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Lessons Learned from Empower Community Weekend 2021

Leyla and I were thrilled to attend the Empower Community Weekend in Washington DC hosted by the Helen Show in person this year. We had an inspiring day sharing our books with new and existing supporters. We heard from amazing panelists and hosts, attendees, and fellow vendors. A couple of key themes were repeated which really resonated with me.

The importance of education. Oballa Oballa shared his quest to gain an education once he came to the United States. The lengths he went to were inspiring and led to his role as a council member in Austin, Minnesota. We talked with Oballa after his panel about the need to get our Ready Set Go books into the community he serves in Minnesota, and the community where he grew up in Gambella, Ethiopia. We are excited to explore both together because we know literacy is the first gate to the power that education unlocks for kids and youth. Oballa is a great reminder of what is possible.

The power of getting communities engaged.  Helen led deep and meaningful discussions on topics like civic engagement and mental health. Hannah Joy Gebresilassie moderated a great session of young trailblazers to close out the day. Many talked about the broad and diverse community support they received to achieve their goals. Our efforts are similarly made possible by community engagement at all levels, in the United States, in Ethiopia, and globally. We met amazing entrepreneurs among our fellow vendors -- some of whom we are already working with the Afro Reads app. Others we met for the first time and are exploring how we best support each other after exchanging goals and missions.

The need to represent everyone.  Our DC leader, Meseret Tekle, joined us all day at the event. She also co-authored with me our first Mike Carr Legacy project book, entitled Sign to Me, featuring the true story of a hearing-impaired boy who was also a family friend. Another family whose members include several hearing-impaired individuals shared with us how much it meant to them to see themselves represented in this ReadySetGo book illustrated by Eyayu Genet. The look of joy and belonging is one that said more than any words could.

We are often asked how we accomplished all we have in the short amount of time we have been an organization. And the answer is a combination of all three of the themes above. We focus on education and are constantly seeking to educate ourselves by learning innovative approaches and lessons. Our community of engaged supporters continues to grow and step up in big and small ways. They inspire others, creating beautiful ripples of impact and growth. We are tapping into the power of representation for all in the community. And each time we extend our reach, we bring along more people to help us. We do so through the diverse stories we tell as well as the languages into which we continue to expand. Somali was recently added, and we are working on others. Stay tuned.

Thank you to the entire team at the Helen Show for a beautiful, inspiring, and impactful event. We are thrilled to be part of your community and to have you as a part of ours. We are in this together, creating more opportunities and spreading the power of books and literacy.

Ready, Set, Go Books Reach Somali Region

Thanks to the dedicated efforts of Ethiopia Reads, our Somali-language Ready, Set, Go Books were printed and distributed in the Somali region of Ethiopia! They also trained local educators to use our bilingual titles most effectively. We are honored and excited to see our books reach diverse communities across Ethiopia and throughout the international diaspora. We depend on incredible collaborating organizations like Ethiopia Reads to help us achieve our ambitious literacy goals, and we're grateful to work with such passionate and effective teams. Do you know an organization in Ethiopia that could help us get more books to more readers? Contact us!
Two New Book Releases: Monkey In The City and Big Hunt For Little Lion

We published two sweet new titles based on curious, independent little animals who get into mischief this month. Young readers will identify with the impulsive shenanigans these characters stumble into, as well as the patient forgiveness or creative problem-solving that helps them learn from their mistakes.

Monkey In the City When a curious urban monkey snatches a little girl’s umbrella, she must use her wits to outsmart it and get her umbrella back. But first she must find it! Follow her through the vibrant city streets and colorful markets of Ethiopia as she tracks down the thief and figures out how to trick it into returning her yellow umbrella. Thank you to author Laura Bond and illustrator Alex Regassa for sharing your talents with kids everywhere!

A Big Hunt For Little Lion  Little Lion is eager to join mama lion on their hunt! But he doesn’t want to wait until night and sets off to hunt on his own. Instead of a tasty meal, little lion encounters stinging bees, poky porcupines and stinky gorillas! Will poor little lion get tired of “hunting” before it’s time to go with mama? Thank you to the LaPorte family for this sequel to the popular Little Lion and for your continued support of Ready, Set, Go book creation (as well as local printing!)
New Read To Me Videos in Amharic on the OHBD Channel!
We are so grateful to OHBD Board Member and Amharic teacher Bethelehem Tsegaye for the fantastic new Read To Me videos in Amharic! She read three books for the OHBD YouTube Channel, with helpful videos that show you where you are in the text as she reads. Check them out here:
The Runaway Injera

We love these Read To Me videos so much that we will send you a FREE book if you'll record yourself reading it for our channel! Contact us for more details! And if you're interested in learning Amharic, check out Bethelehem's Instagram account @mar_ena_wotetay for details on Amharic lessons!

We also have videos from our recent Empower Community Weekend in DC and interviews with some of the amazing volunteers who help us turn big dreams into reality. You can help support us simply by subscribing to our channel! Once we hit 1,000 subscribers, we can earn income from our videos to support our literacy projects.
Celebrating and Conserving Unique Ethiopian Animals Through Books

Author Jane Kurtz has written many Ready, Set, Go books about the unique animals who call Ethiopia home. From the Ethiopian wolf to the wild donkey, there are thirty-one mammals that are found only in Ethiopia. Many of them once roamed Africa in large numbers, but deforestation and other human-driven activities have reduced many of these species to an endangered level.

Efforts to preserve these rare birds and animals include educating young herders to watch for ground nests and working to discourage poaching of endangered predators like the black-maned lion and the Ethiopian wolf. We've published several books about these beautiful creatures to communicate how special they are and why it's so important to protect them and the habitats they depend on to survive. Read Jane's perspective about it on the blog.
Several new Somali titles and more on the way!
We already have a number of our titles available in Somali and more are in the process of translation. We aim to publish our books in more of the major languages of Ethiopia, like Somali, which is the primary language of the Somali region of southeastern Ethiopia. Check out some of our favorites:
The Great Rift Valley Lakes
Where Do Dreams Grow?
Where Is My Pencil?
You Can Help Us Support Literacy!
  1. Donate your birthday on Facebook. Just select Open Hearts Big Dreams Fund as your designated charity and Facebook will cover the fees! Every $100 means 50 more books donated in Ethiopia.
  2. Buy a book for yourself or a gift. Follow our Author Page and hear about all our exciting new titles.
  3. Write a post for the OHBD blog on your favorite Ready Set Go Book, like Phoben did with her favorite book The Lost Son.
Copyright © 2021 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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