Family Section

Remembering Bowflex Inventor Dosho Tessema Shifferaw

The late Dosho Tessema Shifferaw, CEO of Dosho Design, Inc, and inventor of Bowflex. (Photo: Bizmedia)

Ethiomedia

Ethiopians Grieve Death of Bowflex Inventor

SAN FRANCISCO – Dosho Tessema Shifferaw, an Ethiopian American entrepreneur who invented Bowflex, a household name in gyms worldwide, was laid to rest on Saturday after he died of a brain tumor on Thursday.

“Shifferaw invented the Bowflex, a home weight machine that uses bendable rods instead of weight plates to provide resistance, in the early 1980s, while trying to design an ergonomic chair for a City College of San Francisco class project. Widely marketed on infomercials, more than $3 billion worth of the machines have been sold over the years. Its success eventually made Shifferaw a multimillionaire,” Lindsay Riddell wrote in the San Francisco Business Times on March 22, 2013.

In 2005, Dosho was a recipient of the US Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) award.

A holder of over 16 patents, Tessema emigrated to the United States when he was 19. He was the son of an army general during the reign of Emperor Haileselassie of Ethiopia.

Upon arrival in the US, Tessema was doubling as a taxi driver and an engineering student at City College of San Francisco, where he accidently discovered the homeweight machine while working on a project for an ergonomic chair for his college.

In 2012, Tessema was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and he was told he may not live long to see his projects bearing fruit.

“They told me that I’d live about five years, may be less, but hopefully more, he told the San Francisco Business Times reporter last year. Dosho is survived by his wife and three children.

Read more at Ethiomedia »


Related:
The Bowflex Inventor Story


www.dosho.com

TUESDAY, MARCH 6, 2007

In a San Francisco cottage 23 years ago T. Dosho Shifferaw, an Ethiopian immigrant and inventor, struggled to design the perfect chair. Stuck and frustrated, he bent a spare metal rod across his shoulders and in that moment stumbled upon the key to transforming America’s home gym workouts.

After discovering that the resistance of the rod created a smooth, muscle-building workout, Shifferaw created the “Bowflex,” one of the nation’s best-known infomercial products.

Shifferaw – who arrived in the United States with just $500 – a multimillionaire. For years, investors refused to back the Bowflex, saying it looked like an octopus or a spider — not like an exercise machine.

“When I initially designed and tried to market it to companies, no one would take it. It was such a different looking product. Some said it looked like a spider, others an octopus. They demanded I make it look like an exercise machine,” recalls Tessema D. Shifferaw, founder, CEO and creative mind behind Dosho Design, Inc.

Instead, the Bowflex went on to become the fastest-selling piece of exercise equipment in the United States with sales pole-vaulting from $10 million in 1995 to $585 million in 2002, nearly doubling each year.

Shifferaw’s most recent inventions include the Windjector, a unique “wind-resistance trainer” and the DoshBell, a Pac-Man-like dumbbell design that clamps on barbells, allowing weights to be adjusted to fro five to 55 pounds, depending on how much effort one wants to put into a workout.

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Atlanta: In Memory of Sol Samuel, 20, Adopted From Ethiopia

Samuel "Sol' Fisseha Mengistie of Atlanta died on October 9th, 2014. He was 20 years old. Sol, who was adopted by an American family ten years ago, was born in Jima, Ethiopia. (Photograph: AJS.com)

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

By Elizabeth Montgomery

Sol Samuel was a superstar on the soccer field and in the hearts of those who knew him.

“On the soccer field, every one said he was a ‘beast’ ” said his mother, author Melissa Fay Greene. “Your day was ruined if he was the defender.”

Fisseha Mengistie was born in Jima, Ethiopia. As a boy he worked as a shepherd until he was sent to live with his grandmother. She was soon unable to care for him and took him to an orphanage in the city.

Known to many as “Sol,” he was adopted by his American family at age 10. He was one of nine children in the Samuel family.

“Fisseha,” the Ethiopian word for “happiness,” reflected his personality.

Read more at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution »

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Family Planning Summit Set for Ethiopia

UN, USAID say millions of women have unmet family planning needs. (Photo: USAID)

VOA News

By Joe DeCapua

About 4,000 people are expected to attend this year’s International Conference on Family Planning. The three day meeting opens November 12 in Addis Ababa. The theme is Full Access, Full Choice.

Listen to De Capua report on family planning conference

Organizers described the conference as “a movement and platform” in the family planning agenda. They say Ethiopia was chosen to host this year’s meeting because of its strong commitment to family planning and its access to modern contraceptive methods.

A new resource will be unveiled at the conference called Programming Strategies for Postpartum Family Planning. It’s a joint effort by the World Health Organization, USAID, the U.N. Population Fund and ministries of health from many countries, among others. It’s called a “roadmap” for designing effective postpartum family planning programs at both the local and national levels.

“This resource is going to change how family planning is provided to women around the time of birth in the postpartum,” said Anne Pfitzer, family planning team leader for the USAID’s Maternal Child Health Integrated Program or MCHIP.

She said that during postpartum – the time after childbirth — women have distinct and unmet family planning needs.

“We have seen that postpartum family planning is essential, is needed. It saves lives. We think that this resource document is going to help many countries do more to reach women, who right now may be confused about family planning options right around the time of birth.”

In fact, she said, many women may be unaware of the risk of becoming pregnant again so soon after giving birth.

“In many countries, too many closely spaced births, which are associated with negative outcomes for both mothers and babies in terms of their health. We know, I think intuitively that mothers don’t want to have a baby every year. Mortality curves show much better outcomes between three to five years between pregnancies.”

Organizers said data for 27 developing countries show that “95 percent of postpartum women want to avoid another pregnancy” in the two years following birth. They added that “65 percent have an unmet need for contraception.”

“The problem I think is that many women themselves are confused about when they might get pregnant after a pregnancy. They have misconception about methods of family planning – how they interact with breastfeeding, for example. Or sometimes they think that because it took them three years to get pregnant last time it will be the same this time around. And in fact six months later they’re pregnant again,” Pfitzer said.

Organizers estimate that “287,000 women die every year from problems caused by childbirth – and that one in four women could be saved if they had global access to contraception.” What’s more, they say 200 million couples in the developing world are “unable to control the number and spacing” of the birth of their children.

In the United States, family planning is often a political issue – with debates over privacy, abortion and a woman’s right to choose.

Pfitzer said, “It’s unfortunate that in the U.S. family planning has become controversial. It shouldn’t happen in this day and age. Couples should have the chance to plan the number and timing of their children and have all the options available to them to do so.”

Ethiopian fashion model Liya Kebede is helping to launch Programming Strategies for Postpartum Family Planning. She has a foundation promoting maternal health.

This year’s International Conference on Family Planning is co-hosted by Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health and the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

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Haile Ethiopian Bistro in the East Village NYC

Teddy Gezaw at the family owned restaurant Haile Ethiopian Bistro in New York. (Photo: Tadias Magazine)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Thursday, October 24th, 2013

New York (TADIAS) — As Ethiopian food continues to grow in popularity across the U.S., the East Village just got its newest culinary addition: Haile Bistro. The family operated restaurant owned by Hiwot Gezaw and her husband Menasie Haile, offers Ethiopian takeout and sit-down meals, and is located at Avenue B, between 11 & 12th street, in what used to be a Japanese fusion cuisine establishment.

“Haile is a well known Ethiopian name so it works out perfectly,” said Teddy Gezaw, Hiwot’s entrepreneurial younger brother who helps manage the business and whose nickname in high school was also ‘Haile.’

Hiwot said she prepares the food “the way she likes to make it at home.”

Next time you are in the neighborhood you should stop by and try their veggie and meat combo and enjoy their selection of Ethiopian beer and wine.

Here are photos from Haile Ethiopian Bistro NYC:

If You Go:
Haile Ethiopian Cusine
182 Ave. B (b/n 11 & 12 st)
New York, NY 10009
212-673-8949

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GGRF Girls Training to Be Runners in Bekoji, Ethiopia

(Photo courtesy Girls Gotta Run Foundation)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

Washington, D.C. (TADIAS) — Five girls who are being trained by Coach Sentayehu Eshetu in Bekoji, Ethiopia, and sponsored by the D.C.-based volunteer organization Girls Gotta Run Foundation (GGRF), are profiled on Every Mother Counts website, sharing their personal dreams and aspirations for the future.

Bekoji is a small farming town in the Arsi highlands with an astonishing record of developing successful long distance runners. Under the direction of legendary Coach Sentayehu, Bekoji has produced some of the world’s greatest athletes, including Olympic medalists Tirunesh Dibaba, Kenenisa Bekele and Deratu Tulu. Some 250 local, young people attend Coach Sentayehu’s dawn training sessions every morning.

In a statement GGRF said that it supports the athletic development of six promising female athletes in Bekoji and provides funds for their living expenses as well as travel to important domestic and international races. This support enables the runners to remain in Bekoji while developing their careers at the highest level through strong coaching and the athletic management of Running Across Borders. The athletes are able to live at home with their families, continue their education and contribute to the local community.

The organization is also assisting the training of Bekoji’s first female coach. “Coach Fatiya is a 24-year-old runner from a nearby town, Shirka,” GGRF said. “She has been training to become a professional marathon runner, but is also interested in becoming a coach because she wants to assist other female athletes in reaching their goals in running. She is being trained by Coach Sentayehu.”

Read the profiles at http://www.everymothercounts.org/blog/201310/letters-ethiopia.

Related:
Bekoji: Tadias Interview With Filmmakers of ‘Town of Runners’
Why Girls Gotta Run: Tadias Interview with Dr. Patricia E. Ortman

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Helina Teklu: 15-year-old In Need of $40,000 For Kidney Transplant (OP-ED)

Helina Teklu, 15, is diagnosed with end stage kidney disease. (Image credit: Screen shot from EBS Video)

Tadias Magazine
OP-ED

By Meron Abebe

Published: Sunday, August 18, 2013

Washington, DC – Like many girls her age around the world 15-year-old Helina Teklu has big dreams for her future. The teen, who is a tenth-grader and an “A” student, hopes to become a doctor one day in Axum, Ethiopia, where she was born and raised. At the moment, however, Helina is more focused on staying alive. She is suffering from kidney failure, and her doctors have determined that she can only be assisted with specialized medical care abroad. Her family cannot afford to pay for treatment.

I came across Helina’s touching story through a recent video that is circulating among Ethiopians on social media. Her condition epitomizes the long road ahead to improving the dire shortages of health professionals and up-to-date medical facilities in Ethiopia. Helina Teklu is the exact citizen Ethiopia needs today — someone with the ambition to be educated so she can be useful to her community and country.

For Helina’s working class parents (both teachers) the knowledge that their daughter may die soon aware that she could have been saved, is more than they can handle on their own. Her care outside the country, if made possible, is expected to cost upwards of $40,000 for the transplant operation and other related healthcare services. That’s why I am getting involved reaching out to readers with a strong belief that we can make a difference if we can pull our minds and resources together to give Helina the second chance she so deserves.

From a personal standpoint, Helina’s will to survive by itself is inspiring enough for me to act, but her goal is likewise beneficial for all of us. At least, it’s clear to me that her aspirations are not just a lofty child-like dream, but one that has been her life’s journey until abruptly interrupted by this illness. After all, she was a stellar student who is admired by her friends, teachers and neighbors.

You can watch the video here. Let’s give Helina a hand.

Meron Abebe is the founder of the non-profit organization Thankful Soul. She lives in Washington,D.C.

If You Want to Help:
You can contact Helina’s parents directly in Ethiopia:
Teklu Hagos (0914766051) and Mantegbosh Fissha (0921886921)

Funds can be sent to the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia
Account number 1000022462133.

In the U.S.: Wells Fargo, Recipient Abeba Yehdego
For transfer or an Electronic deposit:
Routing # (102000076) and Account # ( 1250106620)
Wire : Routing # (121000248) and Account # (1250106620)
Walk-in: Routing # (516306502) and Account # (1250106620)

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Expert on Torture Testifies in Abuse Case of Hana and Immanuel

John Hutson, a law school professor and dean, who testified before Congress about military prisoner abuse, told jurors Hana and her adopted brother Immanuel were "unquestionably tortured." (KIRO 7)

Tadias Magazine
News Update

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Mount Vernon, Washington – An expert on torture testified Friday in the homicide-by-abuse trial of Larry and Carri Williams who are accused of abusing their two adopted children from Ethiopia, Hana and Immanuel, and causing the death of Hana.

13-year-old Hana Alemu (Hana Williams) was found dead on May 12, 2011 in the family’s backyard in Sedro-Woolley, Washington. She died of hypothermia, which doctors say was hastened by malnutrition and a stomach condition.

“In my judgment, it’s not a close case,” said John Hutson, taking the witness stand on day-six of the trial. The law school professor and dean, who had previously testified before Congress about military prisoner abuse, added: “They both were unquestionably tortured.”

The couple are also charged with first-degree manslaughter in Hana’s death, and with first-degree assault in connection with the alleged abuse of Immanuel. They have pleaded not guilty.

Hana and Immanuel were adopted from Ethiopia in 2008.

Watch: Witness Testifies Adopted children were ‘tortured’ (KIRO 7 Eyewitness News)


Related:
UPDATE From Williams Trial: Adopted Son Testifies Mother, Siblings Mocked Hana
Hana’s Adopted Brother Testifies About Abuse as Williams Trial Continues
Williams trial therapist: Boy has post-traumatic stress disorder (The Skagit Valley Herald)
Girl’s autopsy shows signs of beatings, hypothermia, malnutrition (KOMO News)
Washington State: Trial Begins In Starvation Death Of Hana Alemu (Hana Williams)
Tesfaye Girma Deboch: Friends Seek Closure in WSU PhD Student’s Drowning Case (TADIAS)

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Hana’s Adopted Brother Testifies About Abuse as Williams Trial Continues

Hana Alemu (Hana Williams) died in May 2011 of hypothermia, hastened by malnutrition and a stomach condition, after hours spent in the rain in her adopted family’s backyard in Sedro-Woolley, Washington.

The Skagit Valley Herald

By Gina Cole

MOUNT VERNON — The boy Larry and Carri Williams adopted from Ethiopia in 2008 told a court Thursday morning that life in their home consisted of nights sleeping in a bathtub or shower room and days spent eating wet sandwiches and frozen food, sometimes on the floor.

The Williamses’ adopted daughter received similar treatment, the boy said. Hana Williams died in May 2011 of hypothermia, hastened by malnutrition and a stomach condition, after hours spent in the rain in the family’s backyard in Sedro-Woolley.

Larry and Carri Williams are charged with homicide by abuse and first-degree manslaughter in Hana’s death, and with first-degree assault in connection with alleged abuse of their adopted son. Each has pleaded not guilty.

The boy, now about 12 years old, told prosecutors his new parents and their biological son sprayed him with cold water from a hose or in the shower whenever he wet his pants or bed. The Williamses also sprayed Hana, the boy said, but he didn’t know why.

The biological Williams children were never sprayed with a hose and never made to eat on the floor, but some of them doled out these punishments to their adopted younger siblings, the boy said.

Read more at The Skagit Valley Herald.

Williams Trial Update: Hana’s Adoptive Brother Has PTSD Because of Abuse


Larry and Carri Williams are accused of abusing to death their adopted Ethiopian daughter Hana Alemu (Hana Williams) and charged with first-degree assault in connection with alleged abuse of her brother.

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Mount Vernon, Washington – During the third day of witness testimony yesterday in the trial of Larry and Carri Williams, a mental health therapist from Seattle Children’s Hospital testified that Hana’s 12-year-old brother suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder because of the abuse he endured under the hands of his adoptive parents.

The mental health expert, Dr. Julia Petersen, said that the boy, who was also adopted from Ethiopia, started meeting with her last winter, when he had been in foster care for more than a year, local media reported. The couple have pleaded not guilty.

Per the Skagit Valley Herald: “Petersen said the boy fit the diagnostic criteria for PTSD based in part on his nightmares about being physically harmed and the fact he was constantly afraid of making mistakes or expressing himself lest he be “punished.” Discipline the boy experienced in the Williams home, plus seeing Hana in pain and dying, is traumatic enough to lead to PTSD, she said.”

Dr Petersen pointed out that the brother’s upbringing in Ethiopia or his stay at foster care in the U.S. do not appear to be the reason for the post-traumatic stress disorder. “Losing his parents caused the boy sadness and grief, but not the same kind of anxiety brought on by what he said happened in the Williams home,” Petersen said.

According to the newspaper records from Seattle Children’s Hospital indicate the Williams family brought their adopted son to the clinic in 2008, but did not return for the recommended follow-up visits.

Related:
In Williams Trial, Expert Testifies Hana and Her Brother Were ‘Tortured’ (Video)
Williams trial therapist: Boy has post-traumatic stress disorder (The Skagit Valley Herald)
Girl’s autopsy shows signs of beatings, hypothermia, malnutrition (KOMO News)
Washington State: Trial Begins In Starvation Death Of Hana Alemu (Hana Williams)

Video Trial begins for couple accused of starving adopted daughter

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Family to Repatriate Body of Athlete Meskerem Legesse to Ethiopia

Former Olympian Meskerem Legesse, 26, was due to give birth to her second child in three weeks when she collapsed at a restaurant and died of unknown causes on Monday, July 15th, 2013. (Courtesy photos)

Tadias Magazine
By Dagnachew Teklu

Published: Friday, July 19, 2013

Washington D.C. (TADIAS) – Family members of 26-year-old athlete Meskerem Legesse who died on Monday after collapsing at a Chinese restaurants in Hamden, Connecticut said that they are preparing to repatriate the body of the former Olympian to her birth country Ethiopia.

The heartbreaking incident took place while Meskeram was at the eatery with her her 2-year-old son.

Family members told Tadias that arrangements are being made to fly her body to her hometown in Arba Minch early next week. Her children are now with their father whom Meskerem was planning to marry.

“We are preparing to take her body to Ethiopia on Tuesday,” a relative said from Westport, Connecticut where Meskerem had resided.

“Many people including several Ethiopian athletes are currently contributing money to take her body back to Ethiopia,” said the family member who asked not to be mentioned by name.

Asked how much money is required to repatriate Meskerem’s body to Ethiopia, her relative said, “The hospital did not ask for specific amount.” The person added: “We were told just to bring whatever we have at hand. We are planning to go to the hospital on Saturday, and to take her body home on Tuesday.”

Tadias learned that Meskerem suspended her athletic career after she collapsed during training in 2009 in Arizona. She was shortly diagnosed as having a heart problem. Meskerem was due to give birth in three weeks, and doctors were able to save her baby, her second in addition to her 2-year-old son.

“Her baby is in a hospital and is improving everyday,” added the relative.

The family member said her pregnancy was considered to be high risk due to her heart problem. The cause of death is still under investigation.
—-
Related:
UPDATE: Olympian Meskerem Legesse’s Body Arrives in Ethiopia for Burial
Pregnant Former Olympian Meskerem Legesse Dies, Her Baby Saved (AP)

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Pregnant Former Olympian Meskerem Legesse Dies, Her Baby Saved

Meskerem Legesse ran in the 1,500-meter competition at the Athens Olympics in 2004. (WFSB-TV)

Associated Press

By Dave Collins

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A former Olympic and professional runner from Ethiopia who was due to give birth in three weeks collapsed at a restaurant and died, but doctors saved her baby, her friends said Wednesday.

Meskerem Legesse, 26, who lived in Westport, was with her 2-year-old son when she collapsed at a Chinese restaurant in Hamden on Monday, said her friend Fatima Sene. She was transported to a hospital, where she died and the baby was saved, Sene said.

The cause of death was unclear. Sene said Legesse had suffered heart problems in the past.

“It is very sad. She was a very good person,” Sene said. “She would do anything for anybody. And she loved that little boy she left behind.”

Legesse ran in the 1,500-meter competition at the Athens Olympics in 2004. She finished 12th in a first-round heat with a time of 4:18:03 and didn’t advance to the medal race. She moved on to a professional running career in the U.S., competing in events including the Boston Indoor Games, Fifth Avenue Mile in Manhattan and the Millrose Games in New York. She apparently hadn’t raced within the past few years.

Legesse’s children are now with their father, and arrangements are being made to take Legesse’s body to Ethiopia, Sene said. Legesse was planning to get married to the children’s father, she said.

Read more at Yahoo News.

Related:
Family to Repatriate Body of Athlete Meskerem Legesse to Ethiopia (TADIAS)

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Portrait of a Diplomat: Ambassador Berhanu Dinka (1935-2013)

The above portrait of the late Ambassador Berhanu Dinka is courtesy of photographer Chester Higgins, Jr. (© Chesterhiggins.com)

Standard Digital News

By Ally Jamah

NAIROBI, KENYA: Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commissioner ( TJRC) Ambassador Berhanu Dinka from Ethiopia has passed away after a long battle with cancer.

The late Dinka passed away on Monday in New York, USA.

He was among international experts appointed to the commission by former President Mwai Kibaki.

A statement issued by TJRC Chairperson Bethwel Kiplagat stated that the body of the late Dinka will be flown from the US to Ethiopia for burial.

“He chaired our report-writing committee, and returned to Kenya – while convalescing – to guide the process to the very end. He gave the TJRC process his very best,” fellow Commissioners recalled.

The late Dinka was career diplomat with 27 years in the Ethiopian Foreign Service.

He served in Ethiopian embassies in Monrovia, Cairo and Washington, D.C., becoming an ambassador in 1975 and heading the Department of Africa and Middle East Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

He assisted in the Abuja talks on the conflict in Darfur when requested by the African Union, chairing the Power-Sharing Commission until the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) was concluded in Abuja in March 2006.

He was the first Ethiopian ambassador to the Republic of Djibouti (1980-84) and then Permanent Representative to the UN in New York with concurrent accreditation to Canada.

In 1992 he moved to the UN and served in Cambodia, South Africa and Somalia.

Read more at Standard Digital News.

ICJ: Friends pay tribute to TJRC Commissioner Ambassador Berhanu Dinka

Ambassador Berhanu Dinka Has Died in New York After A Brave Battle With Cancer

Veteran diplomat Berhanu Dinka, left, at The Truth, Justice and Reconciliation (TJRC) Commissioners meeting. (Photo/File Nation Media Group)

(The Daily Nation)

By NATION REPORTER

The Truth, Justice and Reconciliation (TJRC) Commissioner Ambassador Berhanu Dinka has died in New York after a brave battle with cancer.

“We have received sad information of the passing on of our brother Commissioner Amb Berhanu Dinka. The body will be flown from the United States of America to Ethiopia for burial. We will keep you informed on the burial arrangements. Let us all keep his family in prayers,” said TJRC Chairperson, Amb Bethwel Kiplagat in a statement.

“He chaired our report-writing committee, and returned to Kenya – while convalescing – to guide the process to the very end. He gave the TJRC process his very best,” fellow Commissioners recalled.

A diplomat with 27 years in the Ethiopian Foreign Service and an illustrious career with the United Nations and international peace-keeping, the late Amb Dinka undertook special assignments following his retirement.

He assisted in the Abuja talks on the conflict in Darfur when requested by the African Union, chairing the Power-Sharing Commission until the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) was concluded in Abuja in March 2006.

He served in Ethiopian embassies in Monrovia, Cairo and Washington, D.C., becoming an ambassador in 1975 and heading the Department of Africa and Middle East Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

He was the first Ethiopian ambassador to the Republic of Djibouti (1980-84) and then Permanent Representative to the UN in New York with concurrent accreditation to Canada.

In 1992, he moved to the UN and served in Cambodia, South Africa and Somalia.

He was the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to Sierra Leone 1995-1997; Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for the Great Lakes Region of Central Africa 1997-2002 and SRSG for Burundi 2002-2004.

Having attained the rank of Under Secretary-General at the UN, the late Amb Dinka represented the Secretary General in the Arusha negotiations on Burundi and the Lusaka talks aimed at resolving conflict in DR Congo.

Read more at The Daily Nation.

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Ethiopia: Children TV Host Bruktawit Tigabu Speaks at African First Ladies Summit

Bruktawit Tigabu, Co-Founder of Whiz Kids Workshop and creator of the Ethiopian Childern TV Show ‘Tsehai Loves Learning,' has been invited to participate as a panelist in the 2013 African First Ladies Summit “Investing in Women: Strengthening Africa,” in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Monday, July 1st, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – As President Barack Obama and his family wind down a three-country Africa tour this week in Tanzania, their stay in Dar es Salaam will coincide with the African First Ladies Summit. Hosted by the George W. Bush Institute the summit features keynote addresses by President and Mrs. Bush as well as expected appearances by First Lady Michelle Obama, Ethiopia’s First Lady Roman Tesfaye, Tanzania’s First Lady Salma Kikwete and other African first ladies.

In addition, Bruktawit Tigabu, the co-founder of Whiz Kids Workshop PLC and co-creator of the Ethiopian educational children’s TV program ‘Tsehai Loves Learning,’ has been invited to participate as a panelist to discuss interventions that utilize public-private partnership models, cross-sector collaborations and technology to improve access to literacy and teacher training.

“The summit will bring together African First Ladies, government officials, private organizations, NGOs and academics to discuss best practices that can reap sustainable, replicable results, benefit women and strengthen society,” the Bush Institute said in a statement. “Many African countries are committed to introducing critical interventions in education, health and economic opportunity led by First Ladies that will benefit women and strengthen society. Investing in women results in better outcomes for entire families, communities and nations.”

“‘Tsehai Loves Learning’ is an educational preschool program, broadcast nationally on Saturday mornings by the Ethiopian Radio and Television Agency,” Whiz Kids Workshop PLC said in a press release. “New episodes of ‘Tsehai Loves Learning’ are currently in production, which aim to make reading simpler, more engaging, rewarding and fun.”

Watch webcast of the African First Ladies Summit at bushcenter.org.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Video: President Obama Holds Town Hall with Young People in South Africa (VOA News)



Related:
Moving Beyond Obama: Empowering Ethiopians to Influence US Foreign Policy (TADIAS)
Obama Receives Huge Welcome in Tanzania (Video)
Tadias Interview: Ambassador David Shinn on Obama’s Africa Trip
UPDATE: Obama Africa Trip Highlights Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania (TADIAS)

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Kansas City: Revocup Coffee Foundation helps farmers one cup at a time

Nigist “TG” Ambachew and Habte Mesfin, owners of Revocup in Overland Park, Kansas celebrating the one year anniversary of the Revocup Coffee Foundation. (Photo: ANNE BROCKHOFF)

The Kansas City Star

BY ANNE BROCKHOFF

I first met Habte Mesfin, owner of Overland Park’s Revocup Coffee Roasters while writing about coffee for the Kansas City Star in 2009.

Even back then, he was passionate about this dream: create sustainable retail model that benefits coffee farmers.

His dream is even bigger now, and last year he launched the Revocup Coffee Foundation to help improve the lives of coffee farmers around the world.

“The crisis and injustice going on in coffee farms is no longer a trade issue,” Mesfin told a crowd of about 150 attending a foundation lunch last weekend.

“We’ve tried to approach everyone on the (coffee producing) chain. They listen, but they don’t commit to solutions. We felt the need to go to the public with a different approach.

Read more at The Kansas City Star.

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Play About Adoption: Let’s Say They Did Their Research

From left, the playwright Tanya Barfield, the actress Kerry Butler and the Primary Stages artistic director, Andrew Leynse. (NYT)

The New York Times

By FELICIA R. LEE

They didn’t see eye to eye on everything, but on one pivotal moment the playwright, Tanya Barfield, and her lead actress, Kerry Butler, agreed: When Ms. Butler’s character finally receives the photo of the child she hopes to adopt, the scene needed to be extended for a beat, or two, or three.

“It’s weird how you can even fall in love with a photograph and start showing it around or just start looking at it dozens of times in a day,” Ms. Butler said. Both women were intimately familiar with the issues — race and parenthood — raised by Ms. Barfield’s new drama, “The Call,” which depicts a white couple mulling whether to adopt a child from Africa. Ms. Barfield’s son and daughter were adopted from Ethiopia, as were Ms. Butler’s two daughters, the youngest of whom arrived last summer.

Read more at NYT.

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‘Girl Rising’ Film & Campaign Coming in Spring

The film and campaign, created and launched by an award-winning team of former ABC News journalists, delivers a single message: educating girls in developing nations will change the world.

Tadias Magazine
By Tseday Alehegn

Updated: Friday, January 4, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – At the Clinton Global Initiative’s Annual Meeting in New York City two years ago, New York Times columnist and author Nicholas Kristof moderated a panel discussion focused on better preparing girls for the world, launching the 10×10 project – a film and social action campaign that highlights the significance of investing in girls and compels people to action. Ethiopia is among the countries featured in the upcoming documentary entitled Girl Rising, which is scheduled for release in Spring 2013.

The feature-length film displays the power of access to education in the life of a girl residing in a developing nation; each girl’s story is told by a talented writer from her native country. The script writer for the segment on Ethiopia is Maaza Mengiste, author of the critically acclaimed novel Beneath the Lion’s Gaze. In preparation for the documentary, Maaza spent time with a young girl from a village outside of Bahir Dar.

Click here to read our interview with Maaza Mengiste.

Below is the trailer.



Related:
Learn more about ‘Girl Rising’ Film + Campaign (10 x 10)

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

Cover image credit: (10 x 10)

A Promise Between Friends Ends in a Murder-Suicide

Mesfin Nega, right, is cared for by his older sister, Mamie Preston, in Washington on Sept. 18, 2006. (Andrea Bruce/The Washington Post)

The Washington Post
By Paul Schwartzman,

Published: October 24

The two men were close friends, dancing at nightclubs, listening to reggae music, talking about their aspirations and, sometimes, their worst fears. If one suffered a life-threatening injury, they promised each other, the other would make sure to disconnect him from any machine keeping him alive.

Neither man would allow the other to suffer.

In 2006, the year after Mesfin Nega and Shimelis Yegazu made their pact, a group of men attacked Nega outside an Adams Morgan nightclub, breaking his neck and damaging his spinal cord. When he awoke from an induced coma, his breathing made possible by a ventilator, Nega learned that he was a quadriplegic.

For six years, Nega and Yegazu did nothing. Then, three months ago, on Aug. 14, Yegazu fulfilled his promise, D.C. police announced Wednesday. He administered a lethal dose of phenobarbital to his friend in the Columbia Heights rowhouse that Nega, 38, shared with his sister, police said.

Continue reading at The Washington Post.

Maryland’s 2nd Ethiopian Festival in Pictures

The Second Annual Ethiopian Festival in Silver Spring, Maryland took place on Saturday, July 22, 2012. (Photo by Matt Andrea)

Tadias Magazine
By Tigist Selam | Events News

Updated: Friday, July 27, 2012

Washington, D.C. (TADIAS) – Last weekend’s 2012 Ethiopian Festival in Silver Spring, Maryland featured traditional dance, music, food, vendors, award ceremony and a live concert by Mahmoud Ahmed, transforming the downtown Veterans Plaza into Little Ethiopia for the day.

According to organizers, the annual event is also designed to link Ethiopian-American businesses, artists, community leaders, and residents with policy makers, news media, and other private-sector organizations in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area.

For Tebabu Assefa, Founder of Blessed Coffee, and also one of the festival’s chief organizers, the celebration was more personal.

“The whole thing was inspired by the achievement gap. I got two kids, they’re going to school, and it all comes down to teaching our kids about their culture and identity,” Tebabu said. “It’s our obligation to make them aware and inspire confidence in them about who they are.” He added: “America is a great place, don’t get me wrong, but there are a lot of stereotypical issues underneath. In order for me to combat that I need to tell my children where they come from, a place called Ethiopia, a land of many faces, many cultures and many people. It is my obligation to give my kids a foundation in which they can embrace their American identity. Otherwise we are deforming them, we are displacing them, we are misinforming them.”

Tebabu said his efforts are also his way of responding to the wide-spread “victim narrative” when it comes to media coverage of Ethiopia and Ethiopians.

“I am going to be very open, bold and straight,” he said. “On the flip side, for far too long I was offended by one-sided, sensationalized negative image of Ethiopia defined by Western media because we have not done our job.” Tebabu continued: “Of course, some of those stories are based on reality, but we are much more than that. It is our responsibility to fill that gap.”

Below is a slideshow from Maryland’s 2nd Annual Ethiopian Festival.

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East Africans in Oakland: Here to stay

Many of the 20,000 people from Ethiopia and Eritrea living in the Bay Area call Oakland home. Oakland North is taking a look at the culture and history of the Ethiopian or Eritrean communities in Oakland with “East Africans in Oakland” a series of profiles on everyday people living in the city. (Photo: Maereg Haile)

Oakland North | By: Ryan Phillips

The visit was supposed to be brief. Maereg Haile, then 13 years old, and her mother, Rahel Woldehanna, were only going to visit the United States for a couple weeks, enjoy sunny San Diego and scout out the area a little bit in preparation for a possible move. Instead, the visit became a permanent stay for Haile. Her mom found a job, and 13 years later, and she hasn’t been back to Ethiopia.

“We just wanted to test it out,” Haile said. “But we ended up staying.”

Haile, 26, is a program coordinator for Pacific Foundation Services in San Francisco, a company that connects foundations with non-profits seeking funding, and she now lives near Lake Merritt. Haile is short, bright-eyed and confident, and goes by “Mimo,” a nickname given to her by her father which is also the name of a pastry shop in Ethiopia her mom used to frequent when she was pregnant.

Haile loves living in Oakland, she says, because “it’s so calm and soulful, and everyone is so chill.” She likes that though it’s a city, Oakland can feel like a small town depending on the neighborhood. “There are places you go to and see the same familiar faces,” she said.

Read more.

Related:
East Africans in Oakland: Sharing Ethiopian music with the world
East Africans in Oakland: A love and devotion to Ethiopian food

Second-generation Immigrant Struggles to Find Motivation of his Parents

Ezana Gebru (left) has found that he has never had the work ethic his parents do. The son of two Ethiopian immigrants who raised four kids while going to school and working full time, Gebru had the American Dream drilled into him. Seven years of college later, he is a part-time waiter and nearly ready to graduate from Missouri State University. This story is part of the "American Next," a special project exploring the hopes, fears and changing expectations of Missouri's next generation in challenging times. (Photo: Ezana Gebru with co-worker Jason Parker after the two finish a shift at Touch Restaurant / by Megan May)

BY ANTHONY SCHICK

SPRINGFIELD — Late at night, he used to relax in the glow of the television as his mother finished her homework. Ezana Gebru, a sixth-grader at the time, would sprawl out in the green leather chair and watch reruns of old sitcoms, mainly “Seinfeld,” before falling asleep.

Meanwhile, in the darkened living room, after a full day of work, an evening of college classes and the normal duties as mother to Ezana, his older brother and two younger sisters, Selamawit Asfaw would be at work once again: papers strewn across the table, math textbook open.

Read more at The Missourian.

Photos: Cultural Day at NYC Riverside Church

The 3rd annual Ethiopian Cultural Day at NYC's Riverside Church took place on Saturday, June 30th, 2012. The family event included fashion show, drama, music and food. Below are slideshow of photos from the celebration courtesy of photographer Bakal D.
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Video: Ethiopian Teen in Australia Builds His Own Airplane

16-year-old Ethiopian teen in Melbourne, Australia has built an impressive aircraft model that is nearly complete.

Watch:

Upcoming Ethiopian Summer Festivals Celebrating Culture, Family & Sports

The 2012 Ethiopian Festival in Downtown Silver Spring, Maryland will be held on July 22, while the Second Ethiopian Heritage Festival is schedule from July 27 to 29 at Georgetown University campus. (Photo: ethiopianfestival.org)

Tadias Magazine
Events News

Published: Friday, June 1, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – There are several upcoming Summer festivals for the Ethiopian community to enjoy. The Ethiopian Heritage Society is hosting its second Annual Ethiopian Heritage Festival in D.C. at Georgetown University campus from July 27th to July 29th.

Organizers of the annual Ethiopian Festival in Silver Spring, Maryland have also announced the launch of their new event website.

The 29th Annual Ethiopian Soccer Tournament organized by ESFNA will take place in Dallas this year from July 1st to July 7th, and another tournament in D.C. hosted by the newly formed AESAONE (All Ethiopian Sports Association ONE) is scheduled for the same week.
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If You Go:
The Second Ethiopian Festival at Downtown Silver Spring
Second Annual Ethiopian Heritage Festival in D.C.
The 29th Annual Ethiopian Soccer Tournament in Dallas
Ethiopian Soccer Tournament in D.C.

Nejat Makes it to National Spelling Bee Contest

Nejat Alkadir during the third round of the National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 30th, 2012, in Oxon Hill, Maryland. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Tadias Magazine
News Update

Published: Thursday, May 31, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – Remember Nejat Alkadir? She is the seventh-grader — and a first-generation Ethiopian American — who won the 72nd annual Winston-Salem Journal Regional Spelling Bee in North Carolina back in March.

Now she is competing in the National Spelling Bee.

Below is her profile from the competition website:

Speller No. 183, Nejat Alkadir

Sponsor: Winston-Salem Journal

Age: 13

Grade: seventh grade

School: Ledford Middle School, Thomasville, North Carolina

Nejat likes to spend her spare time knitting, crocheting and making lanyards. Her parents immigrated from Ethiopia, and at school Nejat herself excels in language arts. She learned how to read at age 3-1/2 and then taught her brother and sister to read. At home, Nejat enjoys watching Korean shows and dramas, and she likes to listen to Korean music from SHINee. Her favorite game is Scattergories, and her favorite food is lasagna. Nejat hopes to someday pursue a career as a pediatrician.

We wish Nejat all the best!

Related:
First Generation Ethiopian American Wins North Carolina Spelling Bee (Winston-Salem Journal)

Interview with Juniority TV Show Producer Philmona Tessema

Philmona Tessema, Creator/Producer of Juniority - a TV show project in Los Angeles. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
Art Talk

Updated: Thursday, May 10, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – Wouldn’t it be fun to have the news interpreted by children as opposed to gray-haired pundits? That’s what Philmona Tessema, producer of the TV pilot Juniority, wants to do if she succeeds in raising enough funds for her upcoming youth-led show.

The plan is to feature a weekly guest panel of youngsters who would offer “no-spin commentary” on current affairs ranging from politics, YouTube videos, celebrity gossip and other topics hosted by comedian Brian Moote. In the long term the show will include correspondents from overseas reporting events in other countries.

“As adults, I think we condition ourselves to speak and think a certain way, but deep down inside, we all want to see the straight picture, plain and simple,” Philmona said in an interview with TADIAS. “I wanted to make a show where people can get a fresh take on the issues our world faces today, regardless of race, creed, or religion. Kids, to me, were the answer.” She added: “Not only are they not afraid to speak about what’s on their mind, but they are funny too!”


A Film & Video project in Los Angeles, California by Philmona Tessema.

Will kids also be involved in developing the content for Juniority? “Yes, Philmona answers. “Our host, comedian Brian Moote, guides the discussions, and makes sure things never get too serious, but the show is largely unscripted and kids are presented a variety of topics and are allowed to say whatever they want,” she adds. “We’ve heard some pretty interesting responses from kids, some funny, some cute, and some that are actually quite eye-opening and inspiring.”

Philmona, who holds a double-degree in Cinema & Television Arts and Theater from California State University, Northridge, was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia before moving to the States in 2005. “My greatest role model is my mother who is a very hardworking woman,” she said. “In Ethiopia, she was well-known for the successful sewing school she ran on Bole Road in Addis called MOMECU. She started it on her own, turning part of our home into a classroom where my siblings and I saw first-hand the fruits of her labor.”

Regarding the show, “We’re planning on holding more auditions very soon so anyone interested can contact us to audition,” she said. “We’re looking for anyone who has an opinion and isn’t afraid to speak up.” She added: “We currently have yet to cast an Ethiopian, but would love to get them involved.”
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You can learn more about Juniority at Kickstarter.com.

Want to Learn Amharic? UCLA Offers Summer Classes for High School Students

UCLA is offering a summer Amharic class for high school students who are exposed to the language at home but want to develop their speaking, listening, and literacy skills. (Courtesy of UCLA)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Friday, April 13, 2012

Los Angeles (TADIAS) – Enrollment is now open for the summer UCLA language classes for high school students who speak, understand and or hear Amharic at home and want to learn to read, write and expand their listening and speaking skills.

“It is not a foreign language program and it is not a second language program,” Kathryn Paul, UCLA’s High School Heritage Executive Director, said in a promotional video. “It is specifically designed for heritage language students.” Other courses include Arabic, Armenian, Persian, and Russian.

The program targets students whose households speak primary language other than English. “Heritage students grow up learning a language at home, which is their family’s language and there are lots of heritage language speakers in Los Angeles,” Ms. Paul said. “What happens is that in Kindergarten they start learning English and pretty quickly English is the dominant language. Their [home] language proficiency is stuck at basically a four-year-old’s level.” She added: “We begun to recognize that there was a group of students that were coming to UCLA that did not fit anywhere, that they weren’t beginners or they weren’t intermediates, so we started this high school language classes to give these students an opportunity to study their family’s language and culture.”

Ms Paul noted that the program also allows the students to receive high school credit. “We have negotiated with most of the school districts that the number of hours we teach are equivalent to one year of high school credit,” she said.

The classes will be held from June 26- July 26, 2012 on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9:00am- 12:30pm along with afternoon tutorials at the UCLA campus. The cost is $150.

Learn more at www.hslanguages.ucla.edu. For general information, call : 310.825.2510 or email: hslanguages@international.ucla.edu.

Fresh and Green Academy: A Flight Attendant’s Involvement with an Innovative School in Ethiopia

Trish Hack-Rubinstein, pictured center on the top right photograph, is President and Co Founder of "Friends of Fresh and Green Academy Inc.," a U.S. based non-profit organization, that supports a school by the same name in Ethiopia. (Photo courtesy of FFGA/Flickr)

Tadias Magazine
By Tseday Alehegn

Updated: Wednesday, February 29, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – In 2008, Trish Hack-Rubinstein, a flight attendant based in New York City, joined several of her airline colleagues on a volunteer trip to Ethiopia, and it became the beginning of new friendships and lasting connections to the country. That’s when she met Muday Mitiku, an Ethiopian teacher and founder of Fresh and Green Academy – an innovative elementary school in Addis Ababa that provides not only academic curriculum but also meals and showers for impoverished school children. At the end of each day, when the students are ready to go home, their caregivers also pick up clean water supplied by the school’s water purification system. Muday Mitiku has been serving as Fresh and Green Academy’s Director since 2000, and the school is striving to add one grade level each year with the support of Friends of Fresh and Green Academy in the United States.

Initially Fresh and Green was started as a fee-paying kidergarten, but Muday quickly realized the dearth of access to education for street children living in the area. As she decided to enroll these children into the academy free of charge, some parents pulled their kids out of the school. The venture was at the crossroads when Trish and her friends visited Fresh and Green four years ago.

“The school had no other source of funding as it was a private school started by this amazing woman,” Trish said in a recent interview with Tadias Magazine. “But when she started to bring in the poor children from the streets the money ran out.” She added: “I fell in love with the kids, moms, staff, director, and everyone else and knew I couldn’t just go back to the USA and leave them to fend for themselves. So I started Friends of Fresh and Green Academy Inc., a 501(c)(3) that supports the school. ”

What’s a normal school day like for a student at Fresh & Green? Trish describes the youngsters arriving at school at 8am, eating breakfast, brushing their teeth, taking showers, and putting on clean clothes and then having their academic lessons in accordance with the national curriculum. Extracurricular activities begin after lessons end at 3pm, which include classes in art, drama, music, computers, and physical education. “The students have been helping with the planting of vegetable gardens, which produce some of the food they eat,” Trish explains. “By 5pm the school children have eaten dinner and await their caregivers to pick them up from school.”

What makes Fresh and Green stand out as a model school for under-served communities is that it not only provides free education, clean water and nutrition services for students, but also supports the mothers of the children as part of its Mothers Co-op program.

“The Mothers Co-op has grown tremendously since it was started in 2006,” Trish said. “It began as 20 mothers helping to prepare school meals in shifts, and also meeting once a week to string beads. It expanded to 50 women cooking, beading and weaving, as well as working in a store in front of the school.” Looms and sewing machines have been installed on school grounds where the mothers are also learning to sew and make clothes. The Mothers Co-op also incorporates social networking traditions such as the Ethiopian coffee ceremony.

Through the assistance of Friends of Fresh and Green Academy, the overhead rent of the store is paid for by donors. Speaking about her non-profit organization Trish noted, “We have very little overhead, and no paid employees, so over 80% of the donations go directly to the operation of the academy.”

Friends of Fresh and Green Academy hosts quarterly fundraisers including child sponsorship programs, a silent auction and raffle event at Cielo in downtown New York in May, and a poker fundraiser in September. Fundraising is also conducted using various social media-based campaigns.

“Tadias readers can help us spread awareness, attend fundraisers, donate goods and services like clothing, shoes, fabric for the coop,” Trish said. “We can always use volunteers with fundraising ideas, accounting skills, grant writing and PR experience. But of course, most of all we need funds.”

Ultimately, Trish and other supporters of Fresh and Green Academy would like to see a self-sustaining institution. “Our dream is to build a school that can accommodate students through grade 12, with a boarding facility, a center for the Mothers Co-op, a working farm to cut down on the cost of food and possibly provide income for the school,” she said. “And a guest house for volunteers to rent rooms, which will also provide some income for the school.”

Reflecting on her work with the academy, Trish shares, “For the first time in my life I truly feel like I am doing what I was put on this earth to do. Nothing gives me more joy than to see the children eating playing and learning. Every time I visit the school (three times a year) I am smothered with hugs and kisses and I couldn’t be happier. I look forward to the day when I see them graduate from university and make a difference in their community and country. Everyone has the right to food and education.”

To learn more about the organization, visit: www.friendsoffreshandgreen.com.

Whistleblower: Oil Change Ends in Flames

Yonas Bekele, a student at the University of Minnesota held a $8500 repair estimate to fix the fire damage done to the engine of his 1993 Lexus, as the car sat in his home's driveway in Plymouth, MN. (Star Tribune)

Star Tribune

By KELLY SMITH

What started as a routine oil change ended with Yonas Bekele’s 1993 Lexus bursting into flames at a local Jiffy Lube.

Now, he said, the car is too dangerous to drive unless he spends over $8,500 to make needed repairs — leaving Bekele without a car to get from Plymouth to his classes at the University of Minnesota.

“I’m exhausted and mad,” he said. “I’m having a hard time paying rent. I can’t afford another payment.”

After the fire broke out during the service, Jiffy Lube replaced some damaged components on Bekele’s Lexus. But a spokesman for Heartland Automotive Services, Jiffy Lube’s parent company in Texas, said Bekele’s request for additional repairs reflected “unreasonable expectations for his older vehicle.” The company said, however, that it will follow up to investigate his concerns.

Bekele, 31, is an Ethiopian native who lives in Plymouth and commutes to Minneapolis, where he studies construction management and civil engineering full time at the U. Five years ago, he bought a used Lexus ES 300, which he usually takes to the Jiffy Lube on Campus Drive in Plymouth.

Read more at Star Tribune.

Young Amanuael Rocks the Stage at Australian Talent Show

Amanuael sings Adele's "Rolling In The Deep" on Young Talent Time 2012 - an Australian television variety program, wowing the audience and the judges. "I just want to rock the stage and I want everybody to remember the name Amanuael," says the young talent.

Watch:

Perth Memorial for Ethiopian Bus Crash Victims

Sisters Seble and Maz Getachew were killed in a bus crash in Ethiopia on Tuesday, January 17, 2012.

The Sydney Morning Herald
Aja Styles

January 20, 2012 – 3:52PM

Sisters Seble and Maz Getachew were killed in a bus crash in Ethiopia on Tuesday, January 17, 2012.

Two Perth sisters were among the 43 passengers killed in a fiery bus crash in Ethiopia on Tuesday.

Seble and Maza Getachew had lived in Perth for a number of years and studied at Curtin University as international students before recently relocating to Melbourne.

The pair, who were not Australian citizens, was believed to have travelled over with a 32-year-old Melbourne man, who was returning to his native country to take part in religious celebrations, according to his neighbours.

The Getachew sisters, aged in their 20s, were originally from the Ethiopian city of Dire Dawa but it is not yet known whether they were related to the Melbourne man, who was a permanent resident in Australia.

It is understood that they were with their mother and brother aboard the bus, which plunged about 80 metres into a gorge north of the capital Addis Ababa. The family is not believed to have survived.
Only three people out of the 46 passengers survived. A man from Tarneit in Melbourne’s west was initially pulled alive from the wreckage but died shortly afterwards.

Read More.

Ethiopian Native a ‘Fierce Advocate’ for New Refugees

Burma refugees Naw April Kyaw, left, and her daughter Naw Elizebeth, 2, talk to Geleta Mekonnen, right, who brought gifts from Interfaith Ministries in Houston. (Photo: Melissa Phillip / © 2011 Houston Chronicle)

The Houston Chronicle

By Susan Carroll

The little girl came running in her purple leggings as Geleta Mekonnen walked up to the door of a southwest Houston apartment, clutching a gift bag that held a pink baby doll that giggles.

“This is for you,” Mekonnen told 2-year-old Naw Elizebeth, sweeping her into a hug and handing her the gift bag.

Mekonnen, who oversees the refugee reception and placement program for Interfaith Ministries in Houston, has helped thousands of refugees from across the globe adjust to life in Houston during the past 20 years. He greeted the girl’s mother, 41-year-old Naw April Kyaw, on Thursday afternoon and sank down onto the couch in the family’s sparsely furnished living room, their home since arriving in the U.S. as Burmese refugees on Nov. 26.

“How is everything? How is your husband’s job? How is your health?” Mekonnen asked.

Mekonnen, 56, spends much of his time helping refugees find work and navigate complicated government bureaucracies to get Social Security cards, access to Medicaid and other services.

Read the full article at the Houston Chronicle.
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Holiday Stories: My Memories Lead Me to Genna

Children celebrating Genna (Ethiopian X-mas) in Denver last year. The following piece is a reflection about the holiday by one of our readers, Bethlehem Gronneberg, a Software Development Engineer, based in Fargo, North Dakota. (Photo credit: Kellie Brown)

Holiday Reflection
By Bethlehem Gronneberg

Updated: Monday, December 26, 2011

Fargo, North Dakota – In a country where I left a piece of my heart, they celebrate x-mas otherwise known as Genna on January 7. Ethiopia and the Orthodox churches of Jerusalem, Russia, Serbia, Macedonia, Georgia, and other groups continue to use the ancient Julian calendar, thus the date “mix up”.

Growing up, I remember going to an overnight church service on Christmas Eve at the Holy Trinity Cathedral with my parents, friends, and neighbors. Yes, I said overnight and yes, the whole neighborhood has a pilgrimage together, on foot for a couple miles or more, to the nearest church. At the gate, we take our shoes off, cover our hair with a scarf and make the sign of the cross before entering the church. The energy inside the church has always been captivating. The ornate clothes the priests wear and their collective singing voices, along with the incense burning, the cascading rhythm of the bells and the worshipers’ ululating response, used to make me feel like the angels are circling above us and all around us. The thundering voices of the deacon, praying through the megaphone, sounded like the voice of God was descending upon us. Though I don’t understand the words of the ancient Ethiopian language (Ge’ez) that the church uses for the service, it was beside the point… I was in heaven! The minutes and the hours pass by and nobody paid attention. Time was irrelevant.

When we returned home after the service, my mom would prepare this awesome deluxe breakfast. Everybody would gather around the same big plate and my mom would start saying blessings. She would continue to pray for our families, relatives and the whole world. Silently, we would pray that she would stop, so we can start devouring the sweet aroma that is teasing our nostrils. We finally would get to eat and afterwards sip coffee while listening to the radio. Later that day, friends and relatives would drop by our house and the special coffee brewing and drinking ceremony would start all over again. Coffee is to Ethiopians, as tea is for the British.

The children would be outfitted with their new clothes, specially bought for that day. At that time in Ethiopia, we had a black & white TV and only one channel was broadcasted in the evenings for a limited amount of time, so the radio was a big part of our lives. Radio broadened my knowledge in all sorts of areas. It was our gateway to the world. My elder sister and I would huddle around the radio and listen to the programs intently — stories of Santa and christmas trees in faraway lands. It was fascinating. “Absolutely miraculous!!” we would say. The grass is always greener on the other side.

The festivities would continue with some more of my mom’s best dishes that she had been preparing the night before. We also had the local drink, called “Tela”, that my mom and her helper prepared months in advance. We were not allowed to drink it since it is brewed like beer. But all my relatives said my mom makes the best Tela. My mom may be old now but her Tela making recipe is still next to none. Some have even taken it with them overseas.

At night, the family would gather around for yet another round of the coffee ceremony. My Mom would start humming some songs and we would beg her to continue. She has these lyrics of songs that include the names of each of her children in it, sung to a beautiful melody. And now, I would say, “I will be home for Christmas if only in my dreams..”
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Related:
2011 Kwanzaa-Genna Holiday Celebration

‘Very best in youth’: Abigail Mariam headed to Harvard, career in public policy

Above: Abigail Mariam by David Pardo, The Daily Press.

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Tuesday, July 26, 2011

New York (Tadias) – The last time Abigail Mariam was highlighted in Tadias Magazine, she was the recipient of the 2010 Young Humanitarian Award given by The St. Mary Hospital Foundation in California. She was recognized last fall for her activities at the medical center where she began volunteering in 2007 while simultaneously juggling school work and several extra curricular programs, including co-founding an on-campus tutoring club and completing five Advanced Placement courses.

Now Abi is headed to Harvard University to study public policy. And she was also one of 23 teens honored this past weekend as part of the biennial Nestlé Very Best In Youth program hosted by the Nestle’ USA. The red-carpet event, which applauds exceptional students both in academics and community service, took place on July 23 at the Universal City Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles.

“Abigail Mariam was in eighth grade when she was bit by the service bug…Her uncle took her on a trip with his yoga group to serve peanut butter sandwiches to the homeless hanging around the former Forrest Park on Seventh Street in Victorville,” reported The Daily Press, a newspaper serving Victor Valley, California area. “After experiencing firsthand what it felt like to help someone in need, she couldn’t shake the urge to give back to the community…Now barely 18 years old and headed to Harvard University in the fall, the Granite Hills High School graduate has had a hand in projects benefiting younger students, animal shelters, cancer survivors, Haitian earthquake victims, Ugandan children, troops overseas and patients and families at St. Mary Medical Center — to name a few.”

“I’m kind of a service freak,” Abi told The Daily Press. “If I go a day without doing some kind of kindness I feel like I’m a bad person.”

She was chosen out of 3,500 applicants as one of the winners of the 2011 Nestle’s Very Best in Youth – a national program designed to spotlight and reward young people who have shown outstanding leadership in public service while they aim to inspire others to engage through personal initiative to make a profound impact on the world.

According to The Daily Press: Abi’s “commitment to service, along with her 5.0 academic record and stellar writing skills, have earned her the elite status as one of 23 students in the United States to be named 2011 Nestle’s Very Best in Youth.”

“Nestlé USA is dedicated to America’s youth,” says Kenneth W. Bentley, Nestlé Vice President of Community Affairs & Educational Programs and author of the Nestlé Very Best In Youth book series, in a comment posted on the organization’s website. “Young people are the future of this country, and it is up to adults to see that they are given the encouragement they need to reach their goals.”

In addition to receiving $1,000 to donate to the charity of their choice, a biographical essay reflecting each winner’s most noteworthy characteristics and achievements will be published in a book entitled Making a Difference Today for a Better Tomorrow, which will be distributed nationwide to schools and youth organizations that can point to students like Abi as role models.

“Honestly I was very surprised when I was accepted because I was looking at the profiles of past winners and I was very humbled to think that I could be put in the same league as these other incredible, incredible kids,” Abi told the newspaper.

Read more about Abigail Mariam at The Daily Press.
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Tutu Belay’s Ethio­pian Yellow Pages: Life, by the book

Above: Tutu Belay’s Ethiopian Yellow Pages have helped to
make her a prominent member of DC’s Ethiopian community.

The Washington Post – Lifestyle
By Emily Wax,

Published: June 8

With her bulky Ethiopian Yellow Pages jostling in the passenger seat, “Mama Tutu” Belay lurches her black Mercedes to a stop. She squints suspiciously at a new bakery operating in a basement on Georgia Avenue that claims to use clay plates to make an authentic version of injera, the spongy bread that is a dietary staple of her homeland. “It’s suspect!” Mama Tutu decrees while looking over the bakery, which is painted pumpkin orange and flies American and Ethiopian flags. “I need to make sure it’s legit before it goes anywhere near my book.”

Her book is the Ethiopian Yellow Pages, which includes hundreds of the Ethiopian American businesses that have taken over once-blighted storefronts across the Washington region. Read more at The Washington Post.

Amharic for High School Students – Summer 2011 at UCLA

Students attend language lessons in D.C. UCLA will offer a class for older students who speak Amharic but want to learn how to read and write in Amharic. (Tadias File photo)

Am​haric Classes
By Agazit Abate

Published: Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Los Angeles – The Center for World Languages at the University of California, Los Angeles is offering Heritage and Foreign Language classes for High School students this summer 2011 – including for students who speak and/or understand Amharic at home and want to learn to read and write in Amharic or to develop their speaking and literacy skills.

The classes will be held from June 28- July 28, 2011 on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9:00am- 12:30pm along with after lunch tutorials at the UCLA campus.

The languages currently being offered are Amharic, Armenian, Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Italian, Persian and Russian. The language classes are specifically designed for heritage language students. This typically means that the student heard the language at home throughout their childhood, but was educated primarily in English. In addition to our heritage language classes, the center is now offering beginning Italian and Russian for any interested high school students.

The need to produce multilingual citizens in our society is evident. The need for our heritage classes in particular arose out of the realization that there were a group of students entering university who wouldn’t fit in either a beginning or an advanced foreign language class. Our heritage languages are also less-commonly taught languages and therefore high school students often don’t have access to formal schooling in their home languages. For this reason, our classes look specifically at their needs as heritage learners and seek to help them develop literacy in their home language while they are in high school so that by the time they continue their language studies at the University level, they can place into advanced language and literature courses.

Enrollment is now open at www.hslanguages.ucla.edu. The fee is $150 and students may earn up to one year of High School foreign language credit.

For general information, contact Agazit at (310) 825‐2510 or cwl@international.ucla.edu.

Cover Image:
Students attend Amharic language lessons run by Washington D.C.’s Ethiopian Community Center. (Photo: Tadias File)

Meeting The Team Tesfa Girls in Ethiopia

Above: The Team Tesfa girls in Ethiopia are supported by the
Girls Gotta Run Foundation in D.C. (Photo: courtesy of GGRF)

Opinion
My Dream Came True
By Kebebush Tesfaye

Published: Sunday, March 6, 2011

Washington, D.C. – A few years ago I learned about Girls Gotta Run Foundation (GGRF), an organization that focuses on raising funds for young Ethiopian girls who are training to become professional runners. GGRF, which was established in 2006, provides these future athletes with money for sports training, as well as nutrition and other essential expenses. But running is more than a pastime or sport for these girls who have discovered self-empowerment, and through additional funds now have the opportunity to stay enrolled in school and to avoid early marriage.

GGRF was founded by Dr. Pat Ortman, a retired Women Studies Professor and an artist. Inspired by her dedication, I became a Girls Gotta Run Foundation supporter. Since then I have wanted to meet the girls, and this year my dream jumped off the page and came to life! In February I got to visit the Team Tesfa Girls Gotta Run in Ethiopia.

I went to Addis Ababa to attend my sister’s wedding, and as soon as I arrived I called Mr. Dana Roskey, Founder and Director of the Tesfa Foundation, to make an appointment to meet with him and the Team Tesfa girls who are supported by the Girls Gotta Run Foundation. Unfortunately, Dana was flying back to London the next day, so we couldn’t see each other. But he promised to connect me with his Chief of Staff, Ms. Menna Alemu. On February 4th I received a call from Menna, who was a sweet, soft-spoken, and beautiful young woman. She took me to where the team had gathered at Ferensaye Legasion to meet with me. I was thrilled when I saw 20 + hopeful girls who were working hard to become professional athletes. And they had many stories to tell.


Picture with the girls. I am the fifth person from left. (Photo courtesy of GGRF)


The Team Tesfa girls in Ethiopia. (Photo courtesy of Girls Gotta Run Foundation)

Some of the girls are already working full time, going to school full time, and training 3 days per week. Some have no family. They are living with friends and strive to fulfill their daily needs. The girls had traveled from all parts of Ethiopia to join Team Tesfa, but they looked and acted like one family, sharing the same dream. One may ask how their dream will come true. I say it will be due to their hard work and dedication, as well as to the efforts of the tireless Dr. Ortman, the GGRF Board, our supporters, and Mr. Roskey and his team and supporters, including Menna. GGRF brought these girls together to help them make their dream a reality — Tomorrow’s professional athletes!

If you would like to support these girls, you may contribute to the Girls Gotta Run Foundation at www.girlsgottarun.org and the Tesfa Foundation at www.tesfa.org. Thank you!

About the Author:
Kebebush Tesfaye is an advocate for Ethiopian girls and women. She is a member of GGRF’s Advisory Board. She works in E-Resource Technical Support at the University of Maryland Library.

Related:
Video: Talk with Dr. Pat Ortman and other footage from GGRF fundraiser in Maryland (Nov. 2010)

My Life as a Travel Junkie: Ghana to Bolivia

Overlooking Machu Picchu, The Lost City of the Incas, located on a mountain ridge near the Urubamba Valley in Peru.

Tadias Magazine
By Maskarm K. Haile

maski_author_image.jpg

Published: Sunday, January 9, 2011

New York (TADIAS) – I am a resident of the beautiful city of Montreal, Canada, but I consider myself a citizen of the world. My first travel journal, My Humanitarian Journey to Africa, appeared in Tadias in 2003 and my last entry was about couchsurfing posted in August of 2008.

When receiving emails these days the subject lines usually read: “Where are you now?” And lately it’s been “Are you done?” or even “Were you able to find yourself?” For which I humorously reply: “I left a piece of me everywhere, which I need to go back to collect!”

I have been on the road for as long as I can remember. I started traveling through books, stories and simply staring at world maps and daydreaming before I could understand what traveling is all about.

As a child my dream for traveling was bigger than life itself. I wanted nothing but to discover the mystery of this beautiful world that we live in. I started out as a young and fearless traveler, openly bargaining my life with the universe, willingly surrendering my life. I wanted my heart and mind to open to new learning, to be tolerant and respectful, to explore and to appreciate the world as it is. Somehow deep inside I knew that I was going to embark on a journey that would forever change my life. A quest of a lifetime served by the beautiful world which I called my Open University!

Once I was on the road I found myself in different countries, towns, villages, churches, temples, mosques and synagogues. I ate rice noodles for breakfast, crocodile for dinner, snacked on Kudu Biltong on safari in Africa. I attended weddings, funerals, Candomble (religious ritual), birthdays and holidays with complete strangers that opened up their heart and homes to me. I shared my deepest thoughts, fears, and dreams with fellow travelers on long bus rides, airport waiting rooms, endless couchsurfing nights, countless coffee meetings and sightseeing around the world.

Mostly, people are curious to know why and how I am traveling, but the one question that made me actually write this article today was this: “What am I getting out of it?” I didn’t start traveling looking for something nor did I know what to look for. I simply showed up in most places armed with guidebooks, the desire to learn and to experience life.

The truth is that it is not really hard to stay on the road when you have passion for nature, culture and above all people. I happen to have them all, but the one thing that kept me going was the countless generous people that crossed my path who humbly opened their hearts and homes. They inspired me to see that there is more to life.


You can view more photos & journal of my recent trip to South America at www. maskarm.tumblr.com.

Below are few sample stories from my travels that are etched in my memory forever:

Starting with Africa, where I was born and to where I keep going back for more, the Ethiopian Ambassador to Ghana ran into me on the streets of Accra while I was searching for a hotel and took me to his wife and kids without hesitation just because I was Ethiopian.

In Gisenyi, Rwanda a tour operator overheard my conversation in the hostel about crossing the border to Goma, DRC the next day. Tired of trying to convince me that it wasn’t the safest place to go on my own, he decided to escort me to the border himself, where after making sure that I was safe, he returned to Rwanda.

In Khartoum, Sudan a man, whom my fellow travelers and I met at the bus station, welcomed us as if we were his old lost friends. He offered us a place to stay and truly showed us Sudanese hospitality. Of course I never forget the Sudanese camel merchant who was so concerned about my status in society and who offered to marry me to spare me from the humiliation of being not married as he put it!

In Israel a man in Haifa, who felt responsible for my life, stopped driving his car to lecture me on the dangers of hitchhiking, and ended up driving me to a bus station, paid my bus fare and made sure I boarded the bus to Jerusalem.

In Beirut, Lebanon a university professor offered his couch for a week (a camping bed he set up in his living room) and embraced my way of traveling by becoming an active local couchsurfer.

In Australia a simple ride request that I posted on the internet led me to traveling with a complete stranger from Melbourne, Victoria to Fraser Island in Queensland for three insanely beautiful weeks of camping, wine tasting and visiting national parks.

In India after attending a Hindu festival in Southern Tamil Nadu, I happily followed a family to the small village where I spent the best time of my life. The humble family had nothing except a table which they insisted to convert into a make-shift bed with a thin mattress. Although they didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak their language, their hospitality touched my core. They fed me some amazing vegetarian food. And YES I did sleep on the table!!

In La Paz, Bolivia a Somali-Dutch individual that I met at a market, introduced me to a whole new world of Afro-Bolivian culture where I was welcomed for three days of conference, fun, cultural shows and visiting the coffee and coca farms owned by Afro-Bolivians. I even met their king!

It is these endless stories that keep me on the road, maintain my sanity and make me appreciate my life, even when I found myself under a door frame in Mendoza, Argentina during an earthquake. At the time I felt as if I was having my last conversation with God. All I had to say was “Thank you for all the blessings I have received.”


Met with the oldest woman in the mostly Afro-Bolivian community of Tocaña, Bolivia.

Learn more about Maskarm K. Haile at maskarm.tumblr.com.

Photos: All images shown in this article are courtsey of the author.

Family Pays Tribute to 12-Year-Old Matthias Berhanu, Killed on School Field Trip in Texas

Above: 12-year-old Matthias Berhanu, who was killed during a
school field trip in East Texas. He was struck by a falling tree.

By JONATHAN BETZ
WFAA
Posted on December 19, 2010 at 9:49 PM

GARLAND – Hundreds paid tribute at a memorial service Sunday for 12-year-old Matthias Berhanu, a Richardson boy who was killed on a school field trip in East Texas. Matthias was sitting at a bench at Sky Ranch when he was struck by a falling tree.

Friends and family members read poems and spoke about their beloved classmate on Sunday at the memorial service at St. Michael Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in Garland.

Watch:

Meet Young Entrepreneur Eskat Asfaw: College Shuttle

Ethiopian American Eskat Asfaw is the founder and owner of College Shuttle, a company that provides shuttle services to students in seven colleges & Universities in the DC metro area. (Courtesy image)

Tadias Magazine
By Martha Z. Tegegn

Published: Monday, December 13, 2010

Washington, D.C. (Tadias) – When Eskat Asfaw joined the Entrepreneurship Club in Frostburg State University’s business department as a student, he had no idea a great business venture would soon be born. When his professors pointed out that there was an unfulfilled need for transporation for college students, Asfaw had a moment of enlightenment and immediately set to work to address that gap.

“I have always wondered how students without cars moved around,” said Asfaw, who immediately brought his exciting idea to his colleagues and advisors: to provide transportation to students who reside a good two and half hours away from major public transportation stops. Asfaw then presented his idea alongside his two major investors — his parents who agreed to help him finance the purchase of his first van.

From there College Shuttle was born — “an innovative business addressing a need that is largely not met,” says his sister Alegnta Asfaw.

Today, after two years in operation College Shuttle has become a company with 7 colleges and university clients and serving close to 100 students in any given week. Asfaw runs three more vans and provides access to a dozen more.

To meet the growing demand, this young entrepreneur runs his business literally all day and night. “If I am not responding to a phone call I am checking the website (Collegeshuttles.com), or driving occasionally when the demand is high. I will take a break when my company grows to its potential.”

The self-professed music lover admits that before he bumped into this great venture he had always wanted to own a nightclub. In the past, he had supplemented his living through parties that he organized in the Metro Washington region and at Frostburg State University, where he earned his business degree.

Asfaw’s business is not only a pioneering idea but also a great job opportunity that pays well for students who are looking for weekend jobs to supplement their income. He has more than a dozen students working for him as web developers, marketers, and van drivers.

College Shuttle transports student to and from public transportation stops throughout the Baltimore and DC metro regions. “It was an instant success” said Eskat (short for Eskatnaf). “All I had to do was put some flyers up with my number and email address.” Although starting up any business includes some level of risk, his family says “he is always careful and makes sure ….he is responding to a need.”

Dr. Marty Mattare, one of his professors who was instrumental in the success of his company and still lends a hand when needed, says “Eskat has shown great persistence in his pursuit of College Shuttle. He worked very hard to make it a success and sought feedback and advice from a number of people. College Shuttle has also provided great opportunities for students to work in an entrepreneurial environment and contribute to a successful small business startup. I have no doubt that Eskat will go far with this enterprise!”

College Shuttle has received the Trident Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Asfaw is recognized in the Frostburg/Alleghany area for creating jobs and stimulating economic growth. According to his professor, he has inspired other students to become entrepreneurs and has himself mentored more than 15 students in Frostburg and continues to do so. His sister Alegnta says, “I believe this is the kind of leadership and innovative thinking that we want to showcase among young Ethiopians in America.”

The 26 year-old businessman left Ethiopia as a young boy in the early 90s has never been back. However, someday he wants to return with “some philanthropic project in Ethiopia—particularly in the education area.”

Eskat Asfaw of College Shuttle won the 2010 Young Entrepreneur of the Year award. He “was very enterprising; he had a vision of a company and worked diligently to make it successful,” says Dr. Marty Mattare, his former professor. (Courtesy Photograph

MT: How do you feel about the award and your professor’s comment?

EA: It is very humbling and nice to get everyone’s support.

MT: Tell us a bit about yourself. Where were you born? Where did you grow up?

EA: Well I was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, we lived in Bole area; and then migrated to Kenya when I was about 7, then moved to America in 1996.

MT: What was it like growing up in Kenya?

EA: Kenya was nice, I went to elementary school there. I liked Kenya. I have more memories of Kenya than Ethiopia — I only remember our dog and house {in Ethiopia}.

MT: You went to college in Frostburg, Maryland. Tell me about Frostburg.

EA: Frostburg is in Western Maryland. That is where I went to school. I was a business major. I went to Montgomery college first and then transferred to Frostburg State University, and I graduated from there in 2009.

MT: I read in one of your college newspapers that your idea for College Shuttle was appluaded by the business department at Frostburg State University. Can you tell us more?

EA: I joined the Entrepreneurship Club as soon as I heard about it. I used to go to all the business conferences religiously, and when I heard about this club I had to go — who better to join than me [laughs]. The club advisor was a really nice man. He was telling us about different things that the school needs….since he was there for 27 years. One of the needs was transportation. I was wondering about transportation myself so I kind of took it to heart and kept thinking about it, writing down numbers and stuff in class. My advisors were very impressed with my idea.

MT: Transportation for whom?

EA: For the students in Frostburg. It is about 2 and 1/2 hours away…and there is no way to get there except by train or car.

MT: Where are the students from?

EA: Most of the students are from Baltimore and DC metro area.

MT: So, you were still in school when you got started.

EA: Yes, it started there and then. I didn’t know anyone. I used to go to class and then back to my apartment. I met with one guy and I asked him if he can help me to get to know people. That summer I put together some flyers with my personal information. I did the flyers a week before school started …….and the calls started coming. The majority of our customers are freshmen or sophomores and don’t own cars yet.

MT: How do you handle the logistics of running such a business?

EA: We now have an 877 toll free number as well as a web site. Most of our customers go online and register and pay online. Once they do that we send them a pickup time.

MT: Your shuttle service is limited to weekends. Why?

EA: The whole point is to get the students home for the weekend. They have different reasons for going home every weekend, leaving on Friday and returning on Sunday.

MT: Do you drop off the students at their homes?

EA: We drop off our customers at public areas close to their home such as metro stations, malls etc. It is a lot easier for their parents to pick them up when they are at a closer location. The majority of the time it is parents who make the arrangement for their kids. They would rather do that than driving two and half hours to come get their kids.

MT: How large is your customer base?

EA: We serve seven colleges now: Frostburg, West Virginia, Allegany College, Petomac State College, and three more colleges in Eastern Maryland. Our focus is just students. Our motto is students need their own transportation services. As students they have already a lot to deal with. We are just trying to fulfill the transportation part of it. Our time slots and services are flexible to students to meet their need. Students are very rash themselves. We work with their ever changing last minute decisions.

MT: What makes your business different than other shuttle services? Do you have any competition?

EA: Yes, there is a competition such as the bus line and train stations….but what we do is quite different. The way we treat our customers and the simple fact that our business is solely dedicated to students makes us preferable and it makes a world of difference to our success.

MT: How many employees do you have?

EA: I am the sole owner but I have many drivers. I also drive when necessary. I love driving. I have a lot of students that work for me, about a dozen. They work on graphic design, web designing, marketing; a lot of the work is done by the students themselves. So it is kind of a great side job for them. I set high standard for them and if they meet that standard they get paid more and they stay with me longer.

MT: How many vans do you have?

EA: We have three of our own but we do have access to many more on a need basis. Our vans are 15 passenger buses.

MT: Where do you say your entrepreneurial spirit comes from?

EA: Well, I always enjoyed business. Even when I was in high school in Silver Spring I had a lawn mowing business. My sisters used to work for me and we worked in a couple of areas in the neighborhood. I just enjoy business. When I got to college I started promoting parties. That is how I made most of my money. Then this came along and I just knew I wanted to make it a success and I truly believed in it.

MT: Do you have role model?

EA: Nick Friedman from College Hunks Hauling Junk. We have a lot of similarities and the way he transformed a simple idea to a nationwide success impresses me. I met him for a coffee once and he gave me few feedbacks and it helped shaped my business. I still communicate with him when I need to. He is my strong role model in business. On a personal level, I also look up to my father and older brother; they are great individuals that see the future clearly. And one thing I figured out as I matured is that my father is always right. Sometimes I wish I listened to him more. Another thing is my father supported all my decisions in life. He cares about my business as much as I do.

MT: Tell me about your family. How have they influenced you?

EA: Family means a lot to me. We are very close family. Everyone knows everything about everyone…my mom calls about ten times a day to checkup on me. My mom and dad were my main investors when I started the business. Without them I wouldn’t have been a business owner. They helped me buy the first van. To this day I turn to them for advice. In Ethiopia my grandparents were business owners. My mom was also into coffee business. In this country, my parents own a popular store in Chevy Chase. So from early on I understood that business played a huge role in American lifestyle. I would say, the culture in whch I grew up has a big influnce in me. Even if I grew up in America, I feel like how I was brought up makes it easier to respect my customers and easier to talk to them without feeling of entitlement. And I get a lot of positive feedback from customers saying, you are very down to earth and I think it is an Ethiopian thing.

MT: What’s the long-term plan for College Shuttle?

EA: I want to go national and hire a lot of college students. My goal, in about 6 years or so, to be in as many universities and colleges as possible. I am doing the research on the need. I see it happening already. A lot of rural universities and colleges have transportation gaps. Most of the colleges we service right now, we were asked to be there. I feel like we are doing a community service as well. Parents can have safe transportation for their kids to and from colleges. We service everyone and our customers are from all walks of life. I think it is also a great idea to explore what you can do as an individual and contribute to the work force. You will end up creating a job not only for yourself but for others too.

MT: Thank you and we wish you great success.

EA: Thank you for giving me this opportunity to share my story.

Related:
FSU Alumni Runs Shuttle Service for Students (The Bottom Line)
Filling a Need for a Ride Home From College (Frostburg State University eNEWS)

Other profiles by Martha Z. Tegegn
Exclusive Interview With Ethiopian Legend Teshome Mitiku (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3)
Why Girls Gotta Run: Interview with Dr. Patricia E. Ortman
A Conversation with filmmaker Haile Gerima

Abi Mariam: Young Humanitarian of the Year

Above: Abi Mariam was named Young Humanitarian of the Year at the 19th annual St. Mary Hospital Foundation Gala, held in San Bernardino, California on Saturday, September 25, 2010. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
Events News

Published: Monday, October 4, 2010

New York (Tadias) – The St. Mary Hospital Foundation hosted its 19th annual Gala at the San Bernardino County Fairgrounds last week. The event, held on Saturday, September 25, 2010, recognized a number of honorees for their contributions to the organization during the year – including Ethiopian American high school student Abi Mariam, who was named this year’s Young Humanitarian.

The theme for 2010 was “The High Desert … A World of Possibilities” and was sponsored by High Desert Primary Care Medical Group and Premier Healthcare.

Abi, who began volunteering at St. Mary Medical Center in 2007, was honored for her activities at the hospital while simultaneously juggling school work and several extra curricular programs, including co-founding an on-campus tutoring club and completing five Advanced Placement courses. Her mother, Mesrak Gessesse, is Director of Network Development at St. Mary, and her father, Alemayehu G. Mariam, is a lawyer and professor at Cal State San Bernardino. “I’ve grown up at St. Mary Medical Center,” Abi said. “I like being able to give back to an organization that’s given a lot to my family and my community.”

After high school, Abi plans to attend college and study political science and government. “I have been fortunate to realize at a young age that a life serving others is a life well lived, and I believe my talents and interests will be best directed to helping others through my understanding and usage of our government,” she said. “I’ve been blessed with an unbelievably supportive family, wonderful teachers and amazing friends…These gifts are not mine to keep; they’re something I should share with others, and the only way I can give back some of what I’ve been given is through service.”

The other honorees included Dr. David Bolivar, who was also named Humanitarian of the Year in part because of the school he recently helped to build in Colombia; Ron and Dorthy Axelrod, who were acknowledged as Patrons of the Year for their charitable estate planning through St. Mary Hospital Foundation; and Dr. William Suval and his wife Diane, who were recognized as this year’s Honorary Chairs for their extensive involvement in community-oriented programs.

Learn more about the event at Victorville Daily Press. Abi also blogs at Shades of Gray.

Interview with Eskender Aseged about life in San Francisco

Above: Restauranteur Eskender Aseged, showing fava beans,
in his San Francisco garden where he hosted his first dinners.

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Saturday, July 10, 2010

New York (Tadias) – A blog on the San Francisco Chronicle web site, SFGate.com, features an interview with entrepreneur Eskender Aseged – a resident of the Mission District.

The blog MyMission “is a series of interviews with a diverse group of people, each with their own experience of the Mission. It’s part of a soon-to-be-published zine, Know Your Streets, which will contain resource, memory and cultural maps,” writes Heather Smith.

“Once upon a time (and/or about six years ago), a waiter at a high-end, downtown restaurant started a restaurant in his Mission district backyard, with plates from IKEA and live African music. Eskender Aseged, now soon-to-be official restauranteur, shares his perspective on cooking, gardening, and socializing in the Mission.”

Mission Local: How did you first come to live in the Mission?

Eskender Aseged: When Ethiopia ceased being a communist country, I left for the Sudan. My brother and I were first settled in New Jersey, because that’s where they were sending refugees. But that didn’t last long. We moved to New York. And then I visited San Francisco with a girlfriend. I realized I liked the place.

ML: Did you move straight to the Mission?

EA: No. First I lived in Bernal Heights. But then I realized I was hanging out at Cafe La Boheme most of the time, so I might as well live here. READ MORE..

On the South Lawn of the White House

Above: Professor Ayele Bekerie and his former students, Yeshi
Abebe and Tsehai Abebe, attend an event on the South Lawn
of the White House on June 29, 2010. —— (Courtesy Photo)

Tadias Magazine
Events News

Updated: Friday, July 2, 2010

New York (Tadias) – Tadias recently received a wonderful note from Professor Ayele Bekerie at Cornell University. Two of his former students had sent him an invitation to attend an event on the South Lawn of the White House honoring appointees who had been involved in the Obama Presidential campaign and now had government jobs.

Below are Professor Bekerie’s synopsis and photos:

In 1999 nine students of Ethiopian background graduated from Cornell University. The majority of them took one or more courses with me while they were undergraduate students. Among these graduates were Yeshimebet Abebe and Tsehai Abebe, who are sisters. Yeshi, Tsehai and their third sister Saba work for the Federal Government. They were actively involved in the campaign to elect President Obama in Iowa where they were born.

On June 29, 2010, the White House invited political appointees (those who work for the Government as a result of Obama’s Presidency) to a summer event on the South Lawn of the White House. The appointees played a critical role in the election of President Obama. Each appointee was also allowed to invite a person of their choice. Yeshi chose me to attend the event. Her act is an expression of a great tradition in which she and her sisters wanted to acknowledge my service to them as a professor as an advisor.

The summer event on the South Lawn was attended by thousands of appointees and their guests. After passing through elaborate security clearance, we arrived at The Lawn, which is vast, memory-laden and beautiful; it was filled up with guests who sat around picnic tables, on the grass, or simply walked around. At service tents, guests can got soft drinks, ice cream, and ice cold water – It was the most sought after drink in the hot and humid Washington summer afternoon. A great live band played a variety of selections drawn from great American music traditions throughout the event.

President Obama and the First Lady Michelle Obama joined their guests a little after 5:30 pm. The President spoke briefly and his main message was a message of gratitude. The appointees critical role in his election is publicly acknowledge and appreciated. He also cited some of his administration’s accomplishments in the last eighteen months, such as the largest public projects to improve roads and bridges, free health insurance to all needy children, health insurance that will allow over 30 million Americans to have insurance coverage, financial regulation and new approach to foreign policy.

The President and the First Lady interacted with the guests, shook hands and engaged them in conversation. My cherished moments, of course, was when I shook hands with both President Obama and the First Lady. I also got a chance to take pictures. The Summer Event on the South Lawn ended at 7 pm. The sisters treated me to a dinner before I returned to Ithaca.

Here is a slideshow of photos from the event:

Ethiopian Soccer Tournament 2010: Spotlight on New York Team Abay

Above: Team Abay has been described “Built New York Tough”
The group is one of 27 teams taking part at 27th annual Ethio
Soccer Tournament in San Jose, California. (Photo: TsehaiNY)

Tadias Magazine
Events News

Updated: Monday, June 28, 2010

New York (Tadias) – Ethiopians from across the U.S. are gathering in the Bay Area this week for the 2010 Soccer tournament – an event which also doubles as an annual cultural festival for the community.

The California festivities, which opened at San Jose State University’s Spartan Stadium on Sunday, features over 27 teams from various cities in the U.S. and Canada.

The annual gathering – which this year celebrates its 27th anniversary – goes far beyond sports entertainment, allowing families and friends in North America’s Ethiopian immigrant community to come together in celebration of both sports and their cultural heritage. The tournament week is a popular time for networking, alumni gatherings, small business catering, music performances, and reunion parties.

Stay tuned for our usual “Hot Shots” and other events coverage from San Jose.

Related:
Toronto Says It Has What It Takes to Host the Ethiopian Soccer Tournament (Tadias)
Ethiopians gather in San Jose for soccer, festival and food (San Jose Mercury News)
Ethiopian American organizations assist ESFNA earn recognition in California (EthioMedia.com)
Team Abay, Built New York Tough! (Tsehai.NY.com)
ArifQuas – iPhone Application For The 2010 Ethiopian Soccer Tournament (Tadias)
Photos from Chicago: Ethiopian Soccer Tournament 2009 (Tadias)

Bati, The Jewel of Fort Greene

Above: Owner Hibist Legesse has described the food as
“traditional Ethiopian with a focus on nutrition and health”
and the food tastes healthy in the ways one wants it to.”

Restaurant Review (New York)
By Berhan Tsehai TsehaiNY.com
Posted: 14 June 2010
I recently dined at Bati with a few of my friends on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Upon entering, I noticed the restaurant’s décor. It is decked with original paintings from Ethiopia with sounds of traditional music adding to its intimate setting. Bati was full of patrons but it didn’t take long for us to be seated. Our waitress was very attentive and friendly. Read more.

Bati Yummy, Now Open for Lunch
VillageVoice.com
Posted by Hailey Eber

New York – Bati (747 Fulton Street, Brooklyn), the new Ethiopian restaurant in Fort Greene, is now open for lunch after a soft opening the weekend before last.

A friend and I tried Bati last weekend and had some of the best Ethiopian food either of us had had in recent memory. The restaurant is still waiting on its liquor license, so it’s BYOB for now, which does always help my culinary memory. We were more in a beer mood, so I grabbed a six pack at Fresh Gardens (729 Fulton Street, Brooklyn), an organic bodega just down the block that has a far better (and less pricey) beer selection than the Provisions market right next door to the restaurant. I assembled a mix-and-match six pack of craft IPAs, including my current favorite, Lagunitas, to complement the spicy food. If you prefer to grab wine, there’s the Greene Grape (765 Fulton Street) wine store one block over.

Once having procured proper libation to bring with, it was time to eat.

My dining companion is vegetarian, so we had a meatless meal, which isn’t a problem, since Bati, like most Ethiopian places, is quite veggie friendly. We started with Ye Timatim Fitfit ($5), a mix of tomato salad and torn up bits of injera–Ethiopian flat bread. The tomatoes tasted deliciously fresh on yet another dreary winter night and the bits of injera were brushed with just enough kibe–clarified butter with herbs–to impart a buttery goodness without heart-attack thoughts.

For our main course, we split a vegetarian combination platter ($14), which, with the appetizer, was more than enough for the two of us. Of the four dishes on the platter, the clear winner was the Buticha–ground chick peas blended with spices, onion, and pepper. It reminded me of a drier, fluffier Ethiopian take on hummus and provided a fresh, cool counterpoint to the warmer, saucier elements on the platter.

Owner Hibist Legesse has described the food as “traditional Ethiopian with a focus on nutrition and health” and the food tastes healthy in the ways one wants it to–the vegetables are fresher and the flavors cleaner than many other things we’ve scooped up with injera, and the injera itself is spongy and flavorful without being too heavy (very important when consuming with IPAs aplenty)–while still retaining the tasty unhealthy elements–butter!

The space itself is lovely. The panes of the large windows facing the street have been painted a shade of vermilion that perfectly complements the dark wood, and the artwork is minimal and soothing. Its dimensions are more East Village than Brooklyn, though, and the place can get a bit too cozy when full. Service is warm and friendly but still working out some kinks, as to be expected in the early weeks. It took a while to get our food and there seemed to be a napkin shortage, rather comical when you’re eating with your hands. All are minor inconveniences, however, easily washed down with another IPA. In a neighborhood has some great eating options from Africa—from South African fare at Madiba (195 DeKalb Avenue, Brooklyn) to Senegalese food at Abistro (154 Carlton Avenue, Brooklyn)–this Ethiopian addition is a very welcome one.

More from VillageVoice.com

From the fields of Ethiopia to Cornell

Above: Leuk Mulugeta Woldeyohannes, 18, poses in front of
Wheaton High School, where he is a senior in the bioscience
academy. Woldeyohannes was recently awarded the Gates
Millennium Scholarship, a prestigious scholarship for high-
achieving minority students. He plans to use it to study
medicine at Cornell University in the fall. (The Gazette)

The Gazette
by Amber Parcher | Staff Writer
Wheaton High senior Leuk Woldeyohannes has been around medicine all his life. As a young boy growing up in Ethiopia, he visited rural hospitals in Africa’s vast countryside with his parents, both doctors performing charity medical work. And when his mother got sick and eventually died from breast cancer, 9-year-old Leuk was by her side. Then, when his family moved to the states two years ago to give Woldeyohannes and his older brother a chance at a better education, Woldeyohannes saw a chance to come into his own. He joined Wheaton High’s bioscience academy, earned a prestigious Howard Hughes Medical Institute internship to research autism in mice and recently won a Gates Millennium Scholarship award that will pay for his four years of tuition to study medicine at Cornell University in New York. It’s all been a whirlwind ride for Woldeyohannes, who has only lived in the United States since 2008. “The scholarship is a huge help for my family,” Woldeyohannes said of the Gates Scholarship, which is funded by a $1.6 billion grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and aims to boost minority attendance in higher education. He was one of 1,000 students across the nation picked for the scholarship from a pool of more than 20,000 applicants. Read more.

D.C.’s Ethiopian Community Center Faces New Challenges

Above: Students attend Amharic language lessons run by Washington D.C.'s Ethiopian Community Center.

Tadias Magazine
By: Martha Z. Tegegn

Published: Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Washington DC (Tadias) — Before Washington D.C.’s Ethiopian Community Center (ECC) commenced its operations in the early 80′s, newly arriving Ethiopians resettling from various refugee camps in Africa had very little resources to rebuild their lives. Majority of the refugees were fleeing harsh economic realities and civil war. “We needed to start something immediately,” says Ms. Hermela Kebede, who was present at ECC’s inception, and witnessed first-hand the large influx of Ethiopian refugees who were being assisted mainly by the United Nations Higher Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). The Voice of America news service recently cited U.S. Census Bureau statistics revealing that “there are now close to one million African immigrants in the United States and more than 50 percent of them entered and settled in the country between 1990 and 2000.”

It was important, according to Ms. Kebede, that “a community center of some sort was established.” ECC was set up after several elders in the community gathered together and drafted a plan. Ms. Kebede has been serving as ECC’s Executive Director since 1992. Since its founding, the ECC has provided legal information and referral services on issues ranging from education and health care resources to employment and immigration assistance.

Now, years later, new challenges are being raised by first generation Ethiopian-Americans. “Parents have a genuine concern that their children, many of whom were born and raised in the United States, presently face a cultural identity crisis,” says Ms. Kebede. In recent years this has prompted the ECC to secure funding and to provide a comprehensive Ethiopian culture program, which includes Amharic language lessons, workshops, and traditional dance classes in order to positively introduce first generation Ethiopian-Americans to their heritage.

“My two kids love to come and learn about Ethiopia,” said Tesfaye Mekuria, a former service user and father of two summer campers, Bethlehem and Abel Tesfaye. “They enjoy learning about the history, culture and way of life in Ethiopia. Every time they ask me a question such as how many provinces there are in Ethiopia, I turn to ECC because being away from home, I am clueless myself. Sending them to ECC is indirectly a learning process for me.” The summer camp that Mr. Tesfaye is talking about has successfully taught approximately 200 Ethiopian American children since it’s inception five summers ago.


Slideshow: Photos courtesy of ECC.

The Ethiopian American community is now one of the largest African immigrant communities in the United States. This has created increased pressure on community centers such as the ECC to seek greater funding and include English as a Second Language (ESL) courses for the target population. “ESL wasn’t a major issue at the beginning because the first wave of Ethiopian immigrants were fairly acquainted with English before they settled in America. To the contrary, there is a greater demand of ESL services now for more recent immigrants,” note Ms. Kebede.

“Before I came to the ECC to take ESL courses I was just struggling to work and communicate with my few words of English,” says Messeret Wasse, a frequent visitor to the center. “I couldn’t understand a word of the letters and documents that I received on the job.” The single mother of two who also sends her kids to the Ethiopian Summer camp says, “Thanks to the Community Center now, I can understand every letter that I receive, and I can communicate fairly easily in English.” ESL is among the most successful services provided by the ECC.


Ms. Hermela Kebede, Executive Director of ECC.

The demographics of the Ethiopian immigrant community has dramatically changed which requires ECC to come up with new, contemporary and innovative approaches for affordable and broader range of services. ECC now provides health referral services, an indispensable feature of its outreach program. “We assist people who reside in DC to obtain free health insurance,” said Ms. Woubedle Alemayehu, the HIV Coordinator for ECC. “Most immigrants and their children are uninsured and our goal is to inform them of available services through federal and city government services, and to advise them on how to use them.”

ECC works hand-in-hand with the DC government to provide health and educational services. “Through this important partnership ECC has held two Community Health Fairs, designed especially for the African immigrant community. The program entitled “Being Healthy is Your Responsibility” has provided HIV testing and health related information to members of the African immigrant population. ECC, like many non-profit organizations, struggles to sustain its services. The main challenge is the constant struggle to get funding and obtain new resources.

To address its recent demands from the community ECC developed several new initiatives which volunteerism, reorganizing the Board of Directors, and seeking and utilizing the larger community’s feedback. “Involving the community is one of our highest objectives,” said Professor Lemma Senbet, the new Chair of ECC’s Board of Directors and a renowned scholar and financial expert. “In order to improve services and implement them successfully the input from the community being served is vital.”

The Ethiopian community has generally had low volunteer turnout which have affected some areas of services such as outreach and advocacy. “We are at a critical stage now, and the Center currently faces five critical gaps: community involvement, technology-based communication, administrative,
facility, and resources.” Senbet asserts. “Moving forward, the newly recognized Board, with five new members, is determined to grow the Center to the next level by narrowing these gaps in a significant way.”


Lemma W. Senbet, Professor of Finance at the Smith School
of the University of Maryland, is the new Chair of ECC’s Board
of Directors. (Courtesy photo).

Most programs that the ECC offers are grant funded, and according to Ms. Kebede, also must be executed by a specific timeline. At the end of the grant period, some programs continue to receive funding while others may run out of funding, making it very difficult for the Center to maintain and keep staff. The current economic situation and the fact that DC has one of the highest numbers of non-profit organizations make it even more competitive to secure funding,” says Ms. Kebede. So, the new Board has limited time to come up with fresh ideas that can generate new revenue which will enable the center to sustain the highly needed services. According to Dr. Senbet, ECC will be
holding a town hall meeting sometime in October to evaluate the current needs of the community.


Slideshow: Photos courtesy of ECC.

-
ECC welcomes all to use their services and to volunteer at the Center. Its current location is 7603 Georgia Ave., NW, Suite 100 Washington, DC, 20012. For more information, call 202-726-0800 or email eth@prodigy.net.

OnLove: Megan McCarthy & Haile Gebregziabher (The Washington Post)

Above: “Megan, who is of Irish ancestry, and Haile, born in
Ethiopia and raised in Eritrea, celebrated with an Irish-Catholic
ceremony that incorporated Ethiopian traditions, followed by a
reception featuring American and Ethiopian foods and music,
and a three-tiered cake decorated with shamrocks.” – WaPo
(Patricia Mccarthy Photography ).

The Washington Post
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Megan McCarthy, 36, is a membership director for a private club. Haile Gebregziabher, 41, is an administrative manager for a homeless shelter. They live in Annandale.

How they met: Read more.

San Francisco: Sheba Piano Lounge owner sources from Ethiopia

Above: Netsanet Alemayehu, with her sister Israel, owns
Sheba Piano Lounge in San Francisco’s Lower Fillmore
neighborhood.

San Francisco Chronicle
By Carolyn Alburger
Friday, September 11, 2009

There’s a stack of seven large suitcases in the corner of Netsanet Alemayehu’s San Francisco living room. Some sit empty, dusted with bright remnants of Ethiopian oregano and mitmita, a combination of African bird’s-eye chile and cardamom. Others are so heavy, Alemayehu can barely lift them, full of fresh spices and sauce bases shipped from her family members in Harar, Ethiopia, the town where she was born. Read More.

Abiyu Baker: Superman for a Day (Video)

Above: Six-year-old Abiyu Baker took on the role of his favorite
superhero for a day. The playful young boy from Ethiopia came
to the U.S. seven-month ago, adopted by John and Marissa
Baker. He was born with a blood disorder and is currently
receiving treatment.

Watch the video from Fox12 Idaho

Summer Camp That Teaches Children Ethiopian Heritage & Culture: Interview With the Founder

Above: Abshirokids runs inter-generational summer family camps dedicated to teaching Ethiopian heritage and culture.

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Thursday, July 2, 2009

New York (Tadias) – Mekdes Bekele, founder of Abshirokids, a company that provides Ethiopian parents with teaching resources on language and cultural topics, is launching one of the country’s first inter-generational summer family camps dedicated to teaching Ethiopian heritage and culture.

The weekend event at Massaneta Springs, a charming camp and conference center situated in the heart of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, will begin at noon on Friday, July 24 and concludes at noon on Sunday, July 26. The scheduled summer fun for the entire family includes both outdoor and indoor activities, including educational seminars and conferences for parents.

Here is an interview with Mekdes Bekele, who is also a mother of a young daughter.

Tadias: Mekdes, congratulations on launching this program. How does the summer camp work?

Mekdes: Thank you. The camp is designed for the entire family. We provide guests and presenters who are highly qualified and experts in their field.

There are age-appropriate activities that will appeal to both parents and their youngsters. We have activities that are geared specifically for kids from toddler to elementary school children. We also have activities that would appeal to teenagers and young adults. For the parents we have seminars and conferences that help in raising children in a multicultural environment. In addition, we have programs that would attract the entire family – such as singing, dance (Eskista), camp fire, group meals, canoe rides, hiking, volleyball, swimming, etc. The best way for people to get a good idea of the types of activities we have is to visit our website at heritageandculturecamp.org and click on Programs.

Tadias: Are there special challenges in teaching youngsters about their heritage and culture?

Mekdes: Yes, definitely. The primary obstacle is the lack of language skills. Language provides a gateway to understanding and being part of a culture. For this reason, we have a heavy focus on language. As it is well known, the younger the child, the more quickly they can absorb a new language. For this reason, we encourage parents to teach their children an Ethiopian language at an early age.

But there are also opportunities in teaching youngsters about heritage and culture. As I alluded to earlier, the sooner a child is introduced to the culture, the quicker and more long lasting the benefits. We believe that a child growing up in America that has a solid grounding in their or their parents culture will have a more positive self image and better self awareness.

Tadias: How old does a child have to be in order to be eligible to participate?

Mekdes: Since this is a family camp, there is no minimum age limit, as long as a youngster is accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Tadias: What is the duration of camp?

Mekdes: The camp will start on Friday July 24th 2009 at Noon and conclude on Sunday July 26th atNoon. It is a three-day event, however families have the option to attend either the entire Camp or come for the Saturday activities only.

Tadias: How much does it cost to participate?

Mekdes: The price varies based on the number of family members. Typically, the cost is approximately $550 for a family of 3. This price covers 2 nights select accommodations, all meals (Friday lunch through Sunday lunch, including Ethiopian Banquet, with professional music and dance show), child care, if needed. Our web site has a price calculator as part of the registration process.

Tadias: Your summer camp is in Virgina? Do you offer special package rates for out-of-state children?

Mekdes: The event will be held at Massaneta Springs – a beautiful camp and conference location near the Shenandoah Mountains of Virginia. It is a short 2 hour drive from the DC Metro area and within easy driving distance from most places on the East Coast. The community has embraced this camp; in addition to families coming from the surrounding areas, we already have families registered from as far away as Florida, Ohio. and Kansas. There is no difference in price for in state and out of state attendees.

Tadias: On your promotional material you mention creating a support-group for Ethiopian parents and adoptive parents of Ethiopian children. Could you please tell us a bit more about that?

Mekdes: Whether adoptive or biological parents, we have the common goal of raising 1st generation Ethiopian Americans. What we offer is a venue and the opportunity for like minded parents of children with Ethiopian heritage to interact among each other and share experiences and knowledge on how to raise confident, capable, and compassionate Ethiopian-Americans. For example at this camp we will cover topics that apply to all of us such as: Raising confident children in a culture conscious world, Struggling for identity, and at a panel discussion parents will hear and learn from the experiences of Ethiopian-American young adults on the challenges and the opportunities of growing up in America.

Tadias: You also run another business called Abshiro Kids, which provides Ethiopian parents with teaching resources on language and cultural topics. Please tell our readers about Abshiro Kids.

Mekdes: Abshirokids, is a business that I founded to fulfill a vastly unmet need, exemplified by my own need as a parent, for resources and guidance to help teach children to speak Amharic and provide a positive cultural influence. Our main focus is to use language as the primary method to ensure that kids are connected to their culture, thus our slogan “Connecting Our Kids”

We select the products we offer with the highest standards in mind. We have also produced original material such as our popular Feedel alphabet poster. Abshirokids strives to be the most reliable resource for Ethiopian heritage families’ linguistic needs. We encourage families to incorporate language in their daily life by making these activities fun and appealing for kids. Very good examples are our Activity place mats and Feedel place mats. In addition to Feedel we offer books, CD’s songbooks and DVDs at our website: www.abshirokids.com.

Tadias: Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers?

The Heritage and Culture Camp is a not for profit endeavor that is partially supported by Abshirokids. This camp is a labor of love by a very dedicated group of volunteers, parents as well as others, that are putting in hundreds of hours of work to make this event a reality. It is the vision of a group of parents (our steering committee) that is coming to fruition.

Tadias: Thank you Mekdes and good luck.
—–
You can learn more about the summer camp at www.heritageandculturecamp.org.

Girls Gotta Run Foundation Supports Ethiopian Summer Adventures

Publisher’s Note:

Monday, June 22, 2009.

Dr. Patricia E. Ortman, a retired Women’s Studies Professor
and an artist, is the director of Girls Gotta Run Foundation.
Her organization provides new shoes for girls in Ethiopia who
are training to be runners. Here is an update from Pat:

TWO EXCELLENT ETHIOPIAN SUMMER ADVENTURES

Dr. Patricia E. Ortman

Hello! We hope you are having a fabulous summer. If you have time and
interest, you may enjoy following along or occasionally checking in on one
or both of the following blogs.

During the past year, we assisted a brilliant young woman from Occidental
College, Kayla Nolan, in designing a proposal to research the benefits of
running for Ethiopian girls and women. With it, she won a very competitive
fellowship her school offers to students to do summer research projects.
She is now visiting, getting to know, and interviewing, in depth, members
of all four of the teams for whom we provide some support, as well as
learning an enormous amount about Ethiopia in general. She arrived in
Addis Ababa on June 2 and will be there until the end of July. Although
the internet is erratic there, she is keeping a blog for anyone who wants
to follow along: click here.

This past Spring, we provided recommendations for GGRF supporter, WCA
member and full time Philadelphia middle school educator Bonnie
MacAllister in support of her application for this exciting
Fulbright-Hayes teaching fellowship program in Ethiopia. She was selected!
The group heads out on July 8 for a five week sojourn. You can follow
along here.

Meet GGRF-sponsored partners and supporters in this video.

Mesgana Dancers Arrive in New York

Photo by Steven Dyer of VicRae Inc. for Tadias Magazine.

New York – The much anticipated young dancers of Ethiopia (pictured above with actor/singer Leon yesterday) have arrived in New York to kick-off their millennium celebration tour in the United States.

After a morning appearance on NBC’s The Today Show, they were hosted by actor Leon, best known for starring roles in The Temptations, The Five Heartbeats, Cool Runnings and The Little Richard Story, for a bus tour of New York City.

The troupe of 11 girls, ages 7 to 12, will also be hosted by Reverend Calvin Butts of the Abyssinian Baptist Church, one of the oldest, largest and most affluent African American churches in the United States.

According to the church’s official history, in 1808, Ethiopian merchants in New York alongside a few African Americans established the Abyssinian Baptist Church, a.k.a. (ABC).

The church’s official logo, an Ethiopian Cross, was personally presented by Emperor Halie Selassie in highly publicized ceremony in 1954 in Harlem, New York.

Meanwhile, ABC has announced that it is sending 200 churchgoers, dignitaries and media to Ethiopia in September to celebrate the millennium in commemoration of the Church’s 200 years anniversary.

The dance troupe is scheduled to perform at New York University’s Skirtball Center for Performing Arts on Sunday, August 12th.

mesgana-with-leon193_new.JPG

Mesgana (an Amharic for gratitude), “represents the hope this tour will bring to the girls of Ethiopia”, says the press alert released by the Children of Ethiopia Education Fund, a non-profit organization based in Murray, Utah, and the tour’s primary organizer.

The group is also scheduled to perform in Washington, DC, Columbia, MD, Evanston (Chicago), IL, Atlanta, West Orange, NJ, Denver & Boulder, CO, Salt Lake City, Murray, & St. George, UT, San Jose, Palo Alto, Ontario/Upland, and Los Angeles (San Fernando), CA.

According to the tour organizers, for two hundred to five hundred dollars a year sponsors can send a student to a private school in Ethiopia.

Currently 800 students are enrolled in the program.

The tour also benefits Ethiopia Reads, another non-profit organization founded in 2003 by Yohannes Gebregeorgis and led by the celebrated children’s author Jane Kurtz. The group establishes libraries in schools in Ethiopia and has published many books in Amharic.

Tadias Magazine is proud to be the media sponsor of the New York Tour. To buy tickets for the New York show, CLICK HERE.

New Generation of Adopted Ethiopian-Americans

Above: Tibarek’s second encounter with snow.

A New Mom Celebrates Her Ethiopian Daughter’s First Birthday in America

BY JILL VEXLER

Barely unpacked from Addis, with Tibarek, my newly adopted, almost six year old daughter, she was invited to two birthday parties for children in our building, a boy’s eighth and twin’s sixth. Speaking minimal English, their parents and I marveled at their unique way of communicating after just a few afternoons of play. I was overjoyed.

tibarek1.jpg
Above: Pre-party nosh: Jill ties
an apron on Tibarek’s dress.
Photo by Jeremy Scharlack.

The first party arrived, and Tibarek went to help decorate. The party was a production. Helium balloons, magicians, balloon sculptures (her favorite), face-painting, games, gift bags, pizza, and cake. Tibarek joined in the high energy as if she had been reared on New York birthday parties. I started thinking about her fast approaching birthday. When I told her she, too, has a birthday, her expression was as if it suddenly hit her: EVERYONE has a birthday and would have a party. In my limited Amharic, I told her, her birthday was soon, “negge…negge….” (tomorrow.…tomorrow). No language gap here. Yes, friends! Yes, balloons! Yes, pizza! We listed children to invite. We knew seven kids from our building, and the Washington Square playground where I saw her gregariousness in action the first day we came.

tibarek3.jpg
Above: Tibarek wearing sunglasses
like those in the gift bags she gave to her
friends on her birthday.
Photo by Jeremy Scharlack.

Entertaining is my second nature, and our loft lends itself to great parties, but a child’s birthday party was daunting. I plunged into calls to other mothers, balloon artists, and magicians. I wanted a memorable party: not too indulgent, expensive, or programmed. I was petrified by the seemingly superfluous gifts other children received. The idea: “in lieu of gifts, please make a donation to Worldwide Orphans Foundation in Ethiopia,” entered my mind but felt self-righteous and pretentious. Tibarek had not been in the US two months, maybe she should plow through wrapping paper like all the other kids. Friends might give her things that would never occur to me, and they were also “Welcome to America” gifts. I still felt I had to counter-balance the possibility of a “Barbie Invasion,” with a clever, fun, homemade celebration.

tibarek2.jpg
Above: Tibarek opens gifts.
Photo by Jeremy Scharlack.

My anxiety reflected my self-consciousness about American abundance, and my newness as a mother, more than it did Tibarek’s possible temptation to materialism. I reflected on her kindness and generosity. I had seen her on the playground, giving her bubble wand to a little boy, caring for an infant as she went down the spiral slide, making sure everyone had a turn with the ball. She would easily incorporate this special day into the vast newness that engulfed her life. Deep down, then, it must have been my own pressure to make MY daughter’s party fun, “cool,” and approved of by parents who had already been to dozens. The individualist in me did want not a “cookie-cutter” occasion. A unique party for a unique daughter.

At fifty-seven, I had plunged into a wonderful, dramatic life change: creating a family. My world opened to new people, new culture, new worries, and new learning. My inner anthropologist loved the challenges culturally, and linguistically that a child from Ethiopia presented. I fell in love with the culture during a three week trip volunteering at the AHOPE Orphanage. I met Tibarek, and immediately set the adoption procedure in motion with the Minnesota Children’s Home and Family Service. New Ethiopian friends in Addis, and through them, others in New York, enriched the experience in ways that I never imagined. And here she is – charming, energetic and learning English at break-neck speed.

Creativity set in. I asked my cousin Jeremy, a professional photographer in New York, to set up a studio in the loft. I asked Eddie, who has framed ten exhibitions for me, to give me leftover matte board for kids to frame for Jeremy’s instant photographs. I went to the hobby store for glitter, glue, and treasures for collages on the frames. I called Peter and Diana, who have every costume under the sun, and the dress-up corner was born. The party was shaping up but not enough kids and way too many adults!

My dear Israeli friend and caterer Chava, has a daughter about Tibarek’s age. Chava offered to make cupcakes for kids to decorate. With Chava, they would squeeze bags of icing! I was excited when I realized that the party was the week-end after the Gala for Worldwide Orphans Foundation and the fabulous Dr. Sophie, the pediatrician who checked Tibarek’s health in Addis, would still be in New York with her two young nephews who live in New Jersey. Then, Tibarek’s New York pediatrician, the divine Dr. Jane and her terrific partner Diana would bring their two sons, one Ethiopian, one Vietnamese. Young twins of new Ethiopian friends in New York agreed to come, as well as Meron, an Ethiopian little girl adopted by kind Irene. A little boy from Djbouti and his sweet, supportive father, Angel from Mexico in Tibarek’s ESL class, and a cute Japanese two-year old from the playground were other guests. Tibarek’s god-mother, Terrell, would take the train from Washington. From five children, we ended up with 16, and 38 adults!

The day before the party, Saturday, was Tibarek’s “real” birthday. We went apple picking with a group of kids visiting from Ethiopia, and to a surprise party for our friend George who turned 70. He and his wife Joelle had greeted Tibarek, her godmother, and me, after the flight from Ethiopia. Tibarek adores them. As George uncovered his surprised, teary eyes, he picked Tibarek up and announced, “our newest friend who just arrived in America turns six today!” Seventy-five strangers instantaneously sang “Happy Birthday” to my child. Now I was the one with tears in her eyes.

tibarek4.jpg
Above: Tibarek holding her
birthday cupcake.
Photo by Jeremy Scharlack.

After putting Tibarek to bed Saturday night, I decorated the hallway and blew balloons, wanting her to awaken to ambiance that said, “Today’s the day!”

The morning before the party seemed to last forever. Finally, Jeremy arrived with camera, lights and printer; friends brought food; we put music on. As each guest came, Tibarek became the hostess with the mostess- directing adults to go “down to that part of the house” and, with her arm around each child, she escorted each to the crafts and photography areas. She amazed us all as we watched her grace and ease as a social butterfly, speaking non-stop English! Over two hours later with more glitter on the Turkish rugs than on the photo frames, consuming of countless cupcakes, pizzas, juices, hummus, cheese, bread, and wine (adults only!), the party was a success. New friends, families of every imaginable configuration, had celebrated Tibarek’s first birthday in America. Generous and thoughtful gifts that honor her are treasures. She plowed through the wrapping paper like a natural.

She is already talking about her next birthday. Thank goodness it is still nine months away!

tibarek5.jpg
Above: Tibarek and Dr. Sophie Mengistu, the pediatrician who
checked Tibarek’s health in Addis. Photo by Jeremy Scharlack.

—–
About the Author: Jill Vexler is a cultural anthropologist who does field work in Latin America, North Africa , Israel, Greece, Asia , Eastern Europe and New York City. She designs cultural heritage and social history exhibitions. She volunteered at the AHOPE orphanage, where she fell in love with Ethiopian culture.

Fregenet Foundation: Creating a Future for Our Children Through Education

By Azeb Tadesse

The Fregenet Foundation works with a most vulnerable, often overlooked population: children. The foundation is named for a girl’s dream of returning to Ethiopia and working with disadvantaged children.

Fregenet was exceptional, and touched lives of many around her. Her friends remember her as “…friendly, good-natured, and showed good sense.” To her family she was a “symbol of all happiness, love and warmth.” She had decided on completion of her education to work for a non-profit. Her dedication brings to mind the saying, “Upon our children – how they are taught – rests the fate – or fortune – of tomorrow’s world.” The day before her tragic accident, she interviewed for a children’s non-profit, graduating from Metropolitan State University, with a degree in accounting, a month earlier. On that faithful day, she was blocks from home when a car fleeing police clipped her SUV causing it to roll, and fatally injuring Fregenet.

fregenet.gif
Above: Fregenet Tafesse, 1974-2003

Rather than let her dream die, Fregenet’s family resolved to keep her alive by picking up where she left off, and realizing her vision of working with children. A friend eulogized her by saying, “If we talk today about Fregenet’s smile, her warmth, her love, her generosity, her compassion, her humility, or her courage, it’s not just to praise her, but to speak to you, the people left behind, the people who have to live in this world. Gifts like her, granted to us from heaven, come few and far between. Do not let her go without deep contemplation on what you have learned from her.”

What her family learned was the importance of caring for the less fortunate, and for the future generation. They established a foundation dedicated to providing education to children from low-income families in Ethiopia. The first Fregenet School (Fregenet Kidan Lehitsanat) opened its doors in the fall of 2004, and enrolled children between the ages 4 to 6 from a small, impoverished community in Addis Abeba.

fregenet_new4.jpg
Above: Students at Fregenet Kidan Lehitsanat

Importance of early education

Nelson Mandela said that, “Education is the great engine to personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that the child of a farm worker can become the president of a great nation.” Early education is when a child’s emotional, physical, and intellectual environment has profoundest impact on their future. In the West, the importance of early childhood education have been documented and integrated into public education. In Ethiopia, kindergartens are not part of the public school system, therefore only available to a few children. It is up to private institutions and individuals to invest in pre-school and kindergarten. According to the Ethiopian Ministry of Education, in 2003, only 2 percent of kindergarten age children are in school.

In the US, research indicates students who had early scholastic exposure are employed sooner, less likely to be on welfare, and less likely to have a punitive experience courtesy of the criminal justice system. Programs such as Head Start illustrated the impact of early childhood stimulation. A study by the Abecedarian Project, which provided pre-school for 111 African-American families in Chapel Hill, North Carolina found:

35 percent attended a four-year college before age 21
By 21, 65 percent were either still in school, or gainfully employed.
At age 3, I.Q. scores were 17 points above average.

Importance of early education in Ethiopia

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Ameliorating the plethora of Ethiopian problems in the future requires an investment in high-quality education today. Studies imply preschool and kindergarten education can decrease early pregnancy and the consequent female dropout from basic education, help overcome economic barriers, and increase aspiration for higher education. Within the national education plan, preschool and kindergarten are not a priority. Most resources are directed towards grades one to eight, and to vocational education. Provisions for early education are provided by non governmental organizations a nominal fee, and for a significant fee by private institutions.

Fregenet Kidan Lehitsanat (an NGO) is attempting provide children in one neighborhood in Addis Ababa with the elements for a successful life. Children learn academically: math, English and art, as well as hygiene and social IQ. Many are from extremely disadvantaged households where often times there is just one parent struggling to make ends meet. If not for the school, many of the children would be left to their own devices and spend the day on the streets. Instead, they are nurtured and cared for by dedicated staff and their families in turn have a peace of mind knowing their child is safe.

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As Fregenet foundation celebrates its third anniversary this September, it would seem that Fregenet’s promise to the children is being fulfilled through the foundation. In the years since its opening, the school has increased enrollment from 31 to 100 students, it has moved to a larger location and has even added a first grade class to accommodate its first graduates. Future plans include programs for the children’s parents such as computer labs, library and even a clinic. These new programs are intended to improve the home and family lives of the students and extend their learning and growth from school to home. Most importantly, the expansion of the programs to include parents acknowledges that children’s environment plays a big part in their education and future development and to be effective one must also work with their larger environment for “[E]ducation commences at the mother’s knee, and every word spoken within the hearing of little children tends towards the formation of character.”

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To find out more about Fregenet and the Fregenet Foundation please visit: fregenetfoundation.org

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