What began as the adoption of an infant from Ethiopia by a Rotary Club of Wimberley co-president in 2008 and support of the club has become an international project supporting the education and welfare of hundreds of children.
The Rotary Past President, Sonja Simmons, adopted the Ethiopian child, to be named Davis Moon for whom the Davis Moon Project is named. The Project (DMP) is now a 501(c)3 non-profit with humble beginnings in Wimberley.
The Wimberley Rotary Club’s main effort is the support of literacy. But neither Sonja nor the club had an idea her experience and the group’s philanthropic endeavors would come together to benefit thousands of orphans and impoverished children nearly half way around the world.
Ethiopia, a country about twice the size of Texas, is located on the northwestern corner of the continent of Africa.
The DMP has made literacy and orphan care its primary mission. Having operated 12 years, the group takes volunteers to Ethiopia every 24 months to work on public works projects that promote literacy among children and provide assistance to orphans.
“This project has been a true labor of love for me,” Simmons said.
Wimberley Rotarians Marsha Cooper, Nora Turner and Carrie Campbell have traveled with the group and seen firsthand the difference the DMP is making in the lives of the forgotten children.
On each trip the volunteers take as many books, school supplies or uniforms as allowed in their luggage, three bags at 50 lbs. each.
In 2010, the DMP agreed to sponsor an abandoned school project in the village of Arbegona. The school was comprised of three classrooms with dirt floors and no windows. Ninety-eight Kindergarteners signed up to attend the school.
Today the school is made up of 31 classrooms with more than 50 instructors. It sponsors an orphan meal program for 200 students and educates 2,000 of the country’s most impoverished children. All is done by  volunteers thus no administrative costs.
The school serves pre-K through 8th grade and operates two school sessions five days a week with 85 students to a classroom.
“Opening our pre-K program in 2018 was a major boost for our older students who were torn between an education and caring for their younger siblings at home,” said Simmons. “Now they have the opportunity to finish the 8th grade and move on to the high school in the area.
At least two of DMP’s former students who began in Kindergarten have graduated and gone on to high school. One of the biggest challenges is that 80 languages that are actively spoken there. Like all government-sponsored schools, the DMP School teaches all but one course in English in an attempt to unify the county and promote commerce and opportunity.
In addition to the school, the organization works with two orphanages to deliver much needed supplies. The volunteer missions take place in June, just before the rainy season, so a nutrient-rich baby formula and disposable diapers are essential to the orphans surviving the wet season in which repertory illness and skin conditions are rampant.
“At this point, we simply struggle to keep up with the need for desks, uniforms and maintenance funds for the school,” Simmons said. “Baby formula is a huge expense but crucial to supply the orphanages.
Desks cost $40 each and accommodate three students each. An area carpenter builds them and only delivers them when 100 are ordered.
Other obstacles are always present. 
Chinese industry in the country consumes nearly all the electricity available.
“The school gets maybe three hours (of electricity) a day, if that,” Simmons said.
The lack of constant electricity makes refrigeration difficult for keeping baby formula for the orphans.
The students’ parents dug a 600 ft. well but Simmons said the water quality is terrible.
“We are constantly working on the well and I have seen it operational only a handful (of water) at a time.” There is no expertise in the area to properly maintain it.
A private family who rents a small space of land on the campus runs the meal program. They provide meals at cost (6¢ each) for the students. But they do not work Sundays and sell bread at the local market on Saturdays, thus the meals are provided on schooldays only.
“The Rotary Club of Wimberley has been such a consistent partner and I am forever grateful for each and every Wimberley Rotarian.”
Because of the Coronavirus this summer’s trip has been postponed. Twenty volunteers were scheduled to take three bags each containing 1,500 uniforms under an agreement with Ethiopian Airlines for an extra baggage allowance.
The needs continue however. Always needed is the $40 each for desks and uniforms for 500 pre-K students at $15 each as well as funds for the orphan meal program. The building, maintenance and irrigation costs run to $2,000 and $4,000 more is needed for latrines, teacher training, 1,500 testing books for end of year exams, a printer and laminated learning supplies.
Somehow, though, Simmons said, the school will continue to grow and succeed.
The infant Simmons adopted and named Davis Moon was underweight and plagued with parasites at that time, as are many of the children in his part of Ethiopia. Today he is a strapping 5’8”, 250 lb. Jr. High star football player. To volunteer, donate or learn more about the Davis Moon Project visit https://davismoonproject.org/.