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CNN Lauds Manicurist as Hero

Congratulations to Washington D.C.-based manicurist Lidia Schaefer, who was honored as a “CNN Hero” in June after she sold her home and her car in order to raise money to build a new school in her native village in Ethiopia.

Her story begins in the 1990s when she paid a visit to Feres Mai, a large village in northern Ethiopia where she was born. According to the story on, she was troubled by what she saw: children walking three hours each way to attend classes held not in a school, but under a tree. When she learned in 1998 that one of the girls she’d met on that visit — Medhine — had been attacked and killed by a hyena after falling behind other children during the long trek home from school, it spurred her to take action.

Schaefer, who works at Fusion Day Spa in Washington D.C.,  began by setting aside a third of her salary and all of her tips. She also lobbied the Ethiopian government to donate land in a central location so the school could serve children from several nearby villages. “I was working two days for the school, four days for me,” she told CNN. Her clients and coworkers rallied to help, holding raffles and making contributions. Several clients bought individual doors or windows for the school. But that wasn’t enough. So in 2002, she sold her home and her car.

Schaefer ultimately raised more than $250,000 for the school, which was completed in 2006. When she went back for the dedication, she was honored with an elaborate procession through the village. “I was so happy, I can’t even describe it,” she recalls.

Today, nearly 1,500 students are educated in the school, which boasts an eight-building campus with 16 classrooms, a science lab, and library. Schaefer still sets aside her tips and wages to support her school and has kept up her fundraising efforts to buy supplies. Her next goal is to furnish the school with computers.

For more information or to make a tax-deductible contribution, go to

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