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The balancing act required during a global pandemic is like
crossing the suspension bridge near the Blue Nile Falls

Ellenore’s note

Managing any organization through a pandemic presents both unique challenges as well as hidden opportunities, if you are paying attention. With all the pivoting and adjusting come both losses and learning.

We made the tough but obvious decision to cancel our in-person Sips & Songs for Literacy event scheduled for June. Not getting together to share our progress and celebrate all our amazing volunteers and supporters was a big loss. And for Leyla, who loves to dance, she will be disappointed to miss an opportunity to dance the night away.

After the event was canceled, I needed to think through, “Now what?” We rely on that funding to continue our work. Creating books requires funds to pay designers, translators, production and messaging teams. We have amazing volunteer writers and illustrators who donate their time and talents; otherwise, publishing would be cost prohibitive. But there are still significant costs.

We did what you must do in times of crisis. We focused on what we could do rather than what we couldn’t. In-person fundraising wasn't possible, so we turned online starting with GiveBIG, a local fundraising effort in early May. Facebook offers birthday fundraisers that can be run by supporters and we have used our Facebook page for auctions. Then we used the tried and true formula: “Set big goals and ask for help”.

Jane Kurtz, our creative lead, recently ran a Facebook birthday fundraiser and received more than double her goal of $1000. OHBD ran our largest Facebook auction with almost 300 items. Over 60 supporters helped us reach our largest total to date of $2300 toward a goal of $2000. For GiveBIG, we set out to establish matching funds to increase the giving impact on the event days, as well as overall. We reached out to traditional sponsors of our Sips & Songs event as well as long-time supporters, including Board members. The speed with which we had commitments for our $5K match was inspiring! Finally, we planned our outreach for the week before and day of, which yielded another $1K in matching funds and the full $6K in matches. Together, our GiveBIG efforts raised over $12K, exceeding our goal of $10K!

There were more things that were possible. We could inspire young artists and help parents with a project to occupy kids looking for a creative outlet? Our production lead, Kate, had the wonderful idea to create an art contest that would engage kids at home and introduce OHBD to more people. Our art contest brought in efforts from some talented artists and new supporters. Read more about our seven-year-old winner, Lucy, below.

Another thing that was still possible was making our books available to more kids around the globe. So, we dropped our Kindle pricing to the lowest allowed, at $1.99/title, something we had meant to do for some time. With a different lens, we made it a priority. As a result, we saw increased Kindle sales over the last two months reaching countries as far away as India, Brazil, and Japan.

We know there is a long road ahead for all of us, but given the bright spots we are seeing worldwide, including the wonderfully generous support we observe among our global community, we are hopeful. We are truly all in this together, both the pandemic, and the future beyond it. We can get to the other side with a lot of learning and a renewed determination to make opportunities more equitable. Thank you all for being a part of this amazing journey!

Ready Set Go STEM Book Project
By Dr. Worku Mulat

Access to STEM books is a major enabling factor in creating a culture of innovation among Ethiopian youth. In primary and secondary schools, books are not only in short supply but often completely absent. The innovation wing of OHBD set out to fill in this gap and contacted the Project Manager of Books for Africa, here in the United States.

Erin Yates consulted with her warehouse staff regarding stocks, but found only technology and engineering books at the university level. The limited supply is due to the fact that even in the US, STEM curricula is not developed enough to drive donations of such books at the present primary levels. 

Suppose the STEM books were available and donated to OHBD by Books for Africa? The shipment cost is still quite prohibitive: a 40-foot container holding approximately 22,000 books would cost about $15,000 to ship to Ethiopia.

Moreover, these books are developed based on the US curriculum and likely do not match the school curriculum in Ethiopia. Given these challenges, OHBD looked for other options to support STEM in K-12. We saw our unique publishing capabilities, developed by creating nearly 100 nearly readers, as a way to launch a Ready, Set, Go! STEM book production project towards the end of 2019.

In the pilot project, OHBD started a collaboration with a talented middle school teacher who won a gold medal from the Prime Minister of Ethiopia for his creativity in STEM education. Tewabe shared his life’s work in chemistry, biology and physics based on years of teaching and experiments. The OHBD team met Tewabe in Ethiopia in 2019 and also funded his first science classroom with Project Ethiopia. As shared previously, Tewabe uses locally available and discarded materials to demonstrate scientific principles in the area of physics, chemistry and biology. His jet propulsion experiment, for instance, requires only a small amount of ethanol, discarded plastic bottles, and a launching pad made of cardboard.

The English version of the three Ready, Set, Go! STEM manuals have already been drafted, edited, and are almost finalized. Three volunteers are translating these manuals into Amharic and are nearing completion. Once finished, we will send the three manuals for review to Ethiopian middle and high school teachers to validate language clarity, content, and translation consistency. This is a unique opportunity for Ethiopian teachers because they can exchange scientific culture with their counterparts in the United States. OHBD made its own contributions by engaging a talented team member, Anna, who holds a degree in physics and is also a math teacher, to create colorful, engaging illustrations for each STEM book. This will encourage Ethiopian artists to use their skills in promoting science among students and teachers, making the material more valuable and easier to use.

If successful, this RSG STEM book project can serve as an OHBD Model Project with huge potential to be implemented throughout the primary and secondary STEM training ecosystem. We plan to reach out to the Ministry of Education when the time is right to maximize distribution and impact. We can also use the model we developed with Ethiopia Reads with our early readers to create local printing and distribution for these manuals. We are thrilled to have this opportunity to continue to publish new books and increase innovation and STEM learning in Ethiopia.
Artist Spotlight: Lizzie Iwicki

Lizzie is the talented author/illustrator of The Happiest Herder In The Land, a charming story based on the legend describing the discovery of the coffee plant in Ethiopia. We asked her about what inspired her to help us create this book:

"I was inspired to make the art for my Ready, Set, Go! book because I wanted to be the one to make the story come to life. I already knew that I was writing about the Ethiopian legend of the discovery of coffee and immediately had a clear idea of how to convey the story through images. I had taken art classes throughout high school and was very excited about the challenge of creating art that would appeal to and inspire children. Being a part of the Ready, Set, Go! book project has been one of my most enlightening and fulfilling experiences to-date, and I look forward to seeing this project continue to grow. There is nothing better than knowing that my creation has been a tool for children to learn and enjoy the process of reading."

Check out Lizzie's book, The Happiest Herder, on Amazon!
Lizzie reads her book The Happiest Herder In The Land

We are looking for volunteers to read our books on video for us to upload to our YouTube channel! Just send us a message and we will send you a book. Then record yourself reading it and send us back the video, and we'll upload it for kids to listen along with at home. Your video could help a child learn to love to read or learn more about Ethiopia! We are so grateful to Lizzie, Iftu, and her mom Steph for their wonderful videos. Thank you so much for bringing our words to life!
Iftu reads What Do You Know?

We are so proud of our huge library of titles, which grows most every month! We began offering our bilingual early readers in Amharic and English, then added Tigrinya and Afaan Oromo. To date we have almost 100 titles, all of which are available in Amharic, about 3/4 of which are available in Tigrinya and more than half in Afaan Oromo (pictured above). We are continuing to translate our catalogue with the goal of offering all titles in all three languages, and we are busy recruiting more translators to help us expand into even more languages including Somali and Kiswahili! Follow our Amazon page to stay up to date with the latest news!
Congratulations Lucy, Winner of OHBD's First Art Contest!

Lucy was one of several talented kids who entered our first ever art contest. She painted this portrait of her sister Eve as her entry, and she had this to say about why she entered:"

I joined in this contest because I wanted to share about Ethiopia and about hair braiding. It feels good to win but also I like art and Ethiopia! I think everybody is a good artist!"

Lucy's prize is a $25 Amazon gift card and four books of her choice! She chose:

Little Lion; The Runaway Injera; The Lost Son; Beautiful Hair Congratulations, Lucy! Thank you for sharing your creative talents with us!

Reading Our Book At Read-a-Rama
by Ellenore Angelidis

Leyla and I had the privilege of reading the book we wrote together, Surprise on Lake Tana, which is based on a true story and illustrated by Eyayu Genet, at a Read-a-Rama Storytime. “Read-a-Rama® programming began in 2001 as an outreach project for the Children’s Literature classes of Dr. Michelle H. Martin, then English faculty at Clemson University in Clemson, South Carolina. Read-a-Rama® programs use children’s and young adult books as the springboard for all fully-engaged programming activities and teach kids to “live books.” In 2009, Dr. Martin teamed up with Dr. Rachelle D. Washington, then a member of the education faculty at Clemson, and they created Camp Read-a-Rama®, day camps that offer week-long fun, themed literacy immersion experiences. In the fall of 2016, Dr. Martin became the Beverly Cleary Professor for Children and Youth Services at the University of Washington in Seattle, where Read-a-Rama® is now putting down roots. Plans are underway to establish Read-a-Rama® as a nationwide program that will help rid the U.S. of illiteracy one child and one book at a time.

We were invited to Read-a-Rama® by Dr. Martin whom I know after reading my previous children’s book, The Loud Prince, at one of her reading camps in Seattle a few years back. This time we were also introduced to Dr. Rachelle D. Washington. Kids from around the US participated, including a number who were originally from Ethiopia. They were enthusiastic and wanted more stories so we also read What Do Animals Think About (written by Chris Kurtz pictured below) and Big Plans. Dr. Martin and Dr. Washington are amazing hosts; engaging the kids with songs and dances throughout. The session ended with a messy craft of homemade play dough that the kids were encouraged to use to create stories. We are looking forward to planning additional collaborations with Read-a-Rama® .

Calls To Action: You Can Help Support Literacy In Ethiopia!
  1. Give our books as gifts. Know some kids at home who like to read or be read to? We have many titles to choose from on subjects ranging from insects to Ethiopian history and everything in between. Each book purchased helps fund creating, publishing and distributing more #ReadySetGo books
  2. Do you know an established or aspiring artist? We are always on the lookout for creative kids and adults to share their gifts with us to feature in our books. Volunteer artists who create original artwork or give us permission to use existing art are our primary sources of illustration. Contact us today!
  3. Sign up for monthly giving.  Even $5 a month makes a real positive impact!
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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