Yohannes Gebregeorgis, a man who introduced mobile donkey library in Ethiopia
He was 19 when he borrowed his first novel named ‘Love Kitten’. Yohannes Gebregeorgis, a native of Ethiopia, who was born to rural illiterate parents, had seen a few books only at school. That day, he just wanted to read a book which was not a part of his school syllabus and that particular incident changed his life forever. That was the moment when he experienced the pleasure of having a book of his own and that extreme realization may have germinated his lifelong commitment of bringing literacy to the children of Ethiopia.
After finishing his Masters in Library Science, he got a job at the San Francisco Public Library as a children’s librarian. He was appointed to collect foreign language books for the children’s collection and very soon he realized that the public library had books in more than 75 languages, but without a single copy in Amharic (official working language of Ethiopia). He started a search for books in Amharic but found none. A failed search made him realize about what children of Ethiopia were missing. Emboldened by this disappointment, he took it upon himself to write a book and crafted ‘Silly Mammo’, a traditional Ethiopian folk-tale in Amharic with an English translation.
Most Ethiopian children have only access to text books in the classroom. Books children read outside of school, those are the spices of education. He shared this view once with a famous news agency in an interview.
He is the founder of Ethiopia Reads, a philanthropic organization, started in 1998, with the motive of fostering literacy in Ethiopia. In 2002, Gebregeorgis left his job and moved back to Ethiopia with 15000 books and later, on April 5, 2003, he started The Shola Children’s Library with those books. In addition to the original library the organization established the reading centre named Awassa Reading Centre and Ethiopia’s donkey mobile libraries. These particular cart libraries, pooled by donkeys, were designed to facilitated children in rural parts of the country.
Today, Ethiopia Reads is an organization, which focuses on school libraries, young athlete’s education, membership, educator training program and also a proud holder of the proclamation of service provider that has served 1,20,000 children till date. In 2008, he was recognized as one of the Top 10 Heroes of the Year, by CNN.
Yohannes Gebregeorgis believes that a book has saved his life and that realization showered him with immense potential and courage to change the lives of the children, by spreading the knowledge even to the remotest corner of Ethiopia.