• JustGiving URL

  • Archives

  • Catagories

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 15 other subscribers

Catch a Falling Star: Poster Session at the American Library Association Annual Conference

Pocket Library Poster Session

Catch a Falling Star: Pocket Library poster session at the American Library Association

Doris Gebel, President of the United States Board on Books for Young People, joined Segenat Foundation Board Members Janet Lee and Jane Mirandette, in presenting a poster session during the International Relations Roundtable (IRRT) session at the American Library Association annual conference in Anaheim in June.

Doris Gebel, President, US Board on Books for Young People

The poster featured photos of children reading at the Segenat Children and Youth Library in Mekelle.  It also featured photos of the workshop given by Anne Pellowski, International Board on Books for Young People, during her visit to Mekelle in October 2011.  Pellowski, a renowned author of books on children’s literature and reading techniques, presented two workshops at the Segenat on producing cloth books in first languages.  She has traveled extensively throughout the world presenting workshops on this topic.

A bilingual cloth book (Amharic and English) that was digitized and displayed on an IPad.

Included in the display were bilingual cloth books written in Amharic and English, Amharic being one of the primary languages of Ethiopia.  The cloth books were scanned and printed for increased distribution.  The cloth books also display beautifully on an iPad.

The poster session was named, “Catch a Falling Star and Put it in Your Pocket,” a popular children’s song, as a way of promoting the newly created Pocket Libraries, another of Pellowski’s creative ideas.  Pocket Libraries are easily transportable and can be assigned to neighborhood leaders for use in story times.  Each pocket library can hold up to 100 children’s books, first language materials preferred.

A brightly decorated pocket library hung in the display.  Another type of pocket library, more aptly described as a sling, bore the first line of the Amharic alphabet.  Gebel, and a group of high school home economics students, have sewn a large batch of pocket libraries to be shipped to Ethiopia to serve as models for further production.

Each Pocket Library can hold up to 100 bilingual or first language children’s books.

Poster sessions such as these, allow the presenters to directly interact with the audience, and present a more hand on approach in demonstrating items such as the cloth books, pocket libraries, and brochures.

Doris Gebel with Segenat Foundation Board Member, Jane Mirandette

The Poster Session was well attended by librarians and Returned Peace Corps Volunteers from around the world interested in adopting these ideas for future projects.

Janet Lee, Segenat Foundation Board Member, speaks to Henry Mendelsohn, Regional Information Office at the US Embassy in Nairobi.


Segenat Foundation to become part of the Beyond Access Initiative

We are very pleased to announce that the Segenat Foundation has been chosen to be among the first members to Beyond Access as has been announced on its website:   http://www.beyondaccess.net/2012/04/10/library-innovators-from-serbia-kenya-ethiopia-uganda-and-venezuela-become-beyond-access-members/

Beyond Access is an initiative of IREX, EIFL, IFLA, Makaia, Civic Regeneration, TASCHA, the Riecken Foundation, and READ Global, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  Membership to Beyond Access is intended for public library innovators in developing and transitioning countries who are interested in participating in an initiative to showcase how libraries are contributing to development goals and learning from other leaders in the field. Membership is granted for those who have demonstrated successful partnerships with governments and development organizations in meeting community needs in education, health, agriculture, economic opportunity, and civic participation.

Beyond Access Members will:

• attend the Beyond Access 2012 Conference in Washington, DC in October 2012 along with a regional or national government partner

• be eligible for grants competitions at and after the Conference to support scaling initiatives and strengthening partnerships with government

• participate in a series of discussions and events leading up to the Conference

• receive support and expertise in expanding partnerships with governments, development organizations and other community stakeholders.

Please see the Beyond Access profile of the Segenat Foundation:  http://www.beyondaccess.net/2012/05/09/the-segenat-foundation/

Cloth Pocket Libraries Have Arrived

Our first pocket library in use at Fre Sewat Elementary School

Our first cloth Pocket Library has arrived in Ethiopia.  We decided to test drive it at one of our favorite schools:  Fre Sewat, the site of the Dr. Thomas Hooyman Memorial Library and Media Center.   It was an immediate success.  We were soon surrounded by hundreds of children who clamored to read and to have books read to them.  The teachers appreciated the mobility of the Pocket Library.  Books could be transported from the library to the individual classrooms.  The colorful design excited the children and encouraged more reading.
We were introduced to the concept of the Pocket Libraries by our friend Anne Pellowsi from the International Board on Books for Young People.  Anne visited the Segenat Children and Youth Library last October to demonstrate the concept of producing cloth books in local languages.  Cloth is an ideal medium for making one of a kind books in local languages since cloth is easily available and does not require any specialized equipment.
The United States Board on Books for Young People has volunteered to produce additional Pocket Libraries and these will be shipped to the US later in the month.  These will easily be replicated by our fine tailors, here in Mekelle.  The Pocket Libraries will be filled with locally-produced books and distributed to leaders in neighborhoods and in rural areas.  They can be hung on a wall, in a classroom, or as demonstrated here, outdoors on a tree.   It appears that they are definitely a hit!

Many children gather around to find a book from the cloth pocket library.

Hundreds of children surround the pocket library at Fre Sewat Elementary.

Older students enjoy reading to the younger children.

A Trip to the Segenat Children and Youth Library (Summer 2011)

The Segenat Children and Youth Library has received many volunteers and visitors since it opened over a year ago.  The experience affects them in many profound ways and they frequently tell their friends and colleagues, continue with fundraising efforts, dream of ways in which they can return.  We have just received a blog that was posted shortly after a visit to the Segenat this past summer.  We love to hear from our visitors and volunteers!

–Segenat Library

A Trip to the Segenat Children and Youth Library (Summer 2011)

by Tiffany Jones.

I was able to drop off 49 new books plus one homemade one to the Segenat Library. These were donations from the kids at Goodwin.

On Saturday, another volunteer and I decided to take all but the two youngest full time children with us to the library for the puppet show. (1-10 year old, 2-6 year olds, 2-five year olds, 2 almost 2 year olds and her 2 1/2 year old son).

Even the short walk there was an adventure.

Unfortunately for some reason the puppet show was a no-go, but it was almost better. I loved seeing them experience the library.

We kept most of the kids contained in Janet’s Reading Nook. Our biggest guy found the Tigrigna books and started reading.

The kids picked board books, picture books and puzzle books and went to town. Once they got the concept, they were hooked!! It was especially fun to see how our bitty ones loved being read to and looking at books. There is one little girl who is pretty new and this was the first genuine smile and animation I’ve seen. Other children joined the two crazy Ferengi women in the nook and several staff and children just stood outside of it and watched us. I don’t think they’ve probably ever had seen such a mix of small children there together. After about an hour and 15 minutes, we helped our children clean up and had to practically drag a couple with selective hearing out of there.. .


Tiffany Jones at the Segenat Children and Youth Library

Tiffany Jones at the Segenat Children and Youth Library


]Hidar 29, 2004 (December 9, 2011) was a day of joy and celebration as representatives of about 80 nations, nationalities and people converged  on to the city of Mekelle, a city dubbed “Star of the North” to celebrate their diverse cultures and to forge unity of all Ethiopian people.

Throngs of people in the Tigray Region welcomed the Nations and Nationalities to every town and village with flowers and dances of joy as the convoy of buses that carried the Nations and Nationalities’ representatives passed through.

In the City of Mekelle, home of the Segenat Children and Youth Library and Headquarters  of the Segenat Foundation,  thousands of people lined up to welcome the representatives of the Nations and Nationalities who poured into all major streets two days before the day of celebration. On Hidar 29 (December 9) the new and yet unfinished Mekelle Stadium was flooded over by hundreds of thousands of Mekelle citizens, men and women, young and old to watch the parade of Nations and Nationalities.

I was one of those people who witnessed this historic and monumental occasion that celebrates Ethiopia’s Nations and Nationalities.  This is by far the pinnacle of many achievements of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia to ensure the unity and solidarity of all Ethiopian people. I was born and raised amongst oppressed and subjugated nations and nationalities in the past. Ethiopia was called “the prison house of nations” and to see with my own eyes and to witness firsthand, the freedom of all Ethiopians to speak their own language, and to develop their own cultural heritage and take part in building their nation in all aspects of their lives is something to celebrate and to be proud.  Tigrayans of all walks of life displayed their greatest joy and affection to all the Nations and Nationalities. Some were in tears of joy to see their fellow Ethiopians for the first time.

“Our Diversity is our Beauty” said one banner.  Ethiopians are truly the most beautiful people on earth. The most beautiful thing of all is, however, that Ethiopians are united more than any time in their long history to forge ahead hand in hand into the future – a future of hope, peace and development.

Yohannes Gebregeorgis

Founder, Segenat Foundation

AAUW presentation at the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington D.C..

 On Sunday, September 25, 2011, from 2 to 4:30 p.m., American Association of University Women of Virginia in partnership with the Tigray Development Association, presented a Fall International Program, Literacy: the Key to Development in Ethiopia at the Ethiopian Embassy. Open to all AAUW members and friends, this free program began with a warm welcome from the honorable Deputy Ambassador Tesfaye Yilma. Deputy Ambassador’s remarks focused on the importance of creating a continuing collaborative partnership with AAUW.

Next, Dr. Gebrewahid Woldu, Chairperson, TDA Board, provided information about the Tigray Development Association and its ongoing humanitarian efforts. Janet Lee, Librarian, Regis University, Denver, and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer/Ethiopia, engaged the audience in a special multi-media presentation on the Tigray Library and Literacy Development Project. This project was spearheaded by Yohannes Gebregeogis, a political refugee and trained librarian. Yohannes was named a Top 10 CNN Hero in 2008 for his work in bringing libraries and literacy to children in his native Ethiopia. (www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/cnn.heroes/archive/yohannes.gebregeorgis.html). In 2010, he established the Segenat Children and Youth Library in Mekelle, the first children’s library in the region of Tigray.

This flagship library was featured in American Libraries http://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/news/08232010/new-youth-library-ethiopia-makes-impossible-dream-reality and caught the attention of members of the Virginia State Board. The program concluded with a video presentation on the cultural and historical aspects of Ethiopia along with a traditional coffee ceremony. To mark the first anniversary of the Segenat Children and Youth Library, cake was served along with traditional Ethiopian coffee.

This program provided AAUW members and friends an opportunity to make a voluntary contribution that will make a significant difference in library and literacy efforts for children in Ethiopia. 

Volunteers preparing for presentation at the Ethiopian Embassy in DC


Putting on the finishing touches of the 1st anniversary cake.


Preparations prior to the presentation.


From left to right: Janet Lee, Dr. Gebrewahid Woldu, Athena Michael, and Deputy Ambassador Tesfay Yilma.


Janet Lee and Deputy Ambassador Tesfaye Yilma cut anniversary cake.


Traditional Coffee Ceremony

One Year Later, the Trees as well as the Children Stretch to New Heights at the Segenat

Nearly two years ago the Mayor of the City of Mekelle approached Yohannes Gebregeorgis about the possibility of turning a vacated building into a children’s library.  Yohannes, Barbara Baker (who was visiting Mekelle for the dedication of the Dr. Thomas Hooyman Memorial Library in memory of her brother), three Peace Corps Volunteers (Shelley McCreery, Danielle Hoekwater, Nicholas Strnad) and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer and librarian Janet Lee, inspected the building and imagined the possibilities.

One grand thought was to line the pathway leading up to the entrance of the library with indigenous trees similar to the trees that one sees when entering the city from the airport.  Regis University Librarian (Denver, Colorado), Jan Loechell Turner, heeded the call and funded the project of both purchase of the trees and their ongoing maintenance.

One does not normally think of planting a tree, providing a bench, or painting a mural when donating funds to build a library.  A library should be more than a warehouse for books.  It can be a refuge from the daily routines of a busy day: a place to read, to play chess or checkers or Scrabble, to participate in arts and crafts, or to read a book quietly under the shade of a tree.

Thank you Jan for your gift that will last a lifetime.

The attached photos demonstrate the growth of this precious gift of trees over the past year.  Like children, trees grow by leaps and bounds with just a little loving care.  Many thanks to Fitsum Behane, IT volunteer instructor, for providing these updated photos.

These beautiful trees, donated by Regis University Librarian Jan Lochell Turner, are delivered to the Segenat, summer 2010.


The trees are lined up, spaced apart, and ready for planting.


Three boys in front of a tree, summer 2010.


Lula Gebresellasie, a library regular, stands in front of a tree, November 2010.


Two girls in front of a tree, September 2011. My how they have grown. Photo by Fitsum Berhane.


The Meskal flowers are in full bloom. Photo by Fitsum Berhane.


This tree has grown nearly three times its height. Photo by Fitsum Berhane.


A Year in Review: The Segenat Children and Youth Library Accomplishments

Segenat Children and Youth Library

Amid the celebration of Ashenda one year ago, The Segenat Children and Youth Library was dedicated.  It is time to recap all of the major accomplishments and milestones that have occurred in this past year.


Ashenda is a traditional holiday that is filled with singing and dancing

Library Training

Prior to the opening of the library, The Segenat Children and Youth Library served as host for training for staff from the Segenat, and staff from the following school libraries:  Myliham, Debri, and Fre Sewat.  A host of international volunteers served as trainers including Athena Michael from John Wiley Publishers, Erin Meyer from the University of Denver, Dr. Maria Briones from Sharjah Higher College of Technology in the UAE, Janet Lee from Regis University in Denver, and Tewolde Tesfay from the University of Mekelle. 


Abeba discovers a sign language book that she can use at Debri Elementary

Tigray Reads! Tigray Blooms!

A brilliant lineup of librarians and educators came together to discuss children’s literature in Tigray. The panel organized by Ato Yohannes Gebregeorgis, was held as part of the Tigray Libraries and Literacy Development Project and was held prior to the opening of the Tigray Children’s Book Week.

The panel presentation served as an opportunity for members of the community to be heard as well as to receive information. A common theme among the presenters and the audience, over 100 in attendance, was the importance of literature and reading materials in the mother tongue. Presenters and audience members alike shared personal stories of reading experiences that they had in childhood providing anecdotal evidence to prescribed theories.

There were many noted authors in the audience as well as students from Mekelle University. The panel discussion was a great kick off to Tigray Children’s Book Week and panelists and audience members anticipate more follow up discussions in the future.

Tigray Reads

Distinguished panelists for Children's Book Week

The Library Dedication

The library dedication was a grand affair. Over 400 men, women, and children attended the inauguration and dedication of the Segenat Children and Youth Library. Among the noted dignitaries were Rwandan Ambassador to Ethiopia, Professor Joseph Nsengimana; Ato Abraha Kiros, Special Education Advisor to the President of the Regional Government of Tigray; Dr. Solomon Inqui, retired statesman and author; and Ato Teklawoyni from the office of the City of Mekelle.

Also among the audience were current Peace Corps Volunteers, Nick Strnad, Shelley McCreery, and Danielle Hoekwater as well as an additional seven or more volunteers, primarily from the northern region. The Peace Corps office in Addis Ababa also sent a contingent of administrators to the dedication as well.

Ato Yohannes announced that Dr. Solomon Inqui has been named the patron of the Segenat library for all of his past work in government and education. He has been an outstanding role model for all of the children who utilize the library and a dedicated supporter throughout the year. 

Each member of the audience received a copy of “Tirhas Celebrates Ashenda,” paid for by the Cherry Creek Rotary in memory of Dr. Thomas Hooyman, a colleague from Regis University in Denver.   Barbara Baker, sister of Dr. Thomas Hooyman, has been an ardent supporter of this project.  None of this could have happened without her support and the Dr. Thomas Hooyman Youth Reader Center is fitting tribute to her brother.

Dr. Tom

Dr. Thomas Hooyman Youth Reading Center

Distribution of “Tirhas Celebrates Ashenda.”

All of the Ashenda girls who came to the library received a free copy of “Tirhas Celebrates Ashenda.” Word traveled fast and group after group came to receive this very beautiful books. Over 3,000 copies of this book were distributed.

Ashenda team from Debri

The Debri Ashenda girls come to pick up their copies of "Tirhas Celebrates Ashenda"

Daily Operations

The first day that the library was officially opened, 104 children registered: 38 girls and 66 boys. This was actually a high number of girls when one considers the distractions that the girls had with the Ashenda festival. The children initially seemed to favor the reading nook, but soon spread themselves throughout the library. The Tigrigna collection was heavily used.

Reading Nook

Three star readers enjoy the reading nook.

Amazing Press Coverage 

Leonard Kniffel, editor of American Libraries, stated that the Segenat library was a “phenomenal accomplishment bearing in mind the obstacles that have to be overcome. This is the latest of Yohannes’ achievements in Ethiopia and evidence of the kind of dedication and vision that few other people have.”   http://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/news/08232010/new-youth-library-ethiopia-makes-impossible-dream-reality

Upon the recommendation of her son, an Ethiopian TV reporter produced a special on the Segenat Children and Youth Library.  The 30 minute program was aired nationwide and garnered much attention.  The Saturday following the broadcast the Segenat received 760 children and the following Saturday saw over 1,000.

Ethiopian TV produced a segment on the Segenat Library

Zeroroah Elementary School

The Segenat provided 450 books to Zeroroah Elementary School in rural Tigray Region.  Zeroroah is a project of the Enderta Regional Development Association, a U.S. regional organization.  Its latest project was to replace a traditional “Das” school with a solid cinder block structure.  The transformation was amazing and will have a great impact on the education of the children in this very rural area of Ethiopia.  The Segenat Children and Youth Library was very pleased to be able to contribute in this very small way.

The Segenat Library donated a small collection of books to Zeroroah Elemenatry School Library

Kedamay Weyane Children and Youth Library in Adi Gudom

Ato Yohannes is working with the town of Adi Gudom in establishing the Kedamay Weyane Children and Youth Library.  A significant fundraising drive was conducted by the citizens for the purposes of improved health care facilities, transportation, and for the library.  City officials have provided a building and will staff the new library.  The Segenat provided 8000+ books and furniture worth 90,000 Birr.  Peace Corps Volunteer Bryan Cramer has written a successful grant that will assist with providing computers and other essentials.

Future Children and Youth Library at Adi Gudom

Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators Conference

A very successful seminar and workshop on “Children’s Books Writers & Illustrators” was held in Addis Ababa on May 17th and 18th and in Mekelle on May 20th.   The purpose of the seminar was to bring children’s writers and illustrators from different parts of the world together, to illuminate the different traditions and ways of working, as well as to inspire and learn from each other. 

Invited speakers for the seminars were:

Helena Willis:  illustrator (Sweden)

John Kilaka:  illustrator and story teller (Tanzania)

Petrus Dahlin:  writer (Sweden)

Yohannes Gebregeorgis: writer, publisher, librarian (Ethiopia)

Samrawit Araya: writer (Ethiopia)

Matilda Wallin: librarian (Sweden)

  The seminar was a collaboration between The International Library (Sweden), Bokspindeln (Sweden) and Sololia Publishing/Tigray Libraries and Literacy Development Project (Ethiopia) with funding from The Swedish Institute.  Participants in Mekelle had an opportunity to visit the highly acclaimed Segenat Children and Youth Library and sung its praises. 

 Dr. Solomon Inquai: Library Patron

 Dr. Solomon Inquai, Patron of the Segenat Children and Youth Library celebrated his 80th birthday at a public ceremony held at the Milano Hotel. Dr. Solomon is a prominent Ethiopian educator, statesman, and writer.  Dr Solomon has recently published a biography of 14 Jeganu (heroes) of the revolutionary struggle.  It was announced during the 80th anniversary celebration that a foundation will be established in his honor, a foundation that would support young writers in publishing their work, a cause that Dr. Solomon has supported enthusiastically with time and personal finances.

Ato Yohannes receives honors

 Ato Yohannes has also received several honors this past year.  Out of 125,000 alumni from graduate programs at the University of Texas at Austin, Yohannes Gebregeorgis was selected as one of one hundred alumni profiled in UT’s “Changing the World: Stories Celebrating 100 years of Graduate Education at the University of Texas at Austin.” As the fifth person profiled in this title, Yohannes was joined by fellow librarian and First Lady Laura Bush; acclaimed novelist and Nobel Prize winner J.M. Coetzee; former Colorado Governor Bill Owens; and former Secretary of State James Baker.

 Ato Yohannes was presented with Honorary Membership to the American Library Association at its annual conference in New Orleans in June.   Honorary Membership is considered to be ALA’s highest honor that can be bestowed on an individual.  Honorary membership may be conferred on a living citizen of any country whose contribution to librarianship or a closely related field is so outstanding that it is of lasting importance to the advancement of the whole field of library service.   This great honor was given in recognition for his work in establishing children’s libraries in Ethiopia and publishing bilingual and trilingual children’s books, thereby providing the children an opportunity to learn the love of reading, and increasing literacy in an entire nation.  

Yohannes Gebregeorgis receives Honorary Membership to the American Library Association

 Speaking Engagements

 Yohannes Gebregeorgis was the closing speaker for the 8th Thessaloniki International Book Fair in Thessaloniki, Greece, which was held May 5 – 8, 2011.  This international conference focused on “Books and Education:  What Needs to Change.” The event was co-sponsored by National Book Centre of Greece (ΕΚΕΒΙ), Ministry of Culture, HELEXPO and the Panhellenic Federation of Publishers and Booksellers (PΟΕΒ) is billed as a “top-ranking event of commercial and cultural charcter for the sector of publishers, creators and book lovers.”   Yohannes was one of twelve prominent writers and intellectuals from nine countries  including:  Tariq Ali (Pakistan-UK), Salwa Al Neimi (Syria), Gamal Ghitany (Egypt), David Grossman (Israel), Tuna Kiremitci (Turkey), Hoda Barakat (Lebanon), Sophie Bessie (Tunisia), Boualem Sansal (Algeria), Malek Chebel (Algeria), Bahaa Taher (Egypt) and Subhi Hadidi (Syria).

He also spoke at the Bok & Bibliotek: Goteborg Book Fair in Goteborg Sweden in September 2010.  He spoke about the many challenges facing children’s authors and publishers in Africa. 

 In conjunction with his award of the Honorary Membership to ALA, Yohannes  presented at the Dr. Martin Luther King branch of the New Orleans Public Library, June 2011.