Two women, one legacy: Raising a village

Powerhouse business woman Jalynn Bennett and lifelong teacher Sharyn Mandel both knew the power of education to change lives – it was a passionate cause close to the hearts of both women. But even they couldn’t have predicted how much inspiration would spring from the gifts they gave posthumously to the small community of Gobele, Ethiopia.

Sharyn Mandel was a passionate educator whose life’s purpose was teaching. She had a particular interest in developing the minds of young girls, and fostering their independent spirits. Upon passing away from cancer in 2013, Sharyn’s family discovered that she intended for them to carry out her dream to found a school in developing country. In partnership with imagine1day, that dream became reality in October 2014, as Gobele Sharyn Mandel Primary School, located in Ethiopia’s southern Oromia region, opened its doors.

The 450-student school reached capacity shortly after its inauguration, so Sharyn’s family and friends focused on fundraising for an expansion in 2015. After Jalynn Bennett – passionate philanthropist and breaker of glass ceilings – passed away suddenly in January 2015, she passed the torch of her philanthropic endeavours on to her children. Sam, a childhood friend of Sharyn’s son Gabe, donated half the funds needed to increase the capacity of Gobele Sharyn Mandel Primary School from 450 to 700 students through the Jalynn H. Bennett Foundation.

In two short years, so much has changed for the girls and women of Gobele. Girls’ enrolment has increased from 60 to 182, closing the gender gap (boys’ enrolment sits at 302). 101 adult students attend literacy classes, 91 of them women. The community has shown a significant attitudinal change towards the value of education, and adults are now encouraging their children to attend school.

The Game Plan

This year, Jalynn and Sharyn’s family and friends are once again joining forces to expand the Gobele Sharyn Mandel Primary School, for the community they have adopted as their own. The goal is to raise $100,000 to build The Jalynn Bennett wing at Gobele Sharyn Mandel Primary School – furnished with a library, laboratory room, pedagogical centre, and staff room. In January 2018, imagine1day will break ground on the new buildings, which will be ready for the new academic year in the fall. These new facilities will enhance the quality of education, and improve learning outcomes for the community of Gobele.


Gobele Sharyn Mandel Primary School is located in the district of Meda Welabu in Ethiopia’s Oromia Region.