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Ellenore's note

Constant change at the pace we have been experiencing lately is HARD. I was starting to feel like a bit of normality was resuming as our state was slowing reopening; the protests were subsiding with folks moving onto action plans and next steps. Professionally, we were excited to make it to the short list for a US Embassy Grant to expand our coding-focused STEAM classes in Ethiopia and were working hard on submitting a compelling proposal. Personally, we were happily planning a fun family trip to Greece – Michael’s homeland – where we've been wanting to return for two years.

Then, COVID-19 numbers started surging upwards again in the United States. Europe closed its borders to Americans. Ethiopia suffered a tragic assassination which set off widespread protests, including senseless violence, destruction of property, and significant loss of innocent life. Internet access in Ethiopia was cut off.

I feel like just when I think I have a plan to make it through the next set of hurdles, someone keeps moving the goalposts (this mixed metaphor seems appropriate in these mixed-up days). But what I need to do next remains steady and is the one constant I hang onto for support: I need to ground myself in the reality that we all have very little control over this thing we call "Life." I need to reframe every new challenge as an opportunity to discover what is within my control and what is not. And I must remind myself that each and every time doors and windows close, others always open, if my eyes and mind are willing to see them.

I am now working through this process, which demands intense energy and focus. There are no short cuts. I consciously search for those new doors and windows while simultaneously working to regain my equilibrium in yet another "new normal".

One door I found still open. was the ability to use videos to share experiences and stories. We are growing our YouTube channel with volunteers from all over the world creating content to be enjoyed by kids and adults alike (more on this below). It’s a fun and joyful effort and reminds us how kids see the world.

Another door revealed itself in preparing for the US Embassy proposal, when we realized that to reach our goal of having gender-balanced STEAM classes, we needed more women instructors. With clear focus and well-defined goals, we were able to find talented female instructors to achieve over 50% representation.

A new window opened when a long-time supporter wanted to design and fund projects to support kids with disabilities in Ethiopia. This timely discussion added a new focus to the US Embassy Proposal, as well as highlighted new opportunities to support kids with disabilities with our Ready, Set, Go! bilingual early reader books and our STEM teaching manuals.

Each development that didn’t. or couldn’t go as we planned is a loss – many of them worthy of grieving and processing before moving forward. But when we are ready to see the new doors and windows opening ahead, we can enthusiastically embrace the next leg of a journey that I expect still has a few twists and turns to reveal in this tumultuous year. We are so grateful for our wonderful supporters who continue to believe in our efforts and generously give of their time, talent, and treasure.

You all are the biggest door that continues to remain open, making this work not only possible, but amazingly joyful. Your support is a powerful, positive counter-balance to much of the difficult news that we continue to see and hear. Thank you!

Author Spotlight: Chris Kurtz
by Chris Kurtz

My inspiration for What Do Animals Think About came from the artwork. The artists at Glory Art Works delivered a beautiful packet of animal pictures for the writing team to use. One of the pictures was a Colobus monkey who was looking straight into my eyes. It seemed to me that he was asking a question and I started wondering what that question might be. I decided he was thinking how nice it would be to have a conversation with a human.

There was also a picture of a donkey and her eyes were looking down. I wondered what a donkey might be considering. I also began to imagine, if I were a donkey, what would I think about? Donkeys work so hard and they always seem a little sad to me. So I wondered if she was wishing she was free. I looked at each wonderful piece of art and wrote down what each animal might be thinking about. And that's how I wrote the book What Do Animals Think About.

As a child, I spent hours and hours with my nose in a book. Reading is how I learned about the world, it is how I learned to think carefully about things, and it is how I learned about who I was. By writing books I hope to have a small part in giving those opportunities for learning to others.

Check Out the OHBD YouTube Channel!

Have kids at home? Check out our YouTube channel for entertaining, enriching and inspiring content from our friends and volunteers in Ethiopia, the USA, and around the world!

Our favorite videos are of volunteers reading our books, like Alice Mendoza when she read What Animals Do with fantastic translation in Amharic! If you'd like to make a video of you reading for us, we will send you a FREE book! Send us a message and we'll get the ball rolling.

We also upload videos about the work we do supporting innovation and STEAM education in East Africa. Topics include the importance of representation in tech,
 how our books are printed and distributed to schools and libraries in Ethiopia, and even an interview with founder Ellenore and daughter Leyla!
"Beauty of Hope" by Nahosenay Negussie
Artist Spotlight: Nahosenay Negussie

Nahosenay Negussie is an internationally renowned artist whose work has been featured in the National Museum of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa. His richly detailed paintings with gilded details, which have been compared to Gustav Klimt, animate the figures and patterns that he arranges in brilliant kaleidoscopic compositions.  

Nahosenay was part of the artists-and-writers group that traveled together in 2016 and brainstormed ideas for what would become Ready, Set, Go! Books. He helped lead a workshop for kids, organized by Ethiopia Reads, during which he and another Ethiopian artist told the kids some of the simple stories that author Jane Kurtz had written. The book Talk Talk Turtle, our first prototype, came out of that workshop.

We are privileged and honored to work with such a gifted artist. Nahosenay lives and works in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Wasi Seattle (left) and Leyla Angelidis (right)

Volunteer Spotlight: Wasi Seattle

Wasi Seattle has supported our efforts since we began in 2011, and is counted among our most supportive and dearest friends. He has recruited volunteers, shown up to nearly all our events, connected us with new supporters, shared our work, created videos, and even helped us with FUNDrives collecting used clothes and household items.

He is a valued voice and role model in the Seattle diaspora community and consistently devotes precious time and resources to help create more opportunities for kids in Ethiopia. He has also been an invaluable source of inspiration and guidance to Leyla in helping her reconnect with her birth language and culture during his visits. We are so grateful for Wasi’s continued trust and commitment. We couldn’t do our work without wonderful volunteers like him. Thank you, Wasi!!

You Can Help Us Increase Literacy!

  1. Know a kid who likes books? Give one of our Ready, Set, Go! books. Each purchase helps fund the creation, publication and distribution of more bilingual early readers. In addition to Amazon, you can find them on Wal-Mart, AbeBooks, Barnes & Noble – and now Book Wagon in India! Do you know a local book store or online shop that should feature #ReadySetGo books? Reach out and ask them if they carry us, or drop us a line and send us your suggestion!
  2. Create videos for our YouTube channel! Watching volunteers reading our books makes us so happy that we will send you a FREE book to read for us. Send us a message to learn more.
  3. Did you know that user reviews are one of the best ways to spread the word about our books? Tell the world what you love about them!
  4. Donate on Facebook or our site or set Open Hearts Big Dreams as your charitable organization on Amazon Smile – every dollar helps continue our work. 
Copyright © 2020 Open Hearts Big Dreams, All rights reserved.

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Open Hearts Big Dreams Fund · Editor - Anna Graham · 3518 241st Ave SE · Issaquah, WA 98029 · USA

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