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Ellenore's note
And then the smoke came: The importance of resilience and perseverance

The last weeks have brought new challenges. Wildfires in our state - as well as others across the West - have filled the sky with smoke and made our air quality suddenly the worst in the world, when the opposite is typically true. I found myself adding air quality checks to my to do list and wearing a mask during my single, daily walk outdoors. I felt trapped and a bit claustrophobic by these additional restrictions added to those brought about by COVID-19.

With so much else already going on in the greater world as well as my own life, it seemed almost too much to handle. I was giving a first-time virtual workshop on strategic negotiation to a group of executives at California State University. I wanted it to go perfectly, but I found it super challenging to try to manage both the revised content, a different format, and the new technical responsibilities that came when doing this from afar. The OHBD team was working on completing our last few #ReadySetGoBooks in order to reach a publishing milestone of 100 individual titles and planning a PR celebration to help raise critical awareness which is all exciting but it presents new challenges without clear guidelines on what to do and when. The US withdrew key support from Ethiopia because of a dispute just as we were waiting for word from the US Embassy on the STEAM training proposal we had painstakingly produced after weeks of work. Months after we had expected a response there was still no word. I learned my remaining uncle in the United States had passed away after a long illness. To avoid paralysis, I forced myself to focus on the immediate next steps I needed to complete; keeping it simple and allowing me to maintain a focus.  

Throughout this experience I was reminded how success is very often due to resilience and perseverance in the face of challenges and obstacles. A member of the OHBD team on the US Embassy project also mentioned the importance of patience in the work we are doing in Ethiopia. Looking at these two words' definitions helped me see their foundational role in achievement so much more clearly. I often encourage Leyla, who has been a steady, smiling model of versatility despite all these changes (here starting her first day of virtual sixth grade), to look up definitions rather than just ask: “What does it mean?”  But like many advice givers, I often fail to do so myself. Yet every time I take the time to do so, I find it truly enlightening.

Resilience is defined as: “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.”  In these challenging times, I feel like we are all being tested daily to grow and flex this capacity, as 2020 has provided many different and unique difficulties. We have global challenges like the novel coronavirus pandemic; our national US challenges like race relations, political differences in both Ethiopia and the US, and natural disasters like fires and hurricanes; and the hardships we all face in our day-to-day lives, which are personal to us or our families. I believe acknowledging even the smallest wins as worthy accomplishments against this backdrop is crucial.

Perseverance is defined as: “persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.” This one seems to be a regular requirement for me in the many roles across my life, as things always seem to take longer or face unexpected challenges. Doing things in Ethiopia seem to be a particular case-in-point. Nothing seems to follow the plans I originally make. Sometimes they take much longer and sometimes they go a completely different direction that can be just as good if I can let go of my original ideal and pivot quickly.  

As I took a number of deep breaths virtually and physically recently, I moved forward a bit at a time. The workshop went quite well despite a few technical challenges and things not following the meticulous schedule I had practiced over and over and over. We heard from a long-time supporter that she wanted to move forward with a big important new project (more to come soon.)  The US Embassy came back with positive feedback as well as a request to modify our proposal in very significant ways in a short time frame. We found some terrific contacts with experience to help us build out the PR campaign for our big 100 book celebration. Two of my sisters were able to attend my uncle’s service and send gifts from all of us. Step by step, things are moving forward and everything seems a bit more possible as the air also began to be more breathable again.  

I realized that in addition to resilience and perseverance, we need hope to inspire action. The definition I like is for this word is “confident expectation.”  As we all keep pressing forward, I have a confident expectation we will continue to make progress on our ambitious goals, even in this challenging new reality, as well as learn and even grow together. Doing this work with many wonderfully generous and talented people is a great balm for all that is tough in the world right now. Thank you all for your amazing support through your time, your talents. and your treasure.

-Ellenore
Board Spotlight: Teferi Abate Adem

We are so proud of board member, Dr. Teferi Abate Adem, who was awarded a Fulbright scholarship in anthropology to teach at Wollo University in Ethiopia! As part of this project, he will conduct "ethnographic research on the social dimensions of how farmers in two ecologically contrasting rural communities are responding to vagaries of climate change - aggravated irregularities in the onset, duration, and intensity of rainfall during local growing wet seasons."  According to Yale University, "The project will explore these variations not just between the two communities, but also at the levels of households and individual persons within each community. The comparison will combine data from an existing longitudinal database on household economic trajectories, with new research on access to previously understudied community enforced cultural mechanisms for resource-sharing and effective collective action. The analysis will determine whether resilience to shocks at each of the above three levels was affected by unequal access to potentially adaptive community mechanisms."

We asked Tef what motivated him to join our advisory board and he wrote:

"If I must single out just one reason for accepting Ellenore Angelidis’s invitation to join OHBD’s Board, it will be my instant appreciation to their idea of opening hearts and minds by sharing stories. I was happy to note that OHBD published a long list of Ready Set Go Books that narrativize a range of themes relevant for children across countries. What a wonderful way of teaching literacy to kids while also expanding their horizon on what it means to be human in different cultures, places and times!"

Teferi holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology, a M.A. in Social Anthropology and a B.A. in Sociology. He has helped model conflicts in East Africa, served as a postdoctoral fellow at Yale. and Chair of the Sociology and Anthropology Department at Addis Ababa University.

Congratulations, Teferi! We are honored to have your wisdom and wealth of knowledge to help guide our work. Read more about this tremendous honor on the OHBD blog.
Advisory Board Highlight: Beri Gebrehiwot

Beri is the founder of a popular Facebook group for parents of children with Eritrean and Ethiopian descent called Habesha Moms, which aims to provide support and cultural resources for Habesha mothers around the world. The community she began has grown to almost 10,000 members, and she has channeled that success into a blog and growing business, Almaz & Co. We asked her what inspired her to join our advisory board:

“Reading expands our imagination and creativity. Therefore, I think books are a powerful tool in the hands of little ones, as it allows them the capacity to reimagine their future and have connection with the world around them. I love OHBD’s mission to equip children in Ethiopia with children’s literature in their own languages. Fun, engaging books that boost imagination and wonder should not be limited to the English language and this organization is doing a wonderful job of solving that problem. I am honored to be considered a member of the Board of Advisors and look forward to working with this team and making a valuable contribution to Open Hearts Big Dreams.”

We are so grateful to benefit from Beri's insights, and her support in helping us create culturally relevant books in Ethiopian languages for Habesha moms to share with their families.
Artist Spotlight: Gina Dacruz

Gina's bright illustrations fill the pages of one of our newest releases, Monkey See Monkey Do: Monkey Wants To Be Like You, as well as popular titles Chaos, We Love Hot Coffee and Not Ready. Her playful style captures the delight and simplicity of a child's eye view, with clear depictions that support emerging readers in developing vocabulary and engaging them in the story.

We asked Gina what inspired her to donate her time and talent to our books:
"I joined the project because first and foremost, I love to create art with meaning. I have enjoyed capturing the nuances of everyday life in Ethiopia- whether it's a donkey rolling the dirt to cool off or a coffee ceremony in a family home. Each time I travel to Ethiopia, I try to absorb the rhythms of daily life as much as possible. I hope my love for Ethiopia is conveyed in my colorful and playful work and that children of all ages can see themselves and their beauty in my illustrations."

Thank you for sharing your gifts with us, Gina! We are so grateful to have such talented volunteers working in support of OHBD' work. See more of Gina's work on Facebook or support her work on Etsy.
Artwork by Gina DaCruz
Volunteer Spotlight: Christian Abebe

Christian is one of our youngest and most gifted volunteers! Christian has been reading complex sentences since she was only 2 years old, and shares her passion for books on her YouTube channel, where she shares some of her favorite books. She recently read The Boy Who Never Gave Up in a charming video for our OHBD YouTube channel! This amazing first grader is already taking software programming classes, is designing her own video games and is eager to learn more. She's got a bright future ahead of her, and we're thrilled to already be a part of it!
Help Us Spread A Love Of Reading
  1. Do you have a favorite local library with curbside pickup? Ask them to carry our books! We have 100 beautiful, dual-language early readers to choose from and many more on the way! If you're in King County, Seattle Public library will soon have more of our new books available to pick up curbside, so you won't even have to get out of your car to get your book on.
  2. If you'd like a free book, you could read one for our YouTube Channel! Send us a message and we'll send you a book. Or if you're camera shy, you can subscribe to our channel and leave reviews for our books, or even help others discover them.
  3. You can help us raise funds without leaving your house! When you donate on Facebook or through our site, or dedicate Facebook (or other) birthday fundraisers to OHBD, you're helping us continue our work to increase literacy in Ethiopia and around the world.
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Open Hearts Big Dreams Fund · Editor - Anna Graham · 3518 241st Ave SE · Issaquah, WA 98029 · USA

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