Until now, I haven’t been able to explain exactly what my goals were for my work here in Ethiopia. This being a survey trip, I came here somewhat blind. Now, a week and a half after arriving here, I have a clearer picture of the needs here and have established some future goals and plans for continuing to build programs and relationships.
After arriving and spending some time in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, we traveled to a town called Asella, south of the capital. To give you some background, we are not here to start something new. We are here because of a man named Michael, who has a long and fascinating story that you could write a book about. For the sake of my loyal Facebook readers and in the interest of keeping my monologue of a reasonable length, I will keep my introduction brief, although it does not do him justice. Michael was an airforce officer during the communist days of Ethiopia. They sent him to study in the USSR. It was an unpleasant experience and when he returned disillusioned to his country he joined a coup against his government. It failed and he was forced to seek asylum in Canada. There he had a very successful career in aid and humanitarian work. When he retired, he took his retirement and used it to build a learning center in his home town back in Ethiopia. This learning center where I am now is his work. It is his passion and he has accomplished incredible things. He already has a library here that is unrivaled in its size and capacity throughout the country. His vision is to see his center become the epicenter of a cultural and technical revolution in this country. He imagines all kinds of inspiring classes to help the young generation to have opportunities he never dreamed of as a kid. This is where my tiny piece of the story starts. I traveled here with several other very talented people, all here to help Michael start several different programs. I am here to survey the building, their displays, and their furniture and help guide them forward as they build and develop the center. Quality is something that Michael deeply values and he wanted me to make sure that there were no corners cut in the development and building of the center.
To end on an interesting side note; as Allan, the leader of our trip, was working on signage for the center, some of the signs read “I will”, “My goal”, etc. Michael said that when these are translated, they need to read “We” or “Our” because in Ethiopian culture it is very rude to claim something for just yourself. It was a good reminder that there are so many people working behind the scenes here who have worked on this giant undertaking for years. “My” small part is part of the bigger “We” working on this beautiful center.