I love inspirational stories of individuals who've risen to the challenge of...well...Life.
In return, they give back.
Yohannes Gebregeorgis, born and raised in Ethiopia and one of the two founders of Ethiopia Reads was educated in his village school. It wasn't until he was 19 years old that he ever held his first book outside of the classroom. Nineteen! His love of literature, (among other pertinent reasons) brought him to America where he earned a Masters Degree in Library Science.
While working in a Library in San Fransisco, Yohannes was asked to purchase books in various languages. Though he lived in an Ethiopian populated area, there were very few books printed in Ethiopian languages. In 1998, Yohannes founded Ethiopia Reads...recognizing how life altering, the gift of literacy truly is. His passion became kids books and the foundation grew from there.
Yohannes contacted a known (caucasian) author who grew up in Ethiopia and therefore understood the importance of this gift for young Ethiopian children. This author raised enough funds for Yohanne's first children's book, Silly Mammo...also the first English/Amharic children's book ever...to be published. I can attest that among Ethiopian Adoptive circles, this book has made a name for itself! Book sales accrued and in turn Yohanne's dream of opening a public library in Addis Ababa came true! Addis, the capital of Ethiopia, is a city of 3 million people.
It wasn't until 2003 that Yohannes moved back to his country of origin and set up the Ethiopia Reads Foundation. He furthered his dream-turn-reality by opening Shola's Public Library. It's intention: motivate and facilitate early literacy in the lives of those who would not otherwise be given any opportunity. He was working to change a generation, one child, one orphan, one lost soul at a time.
Similar to most organizations, this one is run mainly through donations. It's volunteers work tirelessly. Yet, because of this only 5 years after it's grand opening, Shola's Public Library - situated in a poor and unsafe part of Addis - counted 60,000 visitors! It has now moved to a larger, safer location and is continuing to flourish. The noteworthy detail is that if donors don't feel that a monetary gift is their "thing", the library willingly accepts book donations - new or used!
Ethiopia Reads recently made CNN Headlines! Check this out and help vote for a true inspiration!
Yohannes Gebregeorgis: Top Ten CNN Hero of the Year.
The world is in need more Heros like him.