By Janet Lee (Emdeber 1974–76)
The response from the readership to the last issue of The Herald was outstanding! There were 950 views the first day and 450 the second, the highest in Herald history. Readers obviously enjoyed reading the stories of the Travelers who participated in the Return to Ethiopia. E&E RPCVs may continue to connect to their fellow Volunteers and read time-sensitive announcements of interest by signing up and monitoring the “Ethiopia and Eritrea Returned Peace Corps Volunteers” Facebook page.
One aspect of these stories that struck me was the terrific connections that the RPCV Travelers made with current Volunteers, something that rang true for me throughout my recent journeys to Ethiopia. My connections with PCVs have been further expanded for me through introductions via email and Facebook and usually around the theme of libraries and early literacy. It was through the introduction from a current Volunteer that I “met” Jennifer Miller (Debre Markos, Addis Ababa 2011–) and became aware of the Early Grade Reading Center Project that ten communities of Volunteers had embarked upon, for which she was a most tenacious spokesperson. For some time I had been working on a Books for Africa project to collect a shipping container of books for Ethiopia, and Jennifer invited me to combine my efforts with a like-minded project that PCVs in Ethiopia were organizing as part of the Reading Center project. Had we not joined our projects together, mine might have stayed dormant forever. I like to think that inclusion of my project gave her project the boost it needed to increase the momentum at just the right time. In any event, I was able to observe the perseverance and determination of the group firsthand. Although there were ups and downs, frustrations, and waylaid truck drivers, (and funny stories along the way), it went amazingly well.
Jennifer, Daniel Thornton (Woliata-Soda), Megan Sievart (Injibara 2011–), Paul Voigt (Shambu 2011–) and Chad Miller (Debre Markos, Addis Ababa 2011–) reflect on their individual and group experiences in If You Build It Will They Come? The Early Grade Reading Project. This group of ambitious Volunteers from throughout Ethiopia rose to the challenge of securing a container of books through Books for Africa and distributing the books to various projects in their communities by working with local NGOs and community leaders. Through the use of individual fundraising and Peace Corps Partnership grants, there was virtually no overhead expense in their projects. This group has laid the foundation for future projects for incoming Volunteers to come. Hats off to their success.
We were introduced to RPCV Karen Dawn Speicher (Wukro, Bonga 1973–75) in Chuck Adams’ (Bonga 2011-13) piece in the December issue of The Herald, “The Spot in the Cow Field: An RPCV Returns to Ethiopia After 35 Years.” Karen returns in this issue to relate her Return to Ethiopia quest to find a former student and friend in Return to Ethiopia 2012: A Tribute to Fisseha Haileselassie, 1957-2012. It is a touching story.
Alice Gosak (Harar 1964–67) has also been working on library and literacy projects in Ethiopia for a number of years and describes one such project at her former site of Harar in Opening a Children’s Library. She teamed up with a fellow American teacher in fundraising and shipping books to the site. Congratulations to her on her hard work.
Speaking of libraries, I have just returned from the American Library Association Midwinter conference, where I am active in the International Sustainable Library Development Interest Group. ISLD was formed a number of years ago, when several librarians discovered that they were RPCVs from around the world. The group met informally for several years at lunch on the Saturday of each conference and decided that they would formalize and thus ISLD was formed. Among our group is Marcy Carrel (RPCV Ecuador) who works at the Information, Collections, and Exchange office at Peace Corps/Washington. Marcy has just put together a 227-page “Sustainable Library Development Package” with accompanying handouts. It can be found on the Peace Corps website along with many other wonderful resources by doing a search in the “Index of Publications.”
Joe Tenn’s review of The Lion of Judah in the New World by Theodore M. Vestal. (Praeger, 2011) in the December issue of The Herald, persuaded me to pick up a copy. To my delight, I found the following tribute in the preface:
My friends in the Ethiopia and Eritrea Returned Peace Corps Volunteers have been a wonderful source of information — especially in their outstanding newsletter The Herald, edited by that nonpareil wordsmith Barry Hillenbrand.
Thank you Ted, for that ringing endorsement.
Please check out the Books section in this issue, which reviews books about Ethiopia or by E&E Peace Corps Volunteers.
Finally, a video by current Ethiopia Volunteers and staff has come to light. I am not sure that Ethiopia knew what hit it when these very talented Volunteers set foot on the land of 13 months of Sunshine. See Ethiopia G8 and their take on Gangnam Style: