A Whirlwind…

Let me apologize, once again, for the delay in posting. It’s been over a month since my last post – unacceptable – I’ll try to do better this month. Below, I’ve listed a few highlights and thoughts from my experiences over the last month. While they may be a bit scattered, I hope you find some of them interesting.


Cherokee Exchange Program

Biniyam Assefa, Briana Harper and I spent nearly every waking moment in March attempting to select our final list of CEP candidates for the class of 2009/10. Cherokee Exchange Program works through the Ministry of Education in Ethiopia to identify government schools from which to select the top 11th grade students to participate in our year abroad exchange program. This year, the Ministry of Education directed us to work from government schools in Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa and Harar.

CEP students live with an American host family and study at an American high school, before spending the summer as a camp counselor at various YMCA camps throughout North Carolina. Upon completion of the year program, CEP students return to Ethiopia where they complete the 12th grade and take the National Exam – to determine which colleges in Ethiopia they are qualified to attend.

This year’s class will be our third CEP class, and we are anticipating placing between 10 and 20 students with American host families. The selection process has allowed me to know Ethiopia, and its young leaders, in a way I otherwise would not have had an opportunity to experience. I must say, after reading countless applications (we accepted over 450 applications from 14 schools) and conducting over 80 interviews I feel blessed to have had this experience.

Ethiopia, at times, can be an overwhelming place if you forget to focus on the people who are doing the small things. Many of the students who applied to CEP’s class of 2008/09 are doing the small things, and they certainly give me hope and confidence in Ethiopia’s future. For instance, scores of them participate in community and school based anti-HIV clubs that raise awareness. Others participate in environmental clubs that plant trees and host community clean-ups.

All the more impressive were the personal stories. One student lived with his aging grandmother (both his parents passed away some years ago), worked after school to earn a minimal income to support himself and his grandmother, and still managed to be among the top 20 students in his class. His belief in hard work and industriousness were impressive; he had that rare desire to improve his lot in life, and that of his family, against all odds.

Another, one of the most impressive young people I have met in my life, grew up in a rural village in northern Ethiopia. It was so rural that school was not even an option for her. Her mother, therefore, sent her to live with her aunt’s family in Addis, where she would have an opportunity at education. And seize the opportunity she did. Her confidence and passion is inspiring, and her English perfect. Private schools here in Addis held a ‘Model United Nations’ forum earlier this year – she was the first and only government school student to participate.

From what I was told by teachers who were present, she absolutely stood out in her diplomatic representation of Bangladesh (if my memory serves me correctly, that is the country she was expected to represent). They say the entire audience stood to applaud her performance – after interviewing her, I do not doubt that for a second. She even took the initiative to bring a model of this program back to her school, where she got other students involved and provided them an opportunity to participate in an activity dear to her heart.

In the closing minutes of our interview, I asked her what she wanted for her future. Without hesitating, she declared that wanted to participate in Ethiopian politics – especially she desired the opportunity to be a diplomat of Ethiopia. This is a rare career choice among Ethiopian students – most want to be doctors, engineers and the like. She is not afraid of the unknown or unpopular however, and I cannot wait to see the work she will do for her country – there could not be a better representative.

*Names of the CEP students were not provided because the final list of students placed with host families, and thus who will participate in the CEP Class of 2009/10, has yet to be released.

For further information on Cherokee Exchange Program, please visit www.cherokeexchangeprogram.com


Soap – from Goats, Now Available in Ethiopia

I believe I have mentioned Salem’s Design in a previous post entitled, ‘Salem, Quite the Entrepreneur’. Well, she continues to add products to her already impressive lines – concentrated mainly around traditionally woven scarves and blankets as well as jewelry made from beads native to Ethiopia and other African countries. Last month, with help from Angela Correll and another member of the Correll family, Greg Correll, she produced her first batch of goat milk soap.

Goats are no rare commodity in Ethiopia – and it’s inspiring to see that now there will hopefully be a demand for something besides their meat and hides. Moreover, this project will create jobs in a country that is in dire need of them. The Correll’s learned the process of converting goat milk into soap after experimenting with goats on their farm in Kentucky – Plainview Farm. Now, they sell the soap at Kentucky Soaps and Such, based in Stafford, Kentucy. Also, the soap can be found online at www.plainviewsoaps.com.

If you are in Ethiopia, Salem’s Design store is located just past Edna Mall. Take a left at Genet Kitfo (just opposite of the FedEx building), the store is marked by a large green gate with a yellow ‘S’ and will be on the left side of the street. Salem can be reached at salemk@ethionet.et or salemsdesigns@gmail.com.


Mozambique – A Brief Geographical and Environmental Comparison to Ethiopia

Just last week I was fortunate enough to slip off to Mozambique for a week vacation to visit a friend volunteering in the Peace Corps. It was quite an enjoyable trip, and interesting to compare and contrast Mozambique to Ethiopia. That’s a hard thing to do in only a week’s time; however, I cannot help but comment on the environmental and geographical differences.

Mozambique, as I’m sure many of you are aware, does not share the mountainous terrain of Ethiopia. Ethiopia is considered the ‘ceiling of Africa,’ as hardly any other country on the continent has comparable highlands. Though the mountains are beautiful, provide an escape from lowland diseases, such as malaria, and heat, they are now nearly completely deforested. The deforestation of the Ethiopian highlands, and country in general (in the 1970s forest covered nearly 27% of the landscape, today that figure hovers below 4%), leads to rapid soil degradation and erosion – which leads to further deforestation as farmers search for arable land.

As we bumped along in a chappa (what Mozambicans call mini-buses) from Maputo east towards Chibuto, I could not help but notice there were actually forests in the distance, and older growth trees dotted the landscape here and there! Moreover, we traveled through extensive wetlands and the general landscape was green and lush – quite a contrast to Ethiopia. Of note however, Mozambique does suffer from extensive flooding at times– the green landscape and wetlands do not come without a cost.

Other things I noticed, that likely contribute to a more sustainable environment in Mozambique as compared to Ethiopia, is that the country did not seem to be busting at the seams in terms of human and livestock population. No matter if you are in Addis Ababa or on some rural road, you can hardly drive in Ethiopia without constantly dodging people and livestock. This out-of-control population growth (both among humans and livestock) further contributes to the degradation of an already depleted natural environment – what family planning would do for Ethiopia! On the ride from Maputo to Chibuto we passed a large herd of cattle or two (they were noticeably larger and healthier than those found in Ethiopia – due to available grazing lands), but it did not compare to the human and livestock traffic you experience in any part of Ethiopia.

Some pictures have been posted from the Mozambique trip on the Lamp Post Photos link at the right – you can compare and contrast the natural landscapes for yourself.


I believe that’s a wrap for March 2009. I hope you all have an enjoyable Easter with family and friends. I, for one, will be missing the sunrise service over Lake Tillery.


Addis Ababa, Ethiopia


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