Eight years ago, Maria Strintzos took it upon herself to start the Hawzien Ethiopian Community Based Orphan Project. With the help of organization REST, the local government and more importantly, the continuing generosity of mainly the Greek community, Ms Strintzos has been able to help over 8,000 children in the Northern Ethiopian region of Tigray.
In the latest fundraiser held just last month, more than 130 people attended the afternoon tea in Oakleigh, raising $11,000 for the project.
A couple of years ago Ms Strintzos adopted her son Haftu through the project, orphaned at a young age.
As the name of the project suggests, all funds raised go to helping children in rural and isolated areas that have been orphaned due to war or illness, in particular AIDS.
“Tigray’s population is now 4.8 million, and about 75,000 children are either single or double parent orphans. That’s a significant proportion,” said Ms Strintzos.
Every time she would return to her hometown of Melbourne, having worked in Ethiopia for 23 years, Ms Strintzos recalls that family and friends would donate money. After witnessing people’s generosity and their interest in sponsoring a child, she decided to start the project.
“The kids receive a cash allowance to help them get ready to go to school, and then a monthly allowance, which enables them to buy clothes, but food more importantly,” said Ms Strintzos.
According to Ms Strintzos, the only thing that stands in the way of survival and death for these children is a mere $220.
“When I do my talks at schools I point out to the children that one of these video game consoles – that’s the life of a child – and I think kids grasp it” says Ms Strintzos.
To date, approximately $160,000 has been raised for the project through fundraising such as raffles and tavern nights, with most funds being raised through special afternoon teas held every two years.
Ms Strintzos is very enthusiastic about the project and plans to continue her work for the children of Africa for as long as she is able.
“It’s the pride, the happiness, that ray of hope that somebody from across the world is actually thinking about them and has given them something to better themselves. In the fundraiser, it’s not 100 per cent that goes to these kids, it’s 110 per cent.”

If you are interested in donating money to the Hawzien Ethiopian Community Based Orphan Project please contact Maria Strintzos directly on 0450 664 090 or via email mariastrintzos@yahoo.com