Saturday, July 29, 2006
The First Donkey Mobile Library Launched In Awassa
For several months in fall 2005, Yohannes worked on designing a cart and loading it with books purchased locally and carried from the U.S. by visitors Jeanne and Herb Smith from McPherson, Kansas. The majority of the funding for a first Donkey Mobile Library came from the Bergstrom Foundation, First Presbyterian Church, Neenah, Wisconsin and from John Wood and Hilary Valentine. Other organizations that have offered help with the Donkey Mobile Library are Room to Read, a nonprofit based in San Francisco and Biblionef, a Holland based organization Yohannes connected with at an IBBY conference in Cape Town.
On December 31, 2005, "Nigist Helina--Queen of all Donkeys of Ethiopia" came leading the Donkey Mobile Library, which was pulled by two donkeys. Yohannes reports that "Nigist Helina" was elegant. “She really looked regal,” he says. Guests and children greeted her with applause and shouts of "Long live the Queen.” EBCEF’s guest of honor, Weizero Fanaye, chairperson of Kebele 01 in Awassa where the Donkey Mobile Library will be serving, made a speech and cut the ribbon. Students of Ethio-American Friendship School entertained guests and children with traditional dances of the Sidam, Wolaita, Amhara and Gurage people, ethnic groups who live in and around Awassa.
Yohannes says, “Then ‘Nigist Helina’ led the Donkey Mobile Library out of the school compound to the major streets of Awassa. There was quite an excitement as thousands of children followed, shouting ‘Nigist Helina’ and ‘metshaf yisiten’ (we want books). The queen had an umbrella bearer, and people along the street marveled and admired the queen and the library. The chief of traffic police rode on his brand new motorcycle in front of the queen making the street clear for the Donkey Mobile Library. The news reporters were all at hand from ETV, The Reporter, Addis Admas, and FM Radio. The local FM radio announced the event several times during the day and the whole city was talking about this spectacle.”
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