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Ellenore’s Note!

     As I am preparing to launch my own consulting and public speaking business, I was thinking a lot about what I would like to help leaders and organizations accomplish.  I have always had a wide range of interests and talents which has made this type of focusing difficult.  My executive coach looked at my description on LinkedIn and assessed it was confusing.  I needed to focus on one or two things. 
     In my mind, I resisted.  But as she asked great probing questions about what I thought was the most valuable advice I could offer, some focus areas emerged around innovation and negotiation.  So, we went a little deeper.  What did those mean to me and what could I offer?  Innovation to me is simply trying new things or doing them in a way that hasn’t been done before with an eye towards achieving a big goal that may seem almost out of reach.  Negotiation is a topic I get asked to speak on a fair bit.  For me it is a part of most everything we all do each day.  I remember going back to find a good definition and there it was, “a discussion aimed at an agreement.” The words Innovation and Negotiation often instill a sense that only some people have these skills.  But what I want to share is that with practice and intention, everyone can use them to achieve great things.
     Our efforts with OHBD are a wonderful example.  We started with a big goal to create more opportunity for K-12 kids in Ethiopia focused on literacy, art and technology.  We have since added leadership.  We didn’t know what that would take.  We did know we needed to try new things because what had been done before had not had the impact we wanted.  We also knew we could not do it alone and would need support from all corners: individuals, institutions, small and large NGOs and businesses.  Getting this support from each group required “discussion aimed at an agreement” – in other words, negotiation.
     We started this journey in 2016 but the first year was mostly a paper one.  2017 was a year of experimentation, getting our official status, identifying projects and organizations to collaborate with, building a team, and starting serious fundraising efforts.  2018 was a big breakthrough year for us, we published 40 original Ready Set Go titles, launched our first Model Programs, started our Innovation Center pilots, and added to our leadership team.  2019 is all about building on these early successes and scaling them. 
     Again, we are relying on Innovation – trying new things experimenting with different ways to increase innovation in Ethiopia to create opportunities for young people that don’t exist now.  And consistently using Negotiation; we are in talks with a number of collaborating partners and potential ones that could catapult our efforts to the next level.  But this is a virtuous cycle that doesn’t end.  We continue to look for new and better ways to achieve our objectives as well as individuals and organizations that are willing and able to work with us. 
     Our trip to Denver and second year participating in Empower the Community event in DC in addition to our planned participation in Ethiopia Day in Seattle and hosting an Ethiopian New Year in Los Angeles are all efforts to identify both.  Creating opportunity for K-12 kids in Ethiopia, and increasing impact for value-based organizations with complementary missions, will continue to rely on innovation and negotiation.  Even with the depth of experience I gained in my multi-decade career, the learning continues every day.  And I am excited for what lies ahead.  Please let us know if you are aware of organizations or individuals you think we should reach out to in order to explore working together.
                                                                                                        ~ Ellenore      

Back in Colorado – Taste of Ethiopia Festival 2019, by Ellenore Angelidis

     Denver was home to me from age 5-18. My favorite parts of Denver are the glorious Rocky Mountains that always helped me know which way was west and the 300 days of sunshine that helped me remember the impossible is possible if you work at it. 
     We were excited to participate in Taste of Ethiopia Festival in Denver this year.  It is in its 7th year and draws huge crowds for its food, vendors, dancing and community building.  The governor of Colorado as well as senatorial candidates made the rounds this year.  With a large number of residents hailing from Ethiopia, it is a natural place for OHBD to expand our footprint too. We were thrilled to share our #ReadySetGo books with more from this community.  Some of them had already supported our efforts by participating in creating one of our books – Where are the Donkeys. And Laura Bond, a Denver local, traveled with us and helped pilot our writers' workshop in Addis.
     Again, we were blown away by the response.  The books were beloved and appreciated.  We met a number of potential collaborators from an Ethiopian Gift Shop to Ethiopian Airlines to a local school district to the Aurora Public library who expressed interest in working with us.  We met librarians from both the US and Ethiopia who shared how important these books are both for kids growing up in Ethiopia and for kids of Ethiopian origin growing up in the US.  (We also met technologists interested in volunteering for our train the trainer pilots.)  Many had ideas for new things to try – either stories to write or approaches to experiment with going forward. 
     As we follow up and explore, we will need to again use innovation and negotiation to build plans and partnerships to help achieve our bold goals.  It is always energizing to get that type of response which validates for me what we are doing reaches more than our primary audience, kids in Ethiopia, but also connects people across cultures and continents. 
     We are excited to continue the learning, connecting and exploration in Seattle next for Ethiopian Day and then Los Angeles to celebrate Ethiopian New Year.  We are also considering a trip to Minneapolis based on the suggestion of another great supporter.  Let us know if your city is ready to help us innovate and negotiate on behalf of deserving kids in Ethiopia. Forging onward!

The story behind the story of the book on Saint Yared, by Dr. Worku Mulat

     Jane has unparalleled expertise and gift in crafting children’s book out of a scratch. Through the RSG book Project, she implemented her gift and skills to develop amazing books suitable for children in Ethiopia. After I joined Open Hearts and Big Dreams Fund, I was introduced to Jane and her sister, Caroline, by Ellenore and started discussion on the success of the RSG book project. While the team was on target in reaching the milestones for book production for that year, Jane was very concerned by the lack of contribution by authors from Ethiopian origin. Her concern is palpable. Ethiopian authors can write from a different perspective and bring on the table culturally appropriate stories that might be welcomed by children.
     When Jane asked me to try my hand in writing a book, I was taken back to the time of my childhood in a fraction of a second. I vividly remembered the story of St Yared as told by my aging mother, Wudie Taddesse, by the side of the fire place. Although she neither reads nor writes, her story telling skill was so great that the tale has stuck in my mind to this day. According to the story, Yared was at the verge of quitting from school but took a lesson from a caterpillar climbing a tree after several attempts. Thanks to the perseverance of Yared, he composed the greatest music of all time and achieved sainthood status.
     I carefully drafted the book as told by my Mom and Jane polished it; so did her sister, Caroline. The next challenge was to find an artist who can skillfully draw illustrations for the book. By serendipity, I came to know Daniel Getahun and asked him if he could provide expert help. He gladly accepted and produced breathtaking illustrations in a short order and hence a book on young Yared was written.
     To sum up, the story behind the success of the book are the following: amazing story telling skill of my Mom, talented editorial work of Jane, and excellent illustrations of Daniel.                
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UPCOMING EVENT: "Ethiopia Day at Seward Park

Ethiopian and American – It is Possible, by Leyla Angelidis

     The Taste of Ethiopia was incredible.  I loved representing Open Hearts Big Dreams Fund and getting the chance to sell #ReadySetGo books to people who came to our booth by myself when my mom wasn’t there.   We were working together most of the time.  But when she needed to go somewhere else, like to get something from the car or go to the bathroom, I was in charge.
     A few things that happened really made my day special.  In the beginning of the afternoon, a guy taping a live Facebook feed came by and started reading one of our books.  He then asked me what the books were for. I told him we are creating early reader books for kids in Ethiopia.  I shared we have a goal of creating 80 by the end of 2019 and our overall goal of 200 books. But I also know we won’t stop when we achieve this.  There is always more to do to promote literacy.  He was very happy when he shook my hand vigorously.
     The next special moment came when a young girl came to our booth looking for a specific book she had seen someone with earlier.  She thought it was about a boy who didn’t give up and I knew just the book.  It is one of our newest about the legend of St. Yared with amazing illustrations.  But we couldn’t find a copy even though we looked and looked.  She was disappointed.  Then my mom checked the sample pile and found one last copy we had been saving to show people.  My mom said it was okay to sell it to this girl because she really wanted it.  The girl was so happy.  She paged through it immediately with a smile on her face.  When she walked away, she hugged the book to her chest.  It felt great I could help her and to see someone so excited about one of our books. Finally, we were tired and hot and just sitting at our table.  A boy came to our display and picked up a book and just started reading it.  He just stood there reading like the whole world disappeared.  I know that feeling because it is what I get when I read.
     I enjoyed being part of the Ethiopian community sharing its traditions with people from around the world.  It was really beautiful to see everyone enjoying and celebrating my birth country’s dancing, music and food in the city where my mom grew up.  The Taste of Ethiopia Festival made me feel like I could be Ethiopian AND American.

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

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