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Thursday
Jun192014

Our Story Through Helen's Eyes

It has been 10 years since I completed a year of living in Ethiopia. Most of my friends were shocked or amazed that I could do it. But I was excited and grateful to be living in Ethiopia every day I was here and am still. The people are beautiful, inside and out. The students are so eager to learn, Education is a priority. The teachers worked tirelessly in unbelievably difficult circumstances. I learned more that I was teaching. I learned about the meaning of community and the importance of slowing down and talking together. I learned about the value of family and responsibility and hard work. Despite the many challenges of life, everyone was friendly, smiling and welcoming. How do they do it? I knew how fortunate I was. I also knew that I could work to share any resources I had with my new friends.

Sharing my discoveries with my friends and family, brought terrific support from all corners. My daughter was the first to connect with a business in the US willing to donate funds and when I went to the largest school in town and asked the teachers what they wanted, they said, " A library". So it was settled. We would work toward that goal. But this library would be for all the community. It would be filled with all types of books, both English and Ethiopian languages. It would enable young and old to expand their horizons and find ways to solve their own and community problems through access to information. Computers would also be necessary.

But how to do this. I knew it wouldn't be easy and I had to have someone on the ground who could make this happen. It took only a few moments thought to figure out how that would have to be.

I met Woldeamanuel at the Hosanna Teacher Training College where I was living and doing teacher training. He willingly drove me into town that day for my first ride in a Russian car. He was full of ideas and enthusiasm and possibilities for making life better. I was captivated by his energy, his vision, and his dedication to improving living conditions in Hosanna.

Woldeamanuel eventually agreed to help us in our work on improving education for the 27,000 children in Hosanna Town. Yearly we came to do primary school teacher training, conducting training for 95-200 teachers at a time, sent books to 40 schools in the Hadiya Zone, and the big effort was building the library. It is hard to imagine what this involved. Picture Woldeamanuel going back and forth to the capital and back over and over again to get documents to allow the container of books into the county. Picture him jumping into his car and getting others to join him to lead an 18 wheeler truck filled with 30,000 books out of a ditch and connecting the cab with the container, miraculously getting everything to Hosanna in one piece. The building construction was fraught with complications between contractors, engineers, town and school. Getting parents, the town and the Zone to contribute financially and making sure the building was constructed properly. Wolde enabled us to bring water to a school of 2,500 children and the 60 families living around the school. He did this with ease, facilitating the town water board to work with us and build toilets as well. . Wolde worked with the parent committee of a rural school outside of Hosanna, monitoring and supporting the building of a new 4 classroom building block that will cut class size in half. He arranged for our visits, facilitated numerous meetings, managed funds and worked with all stakeholders to enable us to work together to accomplish all that we did. It is hard to imagine all the things that Woldeamanuel has done. It would make a very long list.

What always amazed me was how he would think of the perfect solution to everything that we were working on. Here are 2 examples. We would bring funds to the US and they would be managed so that there was a committee of parents, town education personnel, school principal, student, and Woldeamanuel. But to pay for the construction the checks would have to be signed by 3 people so all funds were well monitored. Wolde's idea. Or when we had a big celebration of the opening of the library, we invited the principals from every school in the town, high schools and private schools. Now the library is filled with students from all the schools of the town. Wolde's idea. I could go on with examples. But the most astounding aspect is that Wolde volunteers his time to make all these things happen. His generosity of spirit, his commitment to the people, and his talent and skills make me so grateful that he has agreed to be our country representative. We are hoping he will be coming to our benefit on August 2 and that others can get to know this amazing man.

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