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Open Hearts Big Dreams – Five Years into the Organizational Journey

Ellenore's Note

In 2016, I started the process of taking Open Hearts Big Dreams from the fundraising event we started in 2011 to a full-fledged not-for-profit. I was inspired by our amazing daughter and the opportunities we saw to contribute after funding and expanding a library in her birth-town of Bahir Dar (pictured on blog post on the site). That year was spent recruiting board members, filing state and federal paperwork, and planning the future of our organization. In 2017, we received our official status, had our first fundraising event, and by the end of the year we were publishing our first Ready Set Go Books. I wanted to share some amazing highlights from our five-year journey so far:

1. Global Impact: Created and published 331 bilingual books in 4 languages internationally (Amharic, Tigrinya, Afaan Oromo and now Somali) and 7 languages locally in Ethiopia (ones listed plus Dizin, Tembarsa, and Sidama), in digital, paperback and now hardcover formats. We are now one of the leading publishers of African language bilingual children’s books in the world! Our books are found in libraries in the US, EU, and Ethiopia, and are purchased and enjoyed by readers in Australia, India, Brazil, Japan, Germany, Mexico, and around the world.

2. Local Literacy: Printed and distributed over 130K copies of our Ready Set Go books in Ethiopia with support from Ethiopia Reads (heading to the Somali Region of the first time), WEEMA and others and are hoping to make that over 200K by the end of 2021! We launched our own local printing efforts in 2021 and have 20 titles in Amharic available in Addis with 20 more planned by year’s end. Our books have reached many regions within Ethiopia, and we continue to find ways to get our books into eager hands from cities to countrysides.

3. Collaboration: Funded a number of Model Programs including Ethiopia Reads local printing, Project Ethiopia’s transition to college scholarships, Lewabi’s first girls coding school, and the Read to Mom multi-generational literacy program with MDC.
4. Innovation: Built a Model Community library in Gondar with Link Ethiopia and a Model science building in Dangla with Project Ethiopia. We are finalizing our first teaching manuals in biology, physics, and chemistry based on the work of an award-winning local teacher and other scholars, with illustrations by OHBD staff.

5. Leadership: Taught Intro to HTML, Train-the-Trainer Computer Science in Bahir Dar and Jimma, and recently received a US Embassy small grant to pilot a Future Technical and Entrepreneurship Leadership training in Jimma, Dire Dawa, Bahir Dar (Addis and Mekelle when possible) through the American Corners.

6. Inclusion: Launched a the Mike Carr legacy project focused on creating more opportunities for kids with disabilities. We have published two books so far with more in progress and continue to gather research that will guide future Model Program grants.

Through it all we experimented and learned:

1. Collaboration Is Challenging But Worth It: Hundreds of volunteers and supporters of all kinds around the globe made those results possible as well as dozens of organizations including not-for-profits, tech companies, universities, community organizations, and more.

2. Setting Bold Goals and Working Backwards Works: We were anxious when we held our first board retreat and agreed on our ambitious plans without the earned experience to fully achieve them. But working backwards allowed us to develop skills and capacity beyond what we had even imagined then.

3. Inclusion Requires Focus to Increase Impact: Making sure all voices are heard at all levels of the organization and in all projects and content is so important. Yet, without constant focus it is not so easy to do consistently. Our new inclusion project allowed us to see and address a gap we had previously missed for kids with disabilities and to honor an amazing human. Feedback we receive allows us to continue to do better

4. Inventing Is Critical for Long Term Success: We have continually needed to rethink and restart through huge obstacles like a pandemic, where in-person events and travel was not possible, smaller dead-ends like projects that don’t progress as planned or support that didn’t come through.

We are beyond thrilled and grateful to see how so many Open Hearts have enabled BIG DREAMS in our first five years. With your support, we will do even more and dream bigger in the next five. Thank you!

Happy Father's Day From OHBD

We are grateful for all the devoted dads and those who provide a father figure to others, for the lessons you teach, for your patience and support. We hope you feel valued and celebrated every day. Here are some of our Ready, Set Go stories that celebrate dads. Available in Amharic, Tigrinya or Afaan Oromo (with English):
The Lost Sheep: How the Shepherd Loves Their Flock
The Lost Son: An Ethiopian Parable about Forgiveness
The Boy Who Never Gave Up
One Big Job: An Ethiopian Teret
Surprise On Lake Tana: An Ethiopian Adventure
A Story Of Hope: The Incredible Story of Malik Ambar
Trouble: An Ethiopian Trading Adventure
We Love Our Libraries

Huge thanks to Denver Public Library for adding Somali, Amharic, and Tigrinya Ready Set Go books to their World Languages Collection! We are so grateful to all the libraries who carry our books. Know of a library that could use Ethiopian language early readers? Connect us!
Facebook Fundraisers Support OHBD Projects

Thank you to everyone who supported Leyla’s birthday and Tigist’s books fundraisers! Together we raised over $3300, which will pay for over 1600 locally printed books! It's free and simple to run your own Facebook birthday or goal-oriented fundraiser to benefit Open Hearts Big Dreams. Facebook covers the fees so more goes to our projects. Also, you can ask if your employer offers matching funds, and double your impact!
Somali Language Titles Now Available

We now have 10 Somali language titles available (with English)! We are excited Ethiopia Reads will be distributing these bilingual early readers to the Somali region of Ethiopia for the first time, and we're working on get more titles for our Somali language readers. Find your copies here:
We Run
Little Lion
The Great Rift Valley Lakes
The Happiest Herder In The Land
The Busy Little Bee
The Greedy Bird
Eggs And Chickens
Where Do Dreams Grow?
Where Is My Pencil?
Subscribe to the OHBD YouTube Channel

Our YouTube channel is a great place to discover our books. We have dozens of videos of amazing volunteers reading our bilingual early readers in English, Amharic, and Tigrinya, and a new playlist of Jane’s shorts about RSG Books! Jane made a movie about what inspires her to support literacy in Ethiopia. And check out our new volunteer reader Naomi Abebaw reading Count For Me in English. Would you like to read for our channel? We will send you a FREE BOOK to read for us! And be sure to subscribe to the channel and share with those who might be interested, to support our work!
How You Can Help Support Literacy!
  1. When you shop Amazon, use Amazon Smile and select Open Hearts Big Dreams Fund as your charity. A portion of your purchase will come to us at no additional cost to you!
  2. Leave reviews for our Ready Set Go Books on Amazon so more readers can find our books.
  3. Ask your school, library, or local bookstore to carry our bilingual books, available in Amharic, Tigrinya, Afaan Oromo and Somali (with English).
Copyright © 2021 Open Hearts Big Dreams

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

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