In recognition of the tremendous contributions that America’s diaspora communities make toward the development of their countries of heritage, The State Department’s Special Representative for Global Partnerships, Andrew O’Brien, led a Diaspora Tour that takes Washington on the road. One of his stop was Seattle Colleges. This tour builds on the International diaspora Engagement Alliance (IdEA) partnership, launched in 2011, by the Secretary’s Office of Global Partnerships (S/GP) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
The Seattle event was hosted by Jill Wakefield Chancellor, Seattle Colleges and Moderated by Andrew O’Brien, Representative For Global Partnerships, U.S. Department of State. I was one of the panelist representing Africa along with Roberto Carcelén Roberto Carcelén Foundation and Former Olympian, Rob Smith Owner, EarthWise Ventures, Alex-Hung H. Tran President, Western United Fish and Rita Zawaideh Founder, Salaam Cultural Museum.
I appreciated the State Department’s effort to highlight Diaspora’s contribution throughout the world. The panel was outstanding and the Q&A and the discussion took almost two hours. I was specially satisfied by the attendance of students and the whole event was so moving for me since it gave me a chance to return back to my Alma mater Seattle Central Community College.
I participated to talk about an annual fundraising to help raise money  to help train teachers, build libraries, schools and learning centers at my birth country of Ethiopia. The fundraising is called Open Hearts Big Dreams and we join forces with another well established organization called Ethiopian Reads to distribute the funds. The first event in 2011 raised $45,000 and supported several programs in Ethiopia, including a kindergarten  in the Merkato area of Addis Ababa. In 2012, $78,000 helped put a school library in every region of Ethiopia and build learning centers in Kembata Tembaro, a rural area where many children have no access to school. Last year $98,000 was raised, opening two more learning centers in the same region, initiating a new horse-powered mobile library project to reach rural children and helping teen girl athletes become tutors. The next Open Hearts Big Dreams is on December 13. Proceeds will help Ethiopian teachers gain new skills, double the reach of the mobile library and help young women athletes become part of literacy teams and build their own futures. Open Hearts Big Dreams have many donors from the diaspora communities as well as local communities with big hearts.
Special thanks goes to Lisa Knoop & Jason, to Maria Lamarca Anderson for putting together the event, Adam Sotomayor, Chief of Staff to the Special Representative and Bob Hereford for his amazing photography.
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