By: Samara Alazar
Over the winter break of 2022, I traveled to Ethiopia with the goal of increasing literacy amongst underprivileged children in Ethiopia. I have been working with the organization Open Hearts Big Dreams to sell Amharic-English translated books at events throughout the DMV, including Wegene’s Breakfast with Santa. I created a goal in October to raise enough funds to donate 1,000 children’s books to kids in Ethiopia, and through numerous book sales and donations, I successfully met my goal. When in Ethiopia, I visited three public schools and the Wegene Education Center. Throughout my visits, I toured the facilities while having meaningful interactions with various students of different backgrounds and with unique stories. I donated hundreds of books to each institution’s libraries, while also hand-giving books for students to take home and read to themselves and their siblings. I will never forget the immense gratitude the children expressed over having new books to read in their libraries and homes, reminding me of how easy it is to overlook the resources and opportunities that have been given to me.
I, unfortunately, got sick during my time in Ethiopia, which prohibited me from reading to the children at the Wegene Education Center. Although I did not get the chance to read to the children at the center as I was looking forward to, I still showed the pictures within the books while my godmother read to them. Since I was able to directly watch the children while they were being read to, I got the opportunity to observe the mesmerized look in their eyes as they followed the words and pictures on the pages. Each of the books has a special message within them: some are about the importance of never giving up, while others discuss significant parts of Ethiopian culture. The children were eager to answer the questions my godmother and I asked regarding different parts of the books and how they felt about them. However, their excitement peaked when each of them got to choose a book to take home to their families. I felt so blessed to not only further instill the importance of reading and prioritizing education within them but also to give them resources to grow their love and drive for learning.
I feel so grateful to have had the opportunity to travel to Ethiopia and directly make an impact on the children in my home country. I know, that if given the opportunity, every one of the children has a bright future ahead of them. I’m incredibly thankful I get to be a part of moving organizations like the Wegene Foundation, which allow me to make a difference in the futures of underprivileged children through work in America and Ethiopia. This trip to Ethiopia was an unforgettable and indescribable experience, and I’m looking forward to visiting the children at the Wegene Education Center again very soon!