Building a Better Future for Children

Mimi O'Hagan

Mimi O'Hagan

In the 1980s, Mimi O'Hagan decided that her late sister's four sons and daughter and 16 grandchildren didn't need another teddy bear gift-wrapped for Christmas. Instead, she made annual gifts in their names to Save the Children. She also extended her commitment to us by taking out a charitable gift annuity. "Save the Children provided wonderful tax benefits and allowed me to continue to support the charity of my choice," she said. In addition she made us a beneficiary of her IRA.

In 2000, Mimi retired after a 48-year career in communications. She began month-long volunteer trips around the world. No matter where she traveled Mimi organized a side trip to see a Save the Children project. But it was her trip to Ethiopia that launched her philanthropic odyssey.

By 2006, at age 76 Mimi was serving as a volunteer constructing mud houses in Ethiopia. She has never shied away from manual labor. During a short break, she discovered a three-year-old boy whose face was covered with sores, dressed in a ragged shirt and crying beside a dirty stream. He was struggling to fill a corroded, enamel plate with spoonfuls of water.

Mimi returned to her home in New York haunted by the little boy and resolved to raise money to build a primary school with running water in the impoverished, rural Tigray region in northern Ethiopia.

Sitting at her dining room table surrounded by envelopes, stamps and Save the Children reports, she penned hand-written notes to generous friends and family, urging them to help her bring education to the children of Tigray, including girls who ordinarily do not receive schooling.

Over the years, Mimi's Building Blocks raised over $840,000 for Save the Children. Supported by the Ethiopian Ministry of Health & Education, Mimi's Building Blocks built and equipped five schools and kindergartens and refurbished a health clinic. She also raised money to provide wells so that villages and the surrounding region could enjoy a valuable commodity in that part of the world: fresh water. Mimi died on May 9, 2018, but left an impressive legacy that will transform the lives of countless numbers of children in need.

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