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Ethiopia: Youth, the Hamlins and Commitment to Action



  11:57:23 pm, by admin   , 648 words  
Categories: Ethiopia, Samuel Gebru

Ethiopia: Youth, the Hamlins and Commitment to Action

Ethiopia: Youth, the Hamlins and Commitment to Action

By: Samuel M. Gebru*

One of the things I like about community and youth organizing is that I get the opportunity to really connect with people individually and hear what concerns and suggestions they have to improve our communities. Being born in Sudan, raised in the United States and of Ethiopian origin, I belong to many different communities.

When I established the Ethiopian American Youth Initiative, I envisioned bringing dynamic, open-minded and highly motivated youth, students and professionals together. The Ethiopian Diaspora community is highly intoxicated by very superficial things that, at the end of the day, don’t really matter. Whether at home or abroad, we Ethiopians have shown ourselves to be a community that is easily divided, and sometimes it appears—whether real or not—that we are more divided than united.

In December 2004, after watching the Oprah Winfrey Show’s program on obstetric fistula in Ethiopia, I became inspired by the strong commitment to community service displayed by Drs. Reginald and Catherine Hamlin, co-founders of the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital. Reginald passed away in 1993 but Catherine, now in her 80s, still lives in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with the same commitment that drove her to Ethiopia with her late husband in 1959. The Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital has now evolved into a network of 6 hospitals in Ethiopia in Addis Ababa, Mekelle, Bahar Dar, Harrar, Metu and Yirgalem. They are collectively known as the Hamlin Fistula Hospitals in Ethiopia. In 2009, the hospitals celebrated Catherine Hamlin’s 50th year in Ethiopia.

To think that a foreigner commit over 50 years of dedicated service and hard work to Ethiopia is nothing less than amazing. Learning about the tragedy of obstetric fistula and the energy of the Hamlins not only inspired me but it embarrassed me. As a 13-year-old in December 2004, I began to question why Ethiopians in the Diaspora were not showing the same level of commitment non-Ethiopians demonstrated to Ethiopia. I also began to question why our community is more concerned about ethnic pride, who occupies the Menelik Palace and infesting every aspect of our lives with politics than whether 81 million Ethiopians have access to clean water and if the 6 million Ethiopian orphans will find new kind and loving people to call parents. Out of this embarrassment came inspiration and my commitment to act.

I founded the Ethiopian Team after convening a meeting of 13 Ethiopian youth in the Boston area on April 2, 2005. Once I shared the tragedies of obstetric fistula and the story of the Hamlins, the others were equally inspired to join the efforts. We became the first Ethiopian youth effort in Boston. An entire community was educated and inspired due to our work. The Ethiopian Team, in less than a year, raised enough funds to sponsor 11 women for fistula-repair surgery at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital. Our youngest member was in 6th grade, our oldest was in 12th grade and I was in 8th grade.

The Ethiopian American Youth Initiative is the Ethiopian Team’s successor. EAYI was formed in 2006 and aimed to bring open-minded youth and student leaders together to really get things done. The Initiative is hosting its first annual conference in 14 days in Washington, D.C. The 2010 EAYI Conference will be about brainstorming proactive and realistic solutions to the everyday problems in Ethiopia. It will also be about finding solutions to the problems in our local communities within the Diaspora. This gathering will be of student and youth leaders that further our collective and individual commitment to act.

I call upon Ethiopians and non-Ethiopians to embrace the spirit of community service of the Hamlins in the same manner it inspired me to respond to the call for action 81 million Ethiopians have silently put.

Now, I am 18-years-old and am still embarrassed, inspired and committed to act.

*The author is the President of the Ethiopian American Youth Initiative.


Comment from: Kaleb [Visitor]

I appreciate your thoughts and efforts. We Ethiopians have some problems that we need to look into ourselves. Most of us would like to point fingers to others rather than asking ourselves.
I can’t agree more when you say: “The Ethiopian Diaspora community is highly intoxicated by very superficial things that, at the end of the day, don’t really matter. Whether at home or abroad, we Ethiopians have shown ourselves to be a community that is easily divided, and sometimes it appears—whether real or not—that we are more divided than united.”
I think it is due to our incapability to deliver something we opt to complain and fight each other. I bet it is an interesting area for sociologists and psychologists to study it. It should be related to the kind of society in which we grown up that have shaped our thoughts and actions. Sometimes I observe that when we see a person becoming very successful we feel uncomfortable as if s/he took the opportunity that would have been for us. I think it is a natural thing for a person who grown up with a meager resources to reflect such undesirable behaviors. Thus, it is time for us to wake up and do a soul search and look into a remedy.

As a side note, please avoid using “I". It is self destructive as it doesn’t promote a team work. You said “When I established the Ethiopian American Youth Initiative …”. Right, you may be the pioneer, but for a social work it is inappropriate to say that way.

06/12/10 @ 04:09
Comment from: M.J Tyson [Visitor]
M.J Tyson

Good but only worth focusing on the youth, elderly Ethiopian tend to base their thoughts on pride rather than reason, they are also chauvinist. I remember when i was in Ethiopia in 1998 i was at this barber shop when this family walked in, the barber who was a friend of my uncle introduced them to us, as i went to shake the little girls hand she moved back and said “selam aywalam tegre know” awkward moment everybody just laughed . I was a kid than and could not care less but thinking of it now its shocking that hate could be passed down to a child obviously from her parents. It is for this reason i believe that the new generation should separate themselves from the old generation and establish things that are productive such as the Ethiopian American Youth Initiative and pretty much anything that is free from pride and hate where reason and logic are at the forefront, As the youth are the future and will ultimately determine which path the country takes.

06/12/10 @ 05:53
Comment from: abc [Visitor]

Refreshing and reasonable initiative that will have a real impact in the right direction. Kudus young man.


06/12/10 @ 06:47
Comment from: Yalew Mamaru [Visitor]  
Yalew Mamaru

Yes, it is embarrassing and humiliating not being united to work for solving our problems and contribute to our country and even to our well-being and livelihood. It seems that every one is singing the Me-Me song and the Me Only music. This does not help us and lead us no where. The Me-Me song might work for the developed world. But I doubt that also.
Our great grand fathers used to dream and attempted to work in terms of community and country terms.

The greed and power ego is the major cause for our failure. Let us think in terms of what could I do for the needy and get the moral satisfaction and build a safe and prosperous community rather than to say what is my share or benefit to Me-Me.

Yalewu Mamaru

06/12/10 @ 09:40
Comment from: ababu [Visitor]

Samuel, you are only 18 and you are an inspiration to all ages because of your wisdom, dedication to good causes and positive energy. Even though I am much older than you, you are still my hero. Stay positive, stay on track and dedicated. Thanks.

06/12/10 @ 10:38
Comment from: sol! [Visitor]

Bravoo…keep it up. Pls, do not forget that your beloved country also need educated people…brain drain also drying its efficiency to stand alone and solve its problem. I wish educated high profile ethiopian can come for short while and contribute what they have…may be medical professionals, engineers, university instructors..
I wish all will enjoy in our progress!
I wish you all success in all corner of your life.

06/12/10 @ 14:14
Comment from: Amoraw [Visitor]

This boy is learning fast, I remember visiting his website few years back, his political view is wider than before, Obama started the same way working with disadvantage youths and community, Samuel is ahead of his age, even our PM Meles 35 years as a leader still learning from his mistakes. Samuel will be our future Obama.

06/12/10 @ 21:14
Comment from: Visitor [Visitor]

Selam!! I am surprised to hear from you saying at Ethiopians abroad are more concerned on ethnic pride. Your homeboy, Meles Zenawi is the current dictator, who occupies Menlik Palace>. who practice Apartheid, divided the nation into ethnic homelands, 99% of the gov\t post are held by tegreans, includig the Orthodox Church leaders.

06/13/10 @ 10:23
Comment from: ethiopia [Visitor]

“Samuel is ahead of his age, even our PM Meles 35 years as a leader” meles is not a leader, he is just a dictator, real leades can’t stay in powe for 25 years and beyond.
For samuel
dispora ethiopians have diffeent opinion, don’t take this as a division, we are the voice of the voiceless ethiopians who still live in one gov’t tv station and don’t have any way to express their opinion and live their lives in total tyranny, so don’t expect any change unless we have a legitmate govenment elected by its people

06/13/10 @ 13:42
Comment from: Dawi [Visitor]

Go ask why Oromos and other ethnics in the country are being killed by your TPLF leader Meles Zenawi.. I see you are trying to make a change in peoples life, but don’t consider the Diasporas as unproductive because they are the voice of the millions who don’t have it. Now if you ask me whether I choose to live in poverty or give up my liberty, I rather live in poverty that giving up my liberty. I wonder if you would show the same effort if Meles wasn’t in the office.

06/14/10 @ 09:42
Comment from: sami1 [Visitor]

Dispora is bad! says Meles followers since they know the help and encouragment poured form aboroad to be able to say fighting for long time unitl all join and won the battel of Mengistu dectator… We have created another dectator Meles and now Meles knows that Dispora has a huge influence as to what needs to be done for fairness he is attacking us. Meles was studying and was in somalia while 13 to 70 years old were dying for WOYANE fight and now he tells us we should not encourage for change becuase they deserve to be the leaders for ever just becuase we fought and won!
17 years in wilderness not to capture a city for longer than weeks and then less than one month to take over Ethiopia???
It shows the wilingness of All Ethiopians for change, but the ignorance still there!

06/14/10 @ 09:58
Comment from: observer [Visitor]

I SAID A WHILE BACK THAT THE NEW GENERATION IS DIFFERNET THAN OUR FATHERS GENERATION. the youngsters in America (i am 25) are tired of the coffee shop, taxi driver, dishwasher politics. i am not looking down on a job. job is a job but if your not educated you should shut the f up. some taxi drivers drive taxi all day then spend the rest of their free time at coffee shop politican. do something go to school better your self. i can’t wait for that generation to die out and the new generation take over. kudos to the kid but there are a lot of these type of groups sprouting all over. but you have to be young, NO ethinic ideology (tigra, ahmara, oromo…etc, ambitious, must know the value of education, and physically fit. others no need to apply. i will say it again give us 5 years and you will see our power.

06/14/10 @ 12:05
Comment from: Aden1 [Visitor]

Samuel Gebru,
Impressing in a very realistic and compassionate sense as well. How in the world a thirteen year old boy consider fistula as his cause. It could be that age is numbers in youth as well. There is no question about the Hamlins dedication and especially Dr. Katherine at age 80 still going on.

As in the past comments on past articles related to the issue, it will be a great win-win if THE HAMLINS dedication turns into PREVENTIVE CULTURE. This might also be something to consider for your youth organization. You all might find it challenging from culture, social and science aspect. The legacy was left by this wonderful couple and their Ethiopian colleagues and international fund raising by the Hamlins.

Best wishes to you and your team.

06/14/10 @ 20:10



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