2010 at the Malibu Adamson House.
Waljeski has worked in primary education at various private schools for the past decade, while teaching dance and yoga. She is also an artist and currently has two paintings on exhibit at the King Gillette Ranch visitor center.
Dubois earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Caltech, and currently does research at Cedars-Sinai. He does fundraising for imagine1day, and plans to handle onsite logistics during the Ethiopian training sessions.
If their fundraising efforts are successful, the couple will be off to Ethiopia from March 28 to April 8. The couple needs to raise an additional $7,500 by Feb. 14.