Saturday, December 25, 2010

EGI Launches New Website


Dear Friends:

On behalf of our Communication Team's web group, I am happy to announce that the Ethiopian Global Initiative's new official website is online! Visit us at www.ethgi.org today!

Please feel free to browse through our website and don't hesitate to contact us here.

From all of us at the EGI family, happy holidays!

Thank you,
Samuel

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Reflections from EGI's Boston Holiday Networking Mixer

Blayne Tesfaye introduces herself at the EGI Boston
Holiday Networking Mixer (Photo: Emily Weinstein/EGI)
By: Blayne Tesfaye
December 23, 2010

A few nights ago, a friend and I attended the Ethiopian Global Initiative (EGI) Boston Holiday Networking Mixer. As the new Assistant Project Manager of U.S. College Students for Ethiopia, an EGI project, I knew it would be a great opportunity to get to know other people who are interested in EGI’s mission. This was also an important night for me as it was the first time that I met EGI President, Samuel Gebru, in person (although we’d had a few Skype conversations!).

The mixer was held at the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists (NCAAA), an amazing venue. Having never been to an EGI event, I was not sure who would be there, but the group that attended was a great mix of motivated youth and well-accomplished professionals.

The Museum Director, Edmund Barry Gaither, started the event out with a moving introduction of Sam, and went on to say that many artists and African-American community members have a long sense of connectedness to the country of Ethiopia.

After Barry’s introduction, Sam spoke to us about the origins and aims of EGI. During his discussion of EGI, I couldn’t help but realize the immensity of the organization’s aims, and almost feel like they were a bit ambitious. I was quickly reassured, however, as Sam continued, and as I thought about my own engagement with EGI. I realized that EGI’s aims are ambitious, in a managed and coordinated way. In his discussion, Sam encapsulated what I think draws me most to EGI, which is the sense of drive and momentum.

Later on in the evening, I got the chance to speak to Barry more personally, and found out that he had obtained his MFA from the university I now attend. This of course, got us talking about the continuities and changes between then and now. I think one of those continuities is student interest in their communities and their drive to work across borders to further those interests.

I think it was in that moment that I really appreciated both the mixer and the aims of EGI the most. The mixer brought together a group of people from different backgrounds and generations to think about the common ideal of transformation of Ethiopia.

Blayne Tesfaye is a senior at Brown University and will be graduating with degrees in Africana Studies and Anthropology. With passion in human rights and public health she has extensive experience with nonprofits in the U.S. and Ethiopia. She is Assistant Project Manager of U.S. College Students for Ethiopia, an EGI project that provides college students the opportunity to intern or volunteer in Ethiopia with Ethiopian-led organizations.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

EGI Successfully Hosts Boston Networking Mixer with NCAAA

View photos on EGI's flickr site by clicking here
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Ethiopian Global Initiative Successfully Hosts Boston Networking Mixer with National Center of Afro-American Artists

Boston, Mass., USA, December 22, 2010 – President Samuel Gebru of the Ethiopian Global Initiative (EGI) successfully co-hosted a networking mixer with Director Edmund Barry Gaither of the National Center of Afro-American Artists (NCAAA) in Boston yesterday evening.

Civic leaders and artists joined African American and Ethiopian American community members for an opportunity to network and learn more about the work and vision of EGI. The networking mixer was the first in a series of monthly networking mixers that EGI will host throughout 2011.

Expressing his excitement at the opportunities for collaboration, Barry said that, “We are pleased with the new beginning ahead and the strengthening of a historic relationship between African Americans and Ethiopians in the interest of building a better global experience.”

Samuel agreed and emphasized importance of the networking mixer. “Working to unite with other communities underscores our organization’s name,” adding that, “Ethiopian refers to any and everyone and the global mindset we are pursuing will lead us to take the collective action to form projects that will impact Ethiopia’s future.”

EGI plans to continue hosting networking mixers with partner organizations and its friends, working to expand its global reach. The events will revive existing connections and build new ones that will enrich the work of EGI. Samuel was enthusiastic by the very engaging attendees and the supporting turnout in what is the first of more worldwide EGI networking events.

Attendees expressed a deep desire to work with EGI as it pursues its goals for 2011. They agreed the “global initiative” aspect will allow people the timely opportunity to get involved in projects transforming Ethiopia and promote civic engagement and economic prosperity worldwide.

Samuel extended an invitation to Barry on behalf the EGI International Board of Directors to join the organization as a member of its esteemed International Board of Advisors and to attend the EGI Global Summit in June 2011. Happily accepting the invitation, Barry mentioned that he looks forward to developing more ways EGI and NCAAA can partner in the future.

Information on the National Center of Afro-American Artists can be found at www.ncaaa.org

About the Ethiopian Global Initiative
The Ethiopian Global Initiative is an international nonprofit organization that combines and captures the social and intellectual capital of students and professionals for the transformation of Ethiopia through a new generation of socially responsible leaders. Working throughout the world, the Initiative serves as a catalyst for community-based projects to promote civic engagement and economic prosperity.

Media Contact
Philip Scranage
Press Coordinator
+1-617-528-9434

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Hands on Involvement

By: Danielle Nispel
December 16, 2010

Ethiopia first came into my life when I entered high school and got involved in Habitat for Humanity. Our club spent most of our efforts raising funds and working to help build homes around our own community. The process was rewarding and life changing. At each house site we worked on, we had the chance to meet with the future homeowners and work with them to help build their future house. Seeing the difference that Habitat for Humanity had in our own community made us want to make more of a global change. That’s where Ethiopia came in.

According to Habitat for Humanity, 85% of houses in Ethiopia are poorly constructed out of mud and stick or thatch walls. These living conditions were precursors to a lower quality of life overall affecting factors such as education as well as health. The idea of being able to bring a family out of those conditions for only $2,500 changed the way our club ran and my own viewpoints. Since raising funds to build houses in Ethiopia I have not had the chance to get involved again until a friend recommended the Ethiopian Global Initiative.

The Initiative brings together such a committed group of people intent on creating a more optimistic future. My hope is that this will just be my first step in working with Ethiopia and other countries to help give power back to the citizens. That hands on experience I received working in my own community is something I’d like to be able to experience again in Ethiopia and I’d like to be able to help others reach that goal as well.

Danielle Nispel, an undergraduate student at American University in Washington, D.C., is majoring in Political Science and serves as a Steering Committee Member of U.S. College Students for Ethiopia, an innovative project of the Ethiopian Global Initiative (EGI) that provides college students from the United States the opportunity to intern or volunteer with Ethiopian-led organizations headquartered in Ethiopia.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

EGI Receives Grow Grant

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

EGI Receives Grow Grant

Cambridge, MA, December 15, 2010 – Ethiopian Global Initiative (EGI) President Samuel M. Gebru today announced that EGI received a $1,000 Grow Grant from San Francisco, CA-based Grow Marketing, a strategic marketing and public relations agency that works with global brands on brand marketing and consumer exposure campaigns.

Grow Marketing annually awards ten individuals and nonprofits, known as “Community Rock Stars,” $1,000 each as part of their holiday give back program. The award is designed to honor those who give back to their local and global communities. EGI was nominated and received the award after being selected through a highly competitive program.

“We were inundated with nominations when we announced the Grow Grants program in November,” says Cassie Hughes, co-founder of Grow Marketing in the company’s release.

Grow Marketing co-founder Gabrey Means stated that, “Smaller non-profits and individuals give enormous amounts of their own time, often operating on shoestring budgets,” explaining that, “It was inspiring to read their stories.”

Samuel Gebru expressed his gratitude saying that, “EGI’s expansion efforts will greatly benefit from the Grow Grant. I am honored that organizations, such as Grow Marketing, realize the incredible work EGI has planned for 2011. We appreciate their support.”

Earlier this year EGI began an ambitious expansion program increasing its annual budget and global membership. Leaders from the organization have been engaged in meetings with partners, donors and supporters designing new ways for EGI to become a global leader for Ethiopia.

EGI’s International Board of Directors expressed appreciation to Grow Marketing saying that the grant is a huge assistance in reaching its operating budget goal for 2011.

Find out more about the work of Grow Marketing at www.grow-marketing.com.

About the Ethiopian Global Initiative
The Ethiopian Global Initiative is an international nonprofit organization that combines and captures the social and intellectual capital of students and professionals for the transformation of Ethiopia through a new generation of socially responsible leaders. Working throughout the world, the Initiative serves as a catalyst for community-based projects to promote civic engagement and economic prosperity.

Media Contact: action@ethgi.org or +1-617-528-9434

###

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Different Edge on Giving

By: Evan J. Anderson
December 14, 2010


Until recently, the only image of Ethiopia I had was similar to the one above. As a past participant in several of World Vision's "30 Hour Famines," an initiative by the non-profit to encourage students to forego eating for a weekend while raising funds for starving children across the globe, I was frequently exposed to their style of advertising. Everyone has seen an ad on TV for child sponsorship, and everyone knows the feeling they get when viewing one of these. One comment on the YouTube video above says it all, "This makes me feel very bad and sad." And while this sadness and guilt is a very effective marketing strategy in encouraging viewers to donate to organizations like World Vision, it has a lasting effect on the mental set of people in the Global North. Giving becomes a chore, and it is no longer done for the right reasons.

In 2008, my church decided to stop its partnership with World Vision, and create its own fundraiser, while maintaining the fasting element. As can be seen in the video below, the new initiative had an entirely new focus: hope instead of guilt.


The decision to switch to the new pilot program can be interpreted as a fundamental dissatisfaction with the entire system of charitable giving in this country. Instead of seeing the Global South as some distant place, doomed without that next donation, people need to be exposed to a more diverse set of images, especially those that convey positive messages. Now, some may argue that if Americans only hear positive stories from the Global South, donations might decrease, and those who were relying on that aid might die. But if the "flies-in-the-eyes" reporting is replaced with accurate, level-headed accounts of the gaping North-South gap, I believe Americans will generously respond.

My desire to fundamentally change the way Americans look at the developing world was a major factor that led to my involvement with EGI. Rather than knowing a country only by some video footage of children gathering water from a dirty well, I decided to get to know that country on a more personal level. I am highly satisfied with the work I have done with EGI so far and can not wait to see what the future brings!

Evan J. Anderson, an undergraduate student at American University in Washington, D.C., is majoring in International Studies with a concentration in International Development and serves as a Steering Committee Member of U.S. College Students for Ethiopia, an innovative project of the Ethiopian Global Initiative (EGI) that provides college students from the United States the opportunity to intern or volunteer with Ethiopian-led organizations headquartered in Ethiopia.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

EGI Boston Holiday Networking Mixer



Facebook invitation: http://on.fb.me/dHLDK3

Join President Samuel Gebru of the Ethiopian Global Initiative (EGI) and Director Edmund Barry Gaither of the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists (NCAAA) on Tuesday, December 21 at 6:00pm for the EGI Boston Holiday Networking Mixer.

The reception will be held at the NCAAA Museum on 300 Walnut Avenue, Boston, MA. Come and learn more about the work of EGI and how to get involved. You will network with other Ethiopian Americans, African Americans, students, professionals and activists from the Boston area. You can also donate to help continue EGI's mission.

Email Abraham Asfaw at abraham@ethgi.org or call 617-528-9434 to RSVP. If attending, please include the total amount of people attending (including yourself).


___________________________________
About the Ethiopian Global Initiative
The Ethiopian Global Initiative is an international nonprofit organization that combines and captures the social and intellectual capital of students and professionals for the transformation of Ethiopia through a new generation of socially responsible leaders. Working throughout the world, the Initiative serves as a catalyst for community-based projects to promote civic engagement and economic prosperity.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Exploring Ethiopia at Olivet

President Samuel M. Gebru poses for a picture following
his presentation and is joined by Olivet Pastor Kris Gorden
and other members of the Ethiopia delegation.
Photo: Lori Bakken
By: Samuel M. Gebru
December 6, 2010

I went to Olivet Lutheran Church in Fargo, North Dakota, yesterday afternoon to speak about the Ethiopian Global Initiative and Ethiopian history and culture. 

Having been invited to speak by members of the Olivet delegation to Ethiopia, I enthusiastically accepted the invitation as an opportunity to share the richness of Ethiopia. The group, composed of young and old, is a cross-section of various professions and interests.

My presentation, entitled "Exploring Ethiopia," gave the group an overview of the Ethiopian Global Initiative's history, mission and projects. I highlighted the importance of building a global coalition of like-minded thinkers who share one thing in common: an affection towards Ethiopia. 

Since the group is going to Ethiopia for the first time, with the exception of one adult who previously adopted two young girls from Ethiopia, I gave an overview of the country. Beginning from the geography, explaining that Ethiopia is about twice the size of the U.S. state of Texas, I took the group 5,000 years back to describe an ancient empire that controlled the Red Sea and traded with other empires as far as India and China. 

I also went over certain customs and traditions that Ethiopians consider to be very important; whether it is how to properly greet others or to partaking in the Ethiopian coffee ceremony, customs are very important in Ethiopia. It was fun going over the practice to prepare food and insist that your guests eat, even if they claim that they are not hungry, which is also customary to claim you are not hungry even if you are! A sort of back-and-forth exchange ensues before the guest accepts the food.

Following my presentation, I had the opportunity to answer questions from the delegation members and I also asked them questions about their goals in going to Ethiopia. Their goals ranged from learning more about Ethiopia to finally meeting the orphans they have sponsored at the Kolfe Boys Orphanage in Addis Ababa for some years now.

Most importantly is their continued involvement in Ethiopia. I encouraged them to become Ambassadors of Ethiopia when they return to the United States; to share their experience with their families, Church community, colleagues and friends. Not only do they serve as Ambassadors of Olivet when going to Ethiopia but they return to the United States with a duel perspective.

They all agreed that at the end, we're all just that--Ethiopians.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Tomorrow: EGI President to Speak at Olivet Lutheran Church

December 4, 2010 -- The Ethiopian Global Initiative's President, Samuel Gebru, will speak at the Olivet Lutheran Church in Fargo, North Dakota tomorrow, December 5. In his presentation, Samuel will introduce the goals and mission of EGI. He will also talk about and answer questions on Ethiopia's culture and history to members of the Olivet Lutheran Church delegation to Ethiopia that will leave on December 26. The President's presentation tomorrow is part of a greater EGI plan to continue its community outreach and fundraising efforts throughout the world. 

The presentation and luncheon will be at Olivet Lutheran Church's Fellowship Hall at 12:30pm. For more information please contact action@ethgi.org

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Misplaced Priorities of the Ethiopian Diaspora

By: Samuel M. Gebru
November 28, 2010

Author’s Note: This article was inspired by the conversations I had with members of my family over the past two days. During the Thanksgiving weekend, we discussed much about keeping the culture of our native homeland Ethiopia and ethnic group while living in the United States. I have added much to this article, particularly in my conclusion on using the Ethiopian Global Initiative’s mission statement as a possible action plan, but the basis was from our conversations.


BACKGROUND
According to the United Nations Development Program, Ethiopia lost over 75% of its skilled workforce between 1980 and 1991. These were the years of the civil war, when Ethiopia was governed by Marxist ideologies. Before the fall of Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974, most Ethiopians in the United States were either students or businessmen. There was hardly an immigrant community of any strong number.

Since our Marxist days, Ethiopians have left to many other countries in search of improving their lives and leaving the political, economic and social issues that continue to constrain Ethiopia. Many Ethiopians have been victim to countless traumatic events. What used to be a community of temporary students and businessmen became a community of immigrants and refugees.

As the Ethiopian diaspora increased from war-to-war, revolution-to-revolution, so did social and economic concerns. Ethiopian adults, both educated and uneducated, found it very difficult to find meaningful employment in their adopted homelands. Many Ethiopian Medical Doctors, for instance, had to retake courses to satisfy American requirements. Ethiopians who were teachers in their homelands became parking lot attendants for American sporting events. It was back to zero for many in the Ethiopian diaspora.

The unanswered problem was the social aspect. Without a doubt, Ethiopians face a cultural shock when coming to the United States. Because the community lacks the resources to address those cultural shocks, the economic problems become widespread. While Ethiopian adults were too busy focusing on making ends meet for their immediate families, new expectations of supporting their extended families in Ethiopia grew. The end result is a lack of cultural connection between Ethiopian parents and children.

PROMOTING AND PRESERVING OUR IDENTITY
Faced with two jobs, trying to go to school and learn English and perhaps a vocation while also trying to navigate an entirely new country and culture, Ethiopian parents did not pass on the Ethiopian identity to their children. In a similar article I wrote on July 22, 2010 on my personal blog, We Do Not Know, I asked:

Who do we blame for our lack of knowledge? Can it be the parents? Fine, some blame can go to our parents who seldom teach us anything on Ethiopia—but how much can one expect from people that are struggling to raise us? When you live in a country whose culture and language you have not mastered, it is hard to focus on anything else but getting by. Perhaps it is our community that we should blame. I would reply: what community? Ethiopians seem more divided than united in the diaspora. So there is no community from the onset to blame!

The first responsibility of raising and educating a child goes to a parent. If parents do not actively promote Ethiopian culture to their children, then there will be a knowledge gap. The identity is lost when young Ethiopians are not taught about the big multicultural mosaic known as Ethiopia. Not knowing about their culture is a very troubling reality for many young Ethiopians in the diaspora. Ethiopians should be most proud of their identity; Ethiopia is the only African country to never be colonized, the first country to accept Christianity, a country proclaimed the land of justice by the Islamic Prophet Mohammed, one of the oldest continuously surviving countries and the touted cradle of mankind.

The unique identity of the Ethiopians is not being taught or told in adopted homelands such as the United States. Young Ethiopians should be the first in line to be taught about their identity; before promoting it to non-Ethiopians, Ethiopians should be made aware. So, if the parents are too busy and are struggling night and day to make ends meet for their children, who can teach the young Ethiopians of their history, culture and language?

CREATING A MEANINGFUL COMMUNITY
Little Ethiopia in Los Angeles, California is often cited
as an example of meaningful community
Ethiopians in the diaspora need to draw lessons from other immigrant communities in the United States. The Chinese, Israeli, Mexican and Greek communities have been able to establish themselves in meaningful communities that are free from politics, religion and ethnicity. These communities are united and all share the mutual concern of preserving their native identities in the United States.

The result is phenomenal. Chinatown has become a thing of urban living for many cities throughout the world. The Israeli/Jewish community has become one of the biggest and most politically important communities in the United States through their strong unity and advocacy for their rights. Mexicans and Greeks import their own products to the U.S. to boost commerce, open cultural centers and use their Churches as points of community.

Currently, there are many Ethiopian community organizations established throughout the diaspora that all share the same mission statement. In practice, however, much is to be desired. Nonetheless, the organizations that do strive to bring their divided communities together are never supported enough to accomplish their goals on a big scale. In this case, the result is almost tragic. For instance, we Ethiopians do not have a central place in Washington, D.C. or Boston or Houston to call home; a place that is apolitical, indifferent to one’s ethnic and religious affiliations. The tragedy extends itself when we are faced with major problems, such as death.

The recent and unfortunate death of Ali Mohammed of Washington, D.C., and the outcry of the Ethiopian community that followed, showed me that there is a long way before we are able to deal with problems facing our community. Whether it is defending for our rights or promoting our identity, we face a serious problem with responding to these issues unless we create meaningful community organizations. These organizations should be able to bring all of us in, ethnically and religiously—Tigrayans, Amharas, Oromos, Gambella, Orthodox, Pentecostal, Muslim, Jewish, etc. And if they don’t, then they are not truly commUNITY organizations.

ADVOCATING FOR OURSELVES
Young Ethiopians should advocate for themselves. They should advocate at community meetings and within their churches, demanding to be taught their languages. Amharic is Ethiopia’s official language—we should all learn it. We should also branch out and learn our ethnic group’s language too; and if our ethnic group speaks Amharic as its primary language then we should learn another ethnic Ethiopian language. Language is one of the most important ways to become more culturally competent; language makes it possible to learn more about another culture. Realistically, many Ethiopian youth who don’t know their language travel back to Ethiopia and are as good as deaf.

Advocating for ourselves moves beyond learning their language. The Ethiopian identity extends to our religion, music, traditions and values. This identity is endangered in many of our diaspora communities simply because we as a whole let it happen. Like the Greek and Chinese, we should invest in community centers and “Little Ethiopias” throughout the world that would serve as places where we can keep our culture alive. Parents who do not have the time, resources or knowledge to help their children fully understand the Ethiopian identity could then send their children to these community centers.

We must further this advocacy to include the entire community. Ethiopians must also advocate, as a community, for their rights. We cannot and should not be a reactionary society; it is not Ethiopian culture to be reactive. The Ethiopian identity teaches us that the bravest and most heroic Ethiopians were proactive. When the U.S. Congress meets to debate healthcare reform or immigration reform, Ethiopians should stand as a community and not as individuals to inform the Congress of their opinions. Sadly, the Congressional Caucus on Ethiopia and Ethiopian Americans is not used for these purposes. While they are there to serve as our microphone on Capitol Hill, we either ignore it or misuse it.

NEXT STEPS
Its time for a major change in our thinking. Albert Einstein once said, “You can’t solve a problem with the same thinking that caused the problem.” Our current thinking is of separation and self-interest. In order to continue the Ethiopian identity, we must proactively promote it by teaching each other and, in turn, teaching the rest of the world. Our priorities are misplaced. We have focused too much about what happens in Ethiopia while we forgot about how our communities are living abroad. Surely this is not a call to abandon everything in the native homeland—to do this would be unthinkable!

The next steps are to build bridges with one another and share ideas and solutions. Since the blame game is neither effective nor efficient, we cannot point fingers at this group or that group. The most important thing now is to be proactive and think about tomorrow and the challenges the Ethiopian diaspora will face then.

In the June 2010 conference of the Ethiopian American Youth Initiative, now Ethiopian Global Initiative (EGI), much was discussed about the disillusion of Ethiopian youth in the diaspora, particularly the United States. Encounters with the Justice System and teen pregnancy were discussed as two very noticeable ways that the Ethiopian youth are being negatively impacted. Having strong communities that are able to keep the youth out of trouble and in positive atmospheres is what we need. Two prominent examples of this are seen with Young Diplomats in Toronto and the Debre Selam Kidest Mariam Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church Mentorship Program in Washington, D.C.

My next step is to challenge you, as the reader, to act. The 2011 EGI Global Summit host university will be announced shortly and that will be a prime venue to discuss solutions to problems that the Ethiopian diaspora faces. Throughout the summit, participants will discuss how best to combine their social and intellectual capital to launch community-based projects that promote the Ethiopian identity, economic prosperity and civic engagement. Participants will also have the opportunity to learn more and get involved in sustainable projects that aim to transform Ethiopia.

Coming together in a central hub, as our new logo depicts, is the goal of EGI. To have multiple projects going on throughout the world all with various ideas and characteristics is EGI’s purpose. EGI’s mission to bridge previously divided communities together through projects that will undoubtedly change our thinking will unite all these projects.

The next step is to act.


Samuel M. Gebru is the President of the Ethiopian Global Initiative. To get involved with the work of EGI email action@ethgi.org and visit www.facebook.com/ethgi.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Your Ideas for New Projects

From an Ethiopian Big Brother Big Sister program to building Ethiopian community centers throughout the world to funding educational projects in Ethiopia, we at the Ethiopian Global Initiative have been given many ideas on new projects from our friends and donors.

In 2011, we will be launching new short and long-term projects designed to promote Ethiopian community engagement in the diaspora and also to implement sustainable projects in Ethiopia. As a natural stakeholder in the work of the Initiative, your ideas are important to us.

Please take the time to participate on our facebook discussion (http://on.fb.me/fkR6UL) giving us your feedback on what kind of projects we should do in Ethiopia and abroad. You can also participate on our blog post (http://bit.ly/dJ1Sbf) to share our ideas.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Message of Thanks

Dear Friend,

Tomorrow, people throughout the United States will be celebrating a holiday that dates back to the founding years of this country. Thanksgiving is a time to show appreciation for one another and to be grateful for the precious gifts of life.

While celebrating, I want you to remain aware of the many doors you have open as a human being to influence the world. A collective identity is one of the many results of globalization, and it is important that we understand that we belong to a global world. 

I am thankful for the support and generosity that you have shown to the Ethiopian Global Initiative (EGI). Whatever you may be—a student, a professional, a webmaster, an educator, a serviceman—your continued support will be very instrumental as we move on towards new goals and heights in 2011.

Whether it is a donation or an in kind service, I am calling on you to act; let your voice be heard in transforming Ethiopia and promoting the interests of Ethiopians throughout the world. EGI aims to be a central home, an identity, for innovative solutions for Ethiopia but we cannot do it without your support and involvement. 

Be sure to follow EGI at www.twitter.com/ethgi and like EGI on www.facebook.com/ethgi. Get involved today by emailing action@ethgi.org or calling us at +1-617-528-9434. 

Sincerely,

Samuel Gebru
President 

Friday, November 19, 2010

New Leadership for Ethiopia

By: Samuel M. Gebru

After returning from my third trip to Ethiopia in 2004, I was encouraged by the growth and development in Ethiopia but equally saddened by the severity of poverty throughout the country. It felt like for every one step made forward, two were made backwards. It was not until December 2004 when watching the Oprah Winfrey Show’s special program on the work of Dr. Catherine Hamlin of the Fistula Hospitals of Ethiopia that I decided to get involved in making a difference in my native land.

Its now nearly six years since learning about Dr. Catherine Hamlin and the wonderful work at the Hamlin Fistula Hospitals of Ethiopia. This network of six hospitals, with its flagship in Addis Ababa, serves as the world’s exclusive center of fistula repair surgeries.

With six years of experience in community organizing, I have come to quickly learn that Ethiopia has an abundance of untapped leadership within the country and its diaspora, waiting to be unleashed. For a country like Ethiopia, a country that is foolishly labeled as being part of the “third world” as if there are multiple worlds we live in, developing a strong generation of leaders is tantamount to nation building. After the Ethiopian civil war, Ethiopia had to rebuild itself. Largely, the country remains in its rebuilding phase and has a long way to go.

While strides in access to education and health have been made, there is a lack of a strong emphasis of leadership skills and critical thinking in Ethiopia. African countries, rightfully so, tend to focus much on developing the technical side of academics and unfortunately that means that core entrepreneurial qualities are being left out. A nation twice the size of the U.S. State of Texas and Africa’s second most populous country, Ethiopia has just as many problems as opportunities.

Through working at the Ethiopian Global Initiative and other Ethiopia-related endeavors, I have learned much from my peers: young Ethiopians who are poised to become the next generation of leaders. Much negativity has been said about Ethiopian youth; from not knowing enough to meddling in affairs that don’t regard them, Ethiopian youth are discouraged from getting involved in the political, social and economic discourse of their native country.

Young Ethiopians around the world are expressing their interest in getting involved in charting a new course for Ethiopia. This is a revolution; I’m convinced of it. On my recent trip in 2008 to Ethiopia I jokingly mentioned to some government officials that although the previous Ethiopian revolutions were fought with firearms, my generation’s revolution would be that of ideas and solutions, a revolution fought with pens and papers.

There needs to be much more of an emphasis on Ethiopian youth leadership, and the proper development and retention of that leadership from generation to generation. In a matter of one or two decades, Ethiopia’s current political, social and economic leaders will all be left for the history books and if the young Ethiopians of today are not prepared enough to chart the new course for Ethiopia, we will spend years, if not decades, trying to sort out a mess that could have been easily prevented.

From the public to the private sector, older Ethiopians should be promoting genuine leadership from the youth. Government in Ethiopia on all levels should be working with youth, particularly on policy pertaining education, employment, health and youth affairs. On the university and college campuses, Ethiopian students should be encouraged to be thoughtful and critical of the status quo and challenge one another to map a course for new solutions. In the economy, youth should be encouraged by all to create jobs and markets instead of waiting for the government to assign them positions. With a very high unemployment rate, both the public and private sectors should implement creative ideas for job creation.

Coursing a new leadership for Ethiopia will take time. Ethiopia is a work in progress, and with the right amount of initiative and support, youth should continue to ensure that the progress of the past becomes the successes of the future. The young Ethiopians that are being outsourced daily to foreign countries should be kept in Ethiopia and given positions of leadership to creatively chart a new future for Ethiopia.

Combining the social and intellectual capital of the country’s young generation will prove very useful particularly with economic prosperity. All it takes is the commitment to action and not words.

The author is the President of the Ethiopian Global Initiative, an innovative international organization that aims to be the hub of solutions to transform Ethiopia by combining the social and intellectual capital of students and young professionals. To get involved with the work of EGI please email action@ethgi.org and follow @ethgi on twitter.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Meet USCSE's Steering Committee

U.S. College Students for Ethiopia (USCSE), a project of the Ethiopian Global Initiative, formed its Steering Committee this weekend. The following members will be instrumental in launching the project in 2011. 

Ms. Yordanos Eyoel, 2010 a graduate of Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, will lead as Project Manager. The Steering Committee is composed of members of various backgrounds and interests. 


Ms. Bethel D. Adefres
Student, B.A., Neuroscience
Wellesley College

Ms. Tsion D. Adefres
Student, B.A., Chemistry
Bryn Mawr College

Mr. Evan J. Anderson
Student, B.A., International Relations
American University

Ms. Rebecca Beauregard
Ethiopia Volunteer
United States Peace Corps

Ms. Yordanos Eyoel
M.P.P., Business and Government Policy
Harvard University, 2010

Ms. Nardos Ghebregziabher
Student, B.A, Economics, International Studies
University of Denver

Mr. Daniel Holobowicz
B.A., International Studies
University of North Texas, 2010

Mr. Bruck K. Kiros
Student, B.A., Economics, Black Studies
Amherst College

Ms. Danielle Nispel
Student, B.A., Political Science
American University

To join the Steering Committee, or for more information, please email action@ethgi.org.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

EGI Announces New Logo

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


EGI Announces New Logo

Cambridge, Massachusetts, November 4, 2010 – The Ethiopian Global Initiative (EGI), an international nonprofit organization of students and young professionals committed to the transformation of Ethiopia, revealed its new logo this morning.

The need for a new logo with a simple color scheme and distinct look was evident to leaders at EGI when they decided to design a new logo earlier this year. The new logo presents a new brand image for EGI, a reflection of the organization’s aspiration to be the home for innovative global leaders.

“The Ethiopian Global Initiative aims to become a global hub of solutions for Ethiopia and its new brand image represents exactly that, the long-term goals of the organization,” said President Samuel Gebru at the logo’s launch.

The Ethiopian Global Initiative’s logo is designed to engage a new generation of innovative and dynamic student and young professional leaders. The color red was chosen as a symbol because of its integral part of the Ethiopian identity, the third color in the Ethiopian tricolor flag. The traditional Ethiopian “gojo” hut is used to represent a basic shelter for all humanity and for housing innovative and transformative ideas that will benefit Ethiopia’s development.

About the Ethiopian Global Initiative
The Ethiopian Global Initiative is an international nonprofit organization that combines and captures the social and intellectual capital of students and professionals for the transformation of Ethiopia through a new generation of socially responsible leaders. Working throughout the world, the Initiative serves as a catalyst for community-based projects to promote civic engagement and economic prosperity.

Contact: action@ethgi.org or +1-617-528-9434

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Celebrating Pan-Africanism through Emperor Haile Selassie

Ethiopian Global Initiative
November 2, 2010

On this day, November 2, 80 years ago in 1930, Haile Selassie was crowned Emperor of Ethiopia at the Cathedral of Saint George in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Ethiopia’s last Emperor, Haile Selassie, was born on July 23, 1892. He is generally regarded as the father of African unity and the face of the Pan-African movement. Emperor Haile Selassie reigned for 43 years and 314 days and was one of the world’s most well regarded leaders during his era. Loved by some, hated by others, Emperor Haile Selassie’s unflagging commitment to Africa’s independence movement and to strengthening the African diaspora should be recognized by all Ethiopians, Africans and people of African descent worldwide.

It has been 118 years since Teferi Mekonnen, His Majesty’s given name, was born in Eastern Ethiopia. He died on August 27, 1975 in unknown circumstances after being put under house arrest by the military-run Government of Ethiopia that reigned from 1974 until 1991. After the Emperor’s corpse was buried under his bathroom, his remains were excavated in 1991 when Northern rebels toppled Colonel Mengistu Hailemariam’s Government. In 2000, a formal funeral was given to Emperor Haile Selassie presided by the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, although the current Government of Ethiopia was reluctant to recognize the Emperor’s formal burial as a State Funeral.

The work of Marcus Garvey, Bob Marley, Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta and many others was inspired by the leadership and statesmanship exhibited by the “Lion of Judah.” Emperor Haile Selassie is also responsible for expanding the foreign bases of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and promoted literacy and advancement within Ethiopia and the African continent. As a founding father of the Organization of African Unity, now African Union, he was a resounding pillar to the sovereignty of the continent.

The Ethiopian Global Initiative is going to work with the Crown Council of Ethiopia to organize a yearlong celebration of the legacy of Emperor Haile Selassie from July 23, 2011 until July 23, 2012, culminating in a celebration in Addis Ababa in honor of what would have been his 120th Birthday. EGI wants to celebrate the life and achievements of the Emperor as it relates to the Pan-African movement that he helped engineer. It is imperative that we work in collaboration with the Crown Council of Ethiopia and other Ethiopian cultural, youth and civic organizations both within Ethiopia and abroad so that the Emperor’s birthday celebration may be inclusive and appropriate.

One important way EGI will celebrate the legacy of Emperor Haile Selassie is by undertaking a global “Haile Selassie 120th Birthday Day of Service” that will include Ethiopians and non-Ethiopians giving back to their local communities. Whether it is cleaning a park, reading to children or cooking food for the homeless, the “Haile Selassie 120th Birthday Day of Service” would strive to celebrate the work of the Emperor. The service events would be held on July 23, 2011 simultaneously throughout the world. Participants would be able to post their pictures, photos and blog articles to a central website that would strive to showcase the legacy of the Emperor on the African diaspora. The “Haile Selassie 120th Birthday Day of Service” will launch a yearlong celebration of the Emperor’s life and achievements.

To get involved please email: info@ethgi.org or call +1-617-528-9434.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Travel Abroad Opportunity for American Students in Ethiopia

Planning is underway at the Ethiopian Global Initiative, an international organization of students and young professionals, for a new project that aims to send college students from the United States to Ethiopia. The project, U.S. College Students for Ethiopia, plans to provide volunteer and intern opportunities for American college students. Initially, it will be a summer opportunity but in the coming years the Ethiopian Global Initiative intends on providing semester and full year travel opportunities to Ethiopia.

Working with the leading public and private sector organizations in Ethiopia, U.S. College Students for Ethiopia will give American college students the unique opportunity of gaining practical experience in their academic field of interest while in Ethiopia. Students majoring in English Literature might volunteer to teach English at a rural primary school while those majoring in Economics might want to intern at an agency like the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, headquartered in Addis Ababa.

The Initiative’s management is busy assembling the Project Steering Committee for U.S. College Students for Ethiopia. The Committee, led by a Project Manager, will be responsible for the management, planning and implementation of the project. In the coming weeks the Project Steering Committee will be finalizing agreements with partner and receiving organizations in the United States and Ethiopia. A group of about 10-15 American college students will be selected in the spring to travel to Ethiopia in 2011 as a pilot project test for the Initiative.

Get Involved!
You can join the Project Steering Committee if you want to be involved in managing and overseeing an important international project by emailing the EGI Department of Internal Affairs at internalaffairs@ethgi.org. Getting involved in the Project Steering Committee is an important way for students and young professionals to build their experience in regards to project planning and management, teamwork and communication skills.

The project is also looking for 10-15 students to participate in the pilot project test for the summer of 2011. A formal application process does exist and further information will go out in the spring but students interested should indicate their interest by emailing the EGI Department of Operations at operations@ethgi.org.

For further questions you may email info@ethgi.org.

Celebrating the Ethiopian Global Initiative's Fourth Anniversary

Dear Friend,

October 22, 2010, is the Ethiopian Global Initiative’s fourth anniversary. This year marks a special transition to our organization. With our humble beginnings on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge as a 13-member group ranging from 6th graders to 12th graders, we have grown into an organization that has networks and members in North America, Europe and Africa.

The road has not always been straight for us. Considering the limited resources of our organization of students and young professionals, we have gone above and beyond our call of duty. The genuine goal to see Ethiopia develop is what the Initiative is about. Combining and capturing the social and intellectual capacity students and young professionals have for Ethiopia’s transformation is not merely a nicely worded mission statement. It is the governing principle of our lives.

Aside from contributing to Ethiopia’s transformation, the Ethiopian Global Initiative aspires to work with people globally that have an affiliation with Ethiopia—be it the Ethiopian diaspora or the “friends of Ethiopia.” Ethiopia’s friends include those who have served in Ethiopia as volunteers, adopted Ethiopian children and those who show affection towards Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Global Initiative wants to work as a catalyst for community engagement and socioeconomic development in our communities worldwide. This, of course, sounds nice but is also a lofty challenge.

We have seen that not having a central and strong Ethiopian community in Washington, D.C. has impacted us. The recent death of 27-year-old Ethiopian American Ali Mohammed was not an accident—it was a gross murder and should be called that. There are many Ethiopians in the diaspora that would have benefitted from our sense of unity. Our communities are impacted by imprisonment of young males, homelessness, lack of resources, mentorship and education, strong ethno-political animosity, amongst others.

The hopelessness that our community faces does not need to be there. While it is important to be concerned about matters in Ethiopia, we must take care of our communities abroad, too. Taking care of our communities does not mean rallying together when someone’s home tragically burns down or when someone is murdered by cowards, but by regularly showing love, appreciation and unity—andinet in Amharic.

The Ethiopian Global Initiative will be completing its overhaul on January 1, 2011, the beginning of our new fiscal year. The projects and management we plan to roll out is aimed to position the Initiative as a strong member of the communities it works for. In the coming weeks we will be releasing more and detailed information on the projects and programs that we will launch in 2011 and I encourage all to join our planning efforts.

On the occasion of the fourth anniversary of the Ethiopian Global Initiative, I personally extend an invitation to all Ethiopians to strengthen one another by committing to combine and capture their individual and collective strengths and resources with the Initiative. As for who is an Ethiopian, the answer is simply everyone as it is the cradle of mankind!

Respectfully yours,

Samuel M. Gebru
President

Monday, October 11, 2010

Youth and Entrepreneurship in the Ethiopian Society

By: Gedion Yitbarek

Challenges are common when executing a business venture with any level of sophistication. What makes it even worse is being young and introducing a new business idea to the society of a developing country. After years of faulty systems that degraded the confidence of the consumers and investors in their country, Ethiopians are doubtful about the possible success of newly emerging businesses that could potentially lead the local economy towards prosperity. The only way to rebuild this eroded confidence is when citizens, young or old, recognize the youth as a stakeholder. Involving the youth in decision makings and equipping them with the necessary leadership skills bring up a sustainable changes in the future generation. The old saying, “Ante lij neh minim atawukim” (“You are a kid and don’t know anything”) has no place in the 21st century and we must erase it from our society.

Thousands of businesses arise in Ethiopia every year with a significant amount of capital. A few reach to a peak where growth is almost stagnant afterwards. Thus, instead of allocating additional resources and funds to grow further sustainably, these businesses choose to stay at their peaks for a while until a competitor with a better approach joins the market and topples them. Eventually, when these companies can’t stay in competition anymore, they declare bankruptcy or sell the company at a low price. Nowadays, it’s rare to see companies in Ethiopia passing a second generation within the founding family. This is the result of excluding the youth in the process and not preparing them to take over in the future. As seen in most cases, when parents are ready to retire the business they own dies as their kids are not ready to take over. The son or daughter of a company owner is only expected to attend school and never worry about financial decisions that might impact him or her in the future. This problem also manifests itself in any status of the society among Ethiopians; parents do not involve the youth in major decision makings and this has major impact in establishing long term projects that require a high level of leadership and commitment.

It’s normal to see that short term money making techniques such as importing processed goods from other countries have taken over the Ethiopian economy. Surprisingly, not enough is exported to balance the currency. Our society has evolved into making fast money by importing goods as supposed to building a company to produce the items. It’s obvious that building a company needs a raw material, a skilled man power and not to forget a great leadership. By saying a great leadership, it’s not only referring to the CEO of the company but also every single individual in the hierarchy responsible for executing a specific task. Thus, the kind of leadership needed within the company to make it sustainable neither exists at the moment nor does it spark overnight among the individuals in the future; it is a long process that is rooted back to the early age of the professional workers. Unfortunately, Ethiopian schools do not have programs and clubs that develop leadership skills among students and this correlates to why we do not see great leaders of big companies. The society needs to understand that going to school and passing exams isn’t the only way to solve problems of any kind in the country; rather being able to cooperate with one another and executing ideas towards success is the major thing everyone should focus on to bring a major change.

The short life span of businesses in Ethiopia is an indication of not planning sustainable projects that can survive for decades within our society. Apparently, projects which have high rate of return in a short period of time are common business practices. The ones that take long and challenging process are, as mentioned above, imported from other countries. This approach impacts everyone especially the youth. A lesson taken from these companies by the youth is choosing short cut businesses as supposed to building a legacy that can pass to generations. The society is doubtful to welcome a sophisticated system which takes years to build because they already assume that it’s going to fail without even trying it. A professor at one of the major universities in the United States called this behavior, “an Induced Helplessness.” In her simple experiment she proved that a repeated failure in the past might discourage an individual to believe in the success of the future outcome, even if it might have a great chance. Therefore, the Induced Helplessness in our society can only be solved by giving more attention to the youth. Instead of exposing them to repeated discouraging failures, the society should give the youth a chance to try out new things and experiment on ideas with peers through different simulated clubs and school programs.

In my senior year at high school in Addis Ababa, I was invited to prepare a game for a carnival. I designed one which allowed 5 people play at once. The challenge wasn’t building the game; rather it was convincing my friends to help me promote it to the carnival kids. Only one agreed to stay and promote my game while the rest thought it was a joke wasting their time while they could promote the ones which were already making fast money at that moment. Afterwards, I called a few kids and gave them free sample coupons. I also told them they could get more free games if they convince their friends to play at my station. Honestly, whom do kids listen to more than adults? Anyways, those 5 kids brought 2 each and those 2 brought many more which later that day enabled me to make more money than the rest of the carnival games. This is the concept that lives inside me in my future business venues. Some might believe in me and help me grow while the rest abandon my effort thinking that it is a waste of time. But the truth is, as long as one strategizes and does things bravely, there is always a way to win a customer’s attention. As a youth, that specific day had impacted my life because I experienced what it meant to be a successful businessman for a day. Indeed, similar chances should be granted to all youth who want to be business owners; only then can they learn to make wise decisions, which will serve them for the rest of their lives.

We have responsibilities to build a community based on optimism, hard work, commitment and a great leadership. If these four things are embedded within the minds of the Ethiopia’s youth, a more sustainable and organized businesses can arise in the future. Adults should learn to comment 10 ways to make a certain idea grow and succeed than giving 100 reasons why it would fail. Even though any business idea has a risk and challenge, through optimism, hard work, commitment and great leadership one can overcome the problems and give a more durable solution. Of course in order to develop these mindsets, our society needs to involve the youth in decision makings because great leadership actually starts at home.

Gedion Yitbarek, an Engineering student at the University of Oklahoma, is Director of Operations at the Ethiopian Global Initiative and President and Founder at EthioCinema LLC

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Message from Samuel and Gedion: Ethiopian American Census

Hello friends,

We at the Ethiopian Global Initiative are exploring a project that would conduct a census of how many Ethiopians there are in the United States. If successful, we have long-term plans to continue this project to include all Ethiopians in the diaspora.

As many of you may know, the United States Census only asks if you are Black/African American and not your country of origin. As a result of this confusion, we end up with conflicting numbers. Please view this article: http://ethgi.blogspot.com/2010/09/how-many-are-we.html

The Initiative is now looking for prospective members to administer and implement this exciting project that will have historic implications. I invite any and all of you students and professionals to get involved by using the skills you have in sociology, organizing, finance, marketing, communication, analysis, mathematics, etc., to ensure the success of a project we might take on in the coming months.

For further information please email info@ethgi.org or call us at +1-617-528-9434.

Sincerely,

Samuel Gebru
President

Gedion Yitbarek
Director of Development

Friday, September 10, 2010

How Many Are We?

By: Samuel M. Gebru*

I was recently discussing with my Director of Development at the Ethiopian Global Initiative about the truly unknown number of Ethiopians in the Washington, D.C. area and in the United States and throughout our diaspora.

Of course, not knowing how many of us are out there is a huge disadvantage. Not knowing how many Ethiopians there are in the United States can hinder our work at the Initiative but also as a larger community; aggregating data, attracting corporate donations for nonprofits and creatively starting up businesses with successful marketing plans can all be difficult when there are no strong numbers.

For us, being able to say that the Ethiopian Global Initiative strives to represent and serve as a catalyst for X amount of Ethiopians in the United States can be really important when we meet with Coca Cola, for instance. The Coca Cola Company actually used Amharic as one of its five international language campaigns during the Beijing Olympics on their soda cans. This didn’t happen by chance that Ethiopia was included as one of the five languages it used. It was a strategic marketing tool by the company; additional to the fact that Ethiopia is a Black African nation with its own alphabet and numerical system.

In a thinking-out-loud type of moment, what if an independent census was conducted by the Ethiopian Global Initiative to count how many of us actually live in the United States? A daunting project that would be long-term and ongoing with the goal of getting the most accurate number of Ethiopians in the United States is what we’re getting at.

Since many Ethiopians, and immigrants in general, come to the United States from countries that have repressive governments they tend to shy away from political and civic involvement in this country for that same fear. As a result, some Ethiopians might not report and represent themselves, might not complete the census and as we all know some Ethiopians are very well undocumented to live here.

If the Ethiopian Global Initiative conducts a nongovernmental, nonpartisan and grassroots census of all Ethiopians in the United States, many Ethiopians would embrace the idea and report and represent themselves. Bear in mind that the U.S. Census asks if you're Black/African American, and not if you're Ethiopian, so we have our Ethiopian Embassy in Washington saying 200,000 of us are in the Washington, D.C. area but we have U.S. authorities saying 30,000 of us are in the Washington, D.C. area. Which one is it?

It is important that the entire Ethiopian American community embrace this, should an independent census occur. Churches, Mosques, Synagogues, cultural groups, political groups, media groups, women’s alliances, youth clubs, sports teams, doctors, taxi drivers, academicians, parking lot attendants, injera-makers, business owners, students, parents, children, politicians, Amharic-speakers, Tigrinya-speakers, Oromiffa-speakers, Gambellas, Afaris, Harraris, Somalis, all would have to be involved to make this happen; from funding the project to carrying out the project to providing vocal support.

So, who’s ready?

*Samuel M. Gebru is President of the Ethiopian Global Initiative and a Political Science student at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. You can contact the Initiative at info@ethgi.org for more information on getting involved.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

EGI to host Boston Orientation

08/03/2010 – The Ethiopian Global Initiative, an international nonprofit organization, is hosting a public orientation in the Boston area to further inform the public about its current and future endeavors. The orientation will be held on Saturday, August 14, 2010 at 2:00 pm until 4:00 pm at 45 Mount Auburn Street in Cambridge, MA. For more information and to RSVP please call EGI at 617-528-9434 or email info@ethusa.org. Refreshments will be provided. This event is free and open to anyone regardless of age, gender and nationality.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Struggle, Hope, and Action: A Response to Apathy

On June 23 of this year, Pascal Robert published an inquisitive article in the Huffington Post entitled, "What Happened to the Black Literary Canon?"(You can read it here). After articulating the profound impact mid-century authors such as James Baldwin, E. Franklin Frazier, and Cater G. Woodson had on his own intellectual up-bringing, Robert laments the possibility that our society endures, satiated by the façade of "racial-blindness," or perhaps even considers itself the more absurd designation as a "post-racial America." The statistics, as he points out, prove otherwise with cold, terse facticity.

What was most inspiring about these words was not the celebration of literature, but my internalization and comprehension of the sheer magnitude of our generation's capacity to think critically and dissent against apathy. These characteristics––the individual thinker, the assertive voice advocating for the good––are not merely fundamentally "American" ideals; they embody and permeate the Ethiopian Global Initiative's mission.

While Robert focused on the indifference within the young Black community, I believe his concerns regarding apathy prove valid for the whole of American youth today. As a generation, we grew up "on-line." As individuals, we have access to unprecedented levels of information and communication––all which can be accessed near-instantenously. If the pace of time is quickening, then history––even our mothers' and fathers'––recedes deeper into ambiguity. Perhaps those pages characterizing struggle, preaching hope, and demanding action appear too ancient for our modern tastes. Though, in my opinion, these authors' remarks contain a clear and essentially modern integrity, our nation of youth may need inspiration via new means. As national test scores dwindle, religious and political extremism gain prominence, and the racial divide worsens across academic, nutritional, and labor lines, we are faced with the struggle.

In referring to the tough economic climate the United States––and particularly our youth––currently faces, Attorney General Eric Holder commented at Boston University's Class of 2010 commencement: "only when the sky is darkest are we able to see the stars." Well, my hope rests in the star-glinted eyes of the youth, for they carry the torch of insight, the burden of responsibility, and a capacity not yet bounded. My hope resides in the intrepidity of those that demand action––in organizations such as the Ethiopian Global Initiative, which embodies the universal ideals of community and compassion.

After working with EGI's President, Samuel Gebru, and our team of volunteers, it is my sincerest belief that the Ethiopian Global Initiative not only aspires to inspire: it actualizes its own insistence on initiative. With a call aimed particularly at Ethiopian American and Ethiopian youth, steps are being taken today by members of EGI to face such debilitating social problems as cultural ignorance, ethnic and racial isolation, poor health conditions, and hunger.

My insistence is that those that want to see change can and will when we rally together. In the minds of those at EGI, a movement has begun. Join it.

Jonathan Remple
Research Associate
Ethiopian Global Initiative

Sunday, July 4, 2010

U.S. College Students for Ethiopia

What if we grouped a bunch of college students in the United States and sent them to Ethiopia to volunteer and intern? It would be “U.S. College Students for Ethiopia” and it begins with you!

A few months ago some others and I were discussing about how great it would be to involve students from the United States in the development of Ethiopia. Ethiopia lost about 75% of its skilled workforce between 1980 and 1991, according to the U.N. Development Program. It’s rumored that there are more Ethiopian Medical Doctors in the City of Chicago than there are in the entire Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. I believe that.

Wouldn’t it be amazing to allow students in American colleges the opportunity to go to Ethiopia for their summer, their semester or their entire academic year to intern or volunteer in their field of interest? I want Health Science students to go to the Black Lion Hospital in Addis Ababa to get some hands-on experience dealing with patients and many diseases. I want Occupational Therapy students to go to Northern Ethiopia to work at the Tigray Disabled Veterans Association’s clinical facilities. I want Business students to work with the Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Societies Union and help them further organize and improve their efficiency so they may advocate for all coffee farmers.

Having win-win solutions for Ethiopia’s problems was discussed at the 2010 Ethiopian American Youth Initiative Conference in Washington, D.C. “U.S. College Students for Ethiopia” could be the Ethiopian Global Initiative’s win-win solution for the loss of Ethiopia’s skilled workforce between 1980 and 1991. College students would get hands on experience that would strengthen their credentials, academically and professionally. Ethiopia would benefit from the skill that the college students would contribute to the country. The Ethiopian Global Initiative would benefit because we would fulfill our objectives of serving as a catalyst for projects that promote civic engagement and economic prosperity.

This wouldn’t just be a two-month service trip. In fact, its imperative that once the college students return to the U.S. they should get involved in continuing their contributions to Ethiopia’s growth by joining EGI. So, again: what if we grouped a bunch of college students in the United States and sent them to Ethiopia to volunteer and intern?

Samuel M. Gebru
President and Chairman
Ethiopian Global Initiative

Saturday, July 3, 2010

New Partners/New Projects - The EGI Conference Hangover

With one week removed since the EGI Conference in Washington D.C., I am feeling more rejuvenated than ever since I started working with EGI this summer. The new people that the organization has come in contact with, the new ideas that we have come up with, the new energy that has been injected into the organization - it is amazing what a conference like this can do to inject new life into the ambition and scope of an organization.

Sam returned from D.C. this weekend with a long list of people who are eager to get involved with EGI - the conference helped to bring them out of the woodwork. As we discussed these possible new members who will help shape the future of this organization, I couldn't help but be amazed by the different walks of life all these people had come from. Men, women, young people, adults, moviemakers, businessmen, writers, philanthropists, engineers, professors - the EGI conference had successfully inspired people from all different backgrounds to come join us as we move the organization forward. I was impressed to know that the conference, at the very least, could touch such a wide swathe of people. This diverse group of people will be able to provide unique perspectives on a wide range of topics and issues.

Coincidentally, this influx of committed people comes as our organization continues to come up with exciting new projects and ideas for the future. One potential project that excites me the most, which also happens to be the one I am leading ;), is called Sira (the Amharic word for work), which involves our organization partnering with a local Ethiopian microfinance institution to help them attract new external financing and funding. It is thrilling to think that a successful businessman and a person with experience in fundraising, examples of people we met at the conference, could offer their expertise to this project sometime soon. We have also started planning the 2010 Cambridge Ethiopia Day to commemorate the Ethiopian New Year on September 11, something that should of interest to any Cambridge, Massachusetts resident, where Ethiopians represent the second largest immigrant community. We have even started planning for EGI's second conference next year and would eventually like to hold a EGI summit in Ethiopia sometime over the next few years! New projects and ideas keep rolling in, and thankfully, we have some new and committed people to help move them along.

Any non-profit organization, like ours, depends on the energy and enthusiasm of its members. The conference reaffirmed this idea for me and reminded me why I wanted to work for EGI in the first place. Please get involved and stay connected in the multitude of projects that we will be rolling out over the next few months.

Maxwell MacCarthy
Research Associate
Ethiopian Global Initiative

Thursday, July 1, 2010

[Part 1] June 2010 Washington, D.C. Trip Report

Capturing the Conference Energy

Today was a very productive day at the Ethiopian Global Initiative's Headquarters. Today, I was meeting with my Research Associates over what transpired at the 2010 EAYI Conference at Howard University in Washington, D.C. As we were doing post-conference work, I couldn't help but really acknowledge the amount of energy and potential EGI has. Our Initiative has created the framework for all students and young professionals to get involved in Ethiopia's transformation. We recognize, too, that its not just Ethiopians that care about Ethiopia. 

When I closed the 2010 EAYI Conference, I stressed that we're not closing by saying "see you next year" but by saying "talk to you tomorrow" because the discussions must continue. Most Ethiopian conferences and gatherings do not end with a plan of action, or a mode to continue the discussions. Our conference was quite insightful in that it provided an intimate opportunity for speakers and attendees to discuss. For some of our audience, it was their first time meeting such like-minded youth and inspirational speakers all in one room. My goal was to ensure the happiness of each attendee throughout the conference, and I am sure that no one left dissatisfied.

In the coming weeks, EGI will be contacting those who spoke at and attended our conference to capture the energy they exhibited. In the short-term, we are asking attendees to submit a list of various issues in Ethiopia and how we can address them. In the long-term, it is important to translate our ideas into tangible projects with realistic expectations and outcomes. The Ethiopian Global Initiative plans to launch its projects in September 2010 after careful review of the efficiency and sustainability of each proposed project. I invite you to join the post-conference work by calling our office at +1-617-528-9434.


Samuel M. Gebru
President and Chairman
Ethiopian Global Initiative

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

June 2010 Washington, D.C. Trip Report

By: Samuel M. Gebru
June 24-30, 2010

On Thursday, June 24 I departed Boston, Massachusetts for Washington, D.C. to attend the first annual 2010 Ethiopian American Youth Initiative Conference. EAYI’s Conference was designed to “do what other Ethiopians have not done, which is to act” as I fondly have said in the past. The 2010 EAYI Conference was hosted at the Howard University Blackburn University Center, thanks to the unflagging support of Vice President Barbara Griffin, Chief of Staff Keith Miles, Blackburn Director Roberta Mcleod-Reeves, Professors Mbye Cham and Alem Hailu.

I arrived to the District of Columbia on Thursday in the late afternoon. Howard University Professor Alem Hailu hosted a networking dinner for some of his students and me at U Street’s Almaz Restaurant. The students were a Nigerian, an Ethiopian and an Eritrean. Joining us was Ethiopian American organizer Andrew Laurence. The abundance of intellectualism we discussed could never, sadly, be put in concrete words in this article. It would take me hundreds of pages in a book to capture the deep Pan-Africanism exhibited at our six-person dinner.

The necessity to involve youth as change agents beyond the Ethiopian scope was discussed. Ethiopia is not an island, however its people have developed a mental state of being that will not help progress the Horn of Africa or the African continent. I emphasized the necessity of having youth leadership forums for Africans in Africa and in the African diaspora. Likewise, Professor Alem’s Doctoral students emphasized the need for the Ethiopian American Youth Initiative to include other African organizations—civic, cultural and youth—in our conferences.

By the end of a few hours at Almaz Restaurant, our enriching discussions provided me with an encouraged vision for the youth of the African diaspora, which encompasses the Caribbean, African Americans, African Europeans and whomever else. Although Ethiopia lit and sustained the torch of African unity, it has backtracked in recent years from its continental and global leadership. Our six-person dinner did not offer the clear-cut solution to address our people’s sliding leadership, but it paved the road for us—the youth—to answer it through dialogue.

On Friday, June 25 I spent the entire day preparing for the weekend’s activities. In the afternoon I spent a few hours at Howard University finalizing arrangements with the Blackburn University Center’s Director, Roberta Mcleod-Reeves, who has the pleasure of being known as an “Honorary Ethiopian” as she fondly lectured me of her involvement with our community. I assured her that it is my wish to continue a relationship with Howard University as it further enhances the Ethiopian-African American experience. It is, after all, incumbent on my generation to further the relationship we have with African Americans—and on their side, it is incumbent on our peers to do so too.

Later in the evening Nahom M. Beyene, a dear brother of mine, arrived into the city. We spent the night together dining at the 2010 EAYI Conference’s preferred eatery, the Queen of Sheba at 9th & P Streets. Its owner, Ethiopian singer Embza Sebhatleab, was the only Ethiopian American restaurant owner that was receptive to our wish of using a restaurant for our social networking dinner on Saturday. Nahom is an esteemed former President of the Ethiopian Students Association International and currently is a Doctoral student at the University of Pittsburgh.

In our dinner, Nahom and I further discussed the necessity of working together to achieve the shared interests and visions that Ethiopian youth, students and young professionals have in transforming our homeland. We have much in common and share many interests when it comes to empowering our peers for community leadership. Over the past year, young Ethiopians have been contacting me from all over the world advocating for unity in our disenfranchised communities. I recognize that extremely hateful partisan groups that are self-proclaimed “nonprofit corporations” have poisoned the Ethiopian diaspora. Recognizing this and hearing the demands of my peers, it would only behoove us to work together to collectively address whatever problems are of priority in our communities and countries.

On Saturday, June 26, dressed in Ethiopian traditional clothing, I made an early morning arrival at Howard University. Soon enough, very important young visionaries began to arrive at the Blackburn University Center hoping to learn and be inspired. Sadly, United States Congressman Michael Honda (D-CA), Chairman of the U.S. Congressional Caucus on Ethiopia and Ethiopian Americans, was unable to join us. The Congressman had to fly to his state to attend to important legislative activities. As I was introducing his Legislative Correspondent and Executive Director of the Caucus, Ahmed Bhadelia, I jokingly said it was good to know that a Congressman is actually hard at work for his constituents.

Congressman Honda’s message to us was that of encouragement. As a former teacher, a Japanese American and now as an elected official, he knows the importance of youth involvement and civic engagement. He praised the Ethiopian American Youth Initiative as a venue for public discourse and social responsibility to happen. In addition to the Congressman, world-renowned Ethiopian academician and elder, Professor Ephraim Isaac delivered the Keynote Address. On Monday, June 28, the Initiative published a Press Release entitled “Young Ethiopians Unite for Action” and I believe that it captures well what Professor Ephraim taught us on Saturday morning:

Professor Ephraim Isaac of the Institute of Semitic Studies delivered the Keynote Address on Saturday, June 26. In his address Professor Ephraim stressed the importance of knowledge and understanding. He stated that Ethiopia has tremendous potential to develop. Professor Ephraim reminded the audience that, “Ethiopia became a literate country 1,000 years before Europe did; but the question is whether we are behind now.”

Historic philosophy was emphasized in the address. Professor Ephraim drew teachings from Hateta Zera Yacob (Expressions of Zera Yacob), work of the Ethiopian Medieval Philosopher-Emperor Zera Yacob. He noted that Emperor Zera Yacob, in the 400-year-old Ge’ez text, advocated for gender equality and interfaith relations, topics that are now considered to be “progressive” in the U.S. The address also drew on the teachings of the Ethiopian female philosopher Kristos Semra, whom Professor Ephraim fondly called the “mother of peace” in her observation that God and Satan should solve their quarrels through peaceful means, serving as examples for humans to do so with each other.

Moving forward, Professor Ephraim advised for Ethiopians to “stop attacking each other with bad words” because it had become “Ethiopians against Ethiopians.” He also advised to not meditate for internal happiness because it “does no good” and that the importance should be to meditate for the strength to serve others. In closing, Professor Ephraim Isaac asked the delegates to act, “Preach to them what Zera Yacob preached to me and us.”

In my speech, I stressed the power of committing to action. I referred, as I often do, to what inspired—and embarrassed—me to get involved in community organizing five years ago when I was a 13-year-old 8th grade student. The lifetime commitment to action that Doctors Reginald and Catherine Hamlin displayed inspired me to articulate the need for efficient and sustainable projects that will put my peers and me in decision-making capacities. Furthermore, I stressed that no endeavor, Ethiopian or not, will ever be sustainable without involving youth.

In the evening we held our Social Networking Dinner at the Queen of Sheba. This dinner was quite reminiscent of Thursday night’s dinner at Almaz Restaurant. What was supposed to be a “social” night became an interdisciplinary strategy session! Again, the energy was for moving forward and not for finger pointing. We discussed various events and projects that our Initiative could work on. In the immediate, we decided that efforts should be given to organizing a United States-wide “Day of Service” for Emperor Haile Selassie’s 120th birthday. In organizing this, we all agreed to involve as many church, youth, student and community organizations as possible.

Joining us at the Social Networking Dinner was a multi-dynamic man who has failed to be unimpressive. Tebabu Assefa heads Media 4 Green, “a film and multimedia production, screening/broadcast portal and promotional venture, established in partnership by Mark Leisher Productions, a Maryland based film Production Company and Tebabu and Associates, a multimedia publishing, marketing and promotional network.” Tebabu, who has lived in eight countries throughout his life, currently lives in Maryland and is someone I categorize as a progressive Ethiopian adult because of his undying commitment to promote social responsibility in Ethiopia and elsewhere by using what he does best: communications, film and broadcasting. Tebabu has hosted screenings before at Capitol Hill. He fondly mentions, “I have been from the halls of Capitol Hill to the hills of Ethiopia’s coffee growing regions.”

On Sunday, June 27 I was at the Blackburn University Center again for the second day of conference programming. Professor of Sociology from the University of Minnesota, Dr. Solomon Gashaw, really wowed us all. His examination of Ethiopian history from the decline of Axum, rise of Islam to the Zemene Mesafint and modern era tied into what we were all looking for: answers to move us forward. During the discussion time, I mentioned that knowing Ethiopian history alone does not mean anything, but it is how we can use the history we have to write tomorrow’s history. Professor Solomon’s presentation stirred a discussion that lasted almost one hour.

For our session on the Ethiopian diaspora, I was excited to hear what insight Ethiopian American community organizer Teddy Fikre had to say. A lot of the discussion was also inspired from a blog article written by “Young Ethiopian,” which mentioned the urgency to discuss about issues we Ethiopians face in the diaspora, and in our case, the United States. 

“What made you come here?” This was a question that was boldly asked to attendees. Bold questions require bold answers. The unanimous understanding was that we are tired of the constant rambling in our community and the power of change is invested in us, as a collective community of individuals. Instead of inspiring us, the “Professors” and “Engineers” and “Major Generals” of the Ethiopian diaspora discourage us from wanting to get involved in a highly polarized and dysfunctional community. To use the words of a Professor who attended our conference and who is in his late 40s, “It is important that we disconnect ourselves from such a dysfunctional group of individuals.” The wonderful man I was staying with, put it quite simply, “My father’s generation suffered so many traumatic events that it is unthinkable for them to ever unite on anything.”

At the Closing Plenary Session, I unveiled the new name of the organization from the Ethiopian American Youth Initiative to the Ethiopian Global Initiative. I believe it is important that we utilize the social and intellectual capital of each other for the benefit of our communities and Ethiopia. Knowledge, if used for good, will significantly transform Ethiopia. I left the attendees with one major assignment, which is to identify and research different problems in Ethiopia and our local communities so that the Ethiopian Global Initiative may begin launching realistic projects with realistic goals in September.

On Monday, June 28 I visited Capitol Hill to meet with Ahmed Bhadelia, Executive Director of the U.S. Congressional Caucus on Ethiopia and Ethiopian Americans and Legislative Corresponded to U.S. Congressman Michael Honda. My meeting on the Hill was very productive. Ahmed and I were able to update each other more on the future and current programming of both the Caucus and the Initiative. I paid close attention to how Ethiopian Americans were not using the Caucus as their tool on Capitol Hill, although it was indeed created to give us a microphone at the world’s most powerful legislature. I assured the Caucus that EGI would identify ways we could work with them in a very proactive and constructive manner.

On Tuesday, June 29 I had a morning meeting with former United States Ambassador to Ethiopia, David H. Shinn, who, although retired from the U.S. Government, serves as an Adjunct Professor at the George Washington University. Ambassador Shinn invited me to his residence for a two-hour meeting that touched a lot of topics. We discussed Ethiopian political developments, with emphasis on the recent elections; peace and security in the Horn of Africa, youth leadership as well as the state of the Ethiopian American community. Regrettably he was out of town for the conference. However, he was interested to see how our discussions over the weekend transpired. Ambassador Shinn has constantly been a friend of Ethiopia and Ethiopians and I thank him for that.

Later in the afternoon, I was invited to the United States Department of State to visit the East Africa Bureau and speak with the Ethiopia Desk Officer, Joel Wiegert. My meeting with Joel was centered on how Ethiopian and American youth could take advantage of the healthy relations between Ethiopia and the United States. I mentioned that EGI is planning to develop a program that would send United States college students to Ethiopia for volunteer and internship opportunities in their fields of study. I stressed the importance of involving the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa and the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington, D.C. for this process, particularly because it is important for them to help facilitate cultural and educational exchange opportunities between the two nations. Ethiopia and the United States have a diplomatic relationship that dates to 1903 and Ethiopians have been living in the United States since 1808.

In my discussions with the Ethiopia Desk at the U.S. Department of State and the Congressional Caucus on Ethiopia and Ethiopian Americans I have learned that Ethiopian Americans are not utilizing these very important U.S. Government resources that are at our disposal. Instead of coming with clear and proactive solutions, most of our community members approach these institutions with a laundry list of demands that are either impractical or not in their place to address. One of my goals is to position the Ethiopian Global Initiative as a valuable resource and contact for the United States Government and its Embassy in Addis Ababa.

Later in the evening I met with Mimi Alemayehou, who was nominated in March 2010 to serve as Executive Vice President of the United States Overseas Investment Protection Corporation and in June 2010 to serve as a Board Member of the United States African Development Foundation. I was meeting Mimi just a few hours after her hearing at the U.S. Senate whether to appoint her to Executive Vice President of OPIC. Mimi shared her extensive experience working in the United States Government and provided me with some important advice in moving forward, particularly with leadership. Mimi and I originally made contact when she was nominated to serve as the United States Executive Director for the African Development Bank. She is a wonderful role model that young Ethiopian Americans, particularly women interested in leadership, should look up to.

Today, June 30 I departed Washington, D.C. after jokingly being told that I took over the city in a matter of a few days. Although I have left the nation’s capital, there is much work that is ahead of the Ethiopian American community in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, home to the largest concentration of Ethiopians outside of Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Global Initiative remains committed to building a strong network throughout the United States, particularly in the nation’s capital where so many of us are.

As I write this trip report and reflect on my journey, I must acknowledge the small group of individuals that made my working trip possible and successful: Vera Outeiro, Caleb and Shanna Beyah, Nahom Beyene, Nolawi Petros, Markos Tadesse and Winta Teferi. I thank them for the confidence they have in me as a person and as a community servant. I would also like to commend the superb service of Sankofa Café and Bookstore, Queen of Sheba Restaurant, Almaz Restaurant, Yetenbi Café and Axum Restaurant.

Samuel M. Gebru is the President of the Ethiopian Global Initiative. You may read more of Samuel's articles on his personal blog.


About EGI
The Ethiopian Global Initiative is an international nonprofit organization that combines and captures the social and intellectual capital of students and professionals for the transformation of Ethiopia through a new generation of socially responsible leaders. Working throughout the world, the Initiative serves as a catalyst for community-based projects to promote civic engagement and economic prosperity.

For more information on the 2010 EAYI Conference visit http://2010.ethusa.org/ and for more information on the Ethiopian Global Initiative visit http://www.ethgi.org/

Important Information

© 2010 Ethiopian Global Initiative, Inc. Material may be republished with credit to this blog and/or the original author. The views and comments expressed in this blog are not necessarily those of the Ethiopian Global Initiative, Inc.