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Ellenore's Note

During this global pandemic, many of us have additional time to reflect. We are reminded how little control we have over what happens in our world. And we are also reminded that despite this harsh reality, we retain the ability to choose our response. One of the most impactful books I ever read, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl, highlights that people’s ultimate freedom lies in this ability.

Last month, we shared our OHBD 2020 goals and they remain unchanged, however our ability to meet them is challenged unless we make immediate adjustments. Most of our ongoing funding comes from in-person efforts like community dinners, festivals, and events, as well as book sales through Amazon, to libraries and schools, and to those traveling to Ethiopia. We cannot conduct live events for the foreseeable future. Libraries and schools are closed. Travel is limited plus many folks don’t have the available resources for optional purchases such as books.

Nevertheless, we have the unique and precious opportunity to be of service and identify new opportunities -- if we are open to both. So, we at OHBD choose to be a part of the solution during these challenging times. Our team has come up with ideas to help parents who are home schooling and collect additional art for future #ReadySetGo books.

Please join us by sharing with your networks, and let us know if you can identify any other opportunities:
1. $1.99 for ALL Kindle titles: We’ve dropped the cost of our Kindle books available (over 89 unique titles; more published each month) to the lowest price possible, per Amazon, $1.99 each (previously $6.99 and $7.99). Our 3-in-1 compilations are $2.99 (effectively .99 per title; previously $9.99). We will still offer our usual FREE Kindle books each Friday/Saturday and in a new promotion, we will now discount the print version of the same title by 30%.

2. First RSG Art Contest: Fun for kids of all ages, this is an opportunity to learn about Ethiopia, create art for our RSG books, and help home schooling parents. Our first annual art contest is now in progess.

3. FREE Coloring and Activity Pages: We've produced FREE coloring and activity sheets featuring illustrations from our RSG books to download and print at home. Download each file individually by opening and saving it to your computer or all of them in a .zip file by clicking the Download button in the upper right hand corner. We recommend using your computer’s native zip opening application.

4. At-home STEM training: We're sharing some of the ReadySetGo STEM teaching manuals we have in progress via social media. Conducting the experiments at home is another way to enhance learning.

We are also hearing about great things being done with our books and are happy to support similar efforts:
1. Schools creating RSG reading videos: Monarch Academy, which created The Busy Little Bee with us is planning to record people reading our books and share within the district.

2. OneVibe / RSG reading videos: Simon Okelo, founder of OneVibe Africa, is creating a YouTube channel with videos of himself reading some of our books to share with his followers.We will also share once available.

3. Habesha mothers reading time: Habesha Mamas, the largest global network of mothers who identify as Habesha, did three weeks of daily reading time, sponsored by Almaz + Co. Leyla and I read some RSG books as part of that effort. We are considering whether OHBD could support a twice-a-week effort going forward.

4. Supporters and illustrators reading videos: Gina DeCruz, an illustrator of a few of our books, is reading them to her students and sharing via YouTube videos; others have also volunteered to do the same.

We appreciate the generous support of our global community and wish everyone well as we all adjust to a new normal. We will get through this together.

OHBD Funds a New Science Lab Classroom in Dangla

The final work of installing the ceiling of our new STEM classroom in Dangla in collaboration with Project Ethiopia was finished last week and the science lab is now fully complete! Thanks to Ato Tewabe and Workineh for photos of the beautiful new learning space. We can't wait to see pictures of it filled with curious students!


We are also working on publishing teacher manuals based on the award-winning work of Ato Tewabe for physics, chemistry and biology. We are painstakingly turning his hand-drawn illustrations of chemistry and physics experiments into digital graphics. Many of his experiements are designed to be performed with simple household objects like plastic cups and aluminum foil, yet demonstrate complex scientific phenomena and concepts.
 

This facility will be an amazing resource for learning and instruction in Dangla and beyond. We are hopeful that students will be able to use it this year, but like many countries during this pandemic. schools are closed until further notice. 

New STEM classroom in Dangla

OHBD Innovation Center Proposed STEM Projects
by Dr. Worku Mulat

Since 2018, Open Hearts Big Dreams has been testing several model projects focused on increasing innovation in different regions of Ethiopia. The lessons we learned from each model project guide us in identifying game changing projects. This approach improves the efficiency and financial resource utilization.

At the end of 2019, candidate projects were evaluated for their problem-solving and impact potential and a number are now running using OHBD resources. The three considered to have the greatest return for investment are awaiting funding in order to scale. These unfunded STEM projects are Ethiopian Space Science, Girls Can Code and a digital platform to launch online training.

Ethiopian Space Science and Technology Institute (ESSTI)

Open Hearts Big Dreams initiated a collaborative project with Ethiopian Space Science and Technology Institute (ESSTI) and the School Network of Astronomy and Space Science Project (SNASSP), which is primarily aimed at creating a model network of schools focused on a comprehensive outreach program that can inspire and attract as many school students as possible, especially girls. The other objective of the partnership is to develop the next-generation scientific community who are attracted to science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) by incorporating astronomy as an added benefit under the school network.

Girls Can Code (GCC) Project

Globally, there is a trend toward encouraging more women to attend university. The situation in Ethiopia, however, is different since women make up only 27% of the university population, a quarter of whom will drop out before graduation

Open Hearts Big Dreams aspires to change this unfavorable trend in Ethiopia. We are reviewing accessible social and academic resources locally and globally with the goal of presenting girls, as well as boys, better future prospects. Local universities and communities where students live, play, and learn are the most important resources to implement growth of the current Girls Can Code projects.  We are looking for financial supporters to help us make this a reality.

Digital Platform Project

The sub-Saharan Africa education system is broken. Limited educational facilities and work opportunities leave the majority undereducated and unemployed. And a big challenge lies ahead as this young segment of society is expected to double to 830 million people by 2050.

Brick & mortar educational facilities segregate young people based on their location, economic status, and political affiliation. This opportunity gap can be addressed by providing an online platform and training infrastructure. Open Hearts Big Dreams launched a very successful online training model project last year using Skype and we've developed a proposal to implement a digital platform that has the functionality to deliver content to students in Ethiopia. We are looking for leaders to fund this work to help us take it to the next level.

The above, unfunded STEM projects could be game changers in closing the educational opportunity gap in Ethiopia. Ethiopians in the diaspora and friends of Ethiopia, are invited to support these projects financially or by engaging in our volunteer programs.


Artist Spotlight: Alex Regassa
 
Alex Regassa is an Ethiopian artist whose vibrant paintings combine bright hues and African patterns to create detailed and lively illustrations.

Alex was inspired by OHBD's dedication to increasing literacy among Ethiopian children, many of whom are in desperate need of books in the various indigenous languages. He was particularly moved by founder Ellenore, author sisters Jane and Caroline Kurtz, and volunteer Laura Bond. He calls himself lucky to be able to work for the benefit of the children of Ethiopia alongside such passionate and energetic people. He hopes to bring a library to his town, Bishoftu.

Alex's colorful illustrations appear in
The Lost Sheep, The Lost Sonand A Welcome In Axum.
Update on New Books for 2020
by Jane Kurtz
 
The Ready Set Go Creative team has had beautiful support from continuing education watercolor students in Clark County, Washington. Early in 2020, Ellenore, Leyla, and Jane held a reception in Vancouver, WA to honor their efforts and display the charming books that were the result of their efforts, including some recent books, Beautiful Hair, Walls, and Work. This art connection came about through Katie Bradley, a student and more recently a teacher of the Clark County classes, whose daughter--born in Harar, Ethiopia, helped with the reception from set-up to clean-up. Some talented young illustrators who created the art for What Do Animals Think About? attended the reception and had a chance to meet the writer who contributed the text for that Ready Set Go book, Chris Kurtz, author of the popular middle-grade novel, Adventures of a South Pole Pig (Harcourt Houghton Mifflin).


 

Ready Set Go Books has always been a team effort between Ethiopians and Americans, a partnership really blossoming by the early months of 2020. For example, Dr. Worku Mulat, who lives in Seattle, wrote a nonfiction text for a book featuring the important and endangered baobab tree, The Tree of Life. Eyayu Genet, an art teacher and artist who lives in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, provided illustrations for Surprise on Lake Tana, written by Leyla Angelidis (who was born in Bahir Dar), and her mom, Ellenore. In 2019, Frehiwot Addis attended an art workshop in Adama, Ethiopia as part of the spring trip by Open Hearts Big Dreams team members. Inspired by what she heard there, she wrote and illustrated the new Ready Set Go book, I Can Help.
 
Early in her career, author Jane Kurtz had a picture book published by Harcourt that was inspired by an Ethiopian folktale about the popular children’s game, gebeta (often called mancala in the U.S.). A young reviewer at the time wrote, “If you want to read a story where the adults don’t win, this is the book for you.” Thanks to the generous donation of both art and text, that book is now back in print through Ready Set Go Books -- a perfect opportunity to brush up on the rules of the game for a family or classroom read-and-play experience.

The Ready Set Go team has started to work on some basic science books which have proved challenging to translate in a compelling, child-friendly way, but the first (illustrated by elders at Africa House in Portland) is now out: Thank You, PlantsI Hide uses traditional banana leaf art for illustrations and its author, Elizabeth Spor Taylor (who won the “work with Jane” auction package at the 2018 Gala) also wrote Near the Acacia Tree with student illustrations. Stephanie Schlatter allowed the creative team to use paintings she created onsite in Maji for the majestic and lyrical Let's Go To Maji. And the team was able to put together enough paintings to finally do justice to the historic and holy city, Lalibela.
Art contest | Coloring pages

You Can Help Us Increase Literacy In Ethiopia!

Most of our fundraising comes in the form of in-person events like our Sips & Songs or Gala, Ethiopian community festivals and books sales to camps and libraries.  In these challenging times, we must rely on virtual funding to help make up the gap and we could use your help in any of the following ways:
  1. Participate in Give Big on May 5-6 by giving or by running a fundraiser yourself to encourage your community to give. OHBD has the chance to receive $5000 in matching funds.
  2. Shop our Facebook Fundraiser containing lots of great items including discounted Ready Set Go books, a limited-edition Black Panther doll set, and resources for those home schooling.
  3. Create a video reading one of our books and share it with us.
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Open Hearts Big Dreams Fund · Editor - Anna Graham · 3518 241st Ave SE · Issaquah, WA 98029 · USA

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