In Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, his nameless protagonist declares, “When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.” The same could be said of the thousands of Ethiopians who have never been to their homeland.
Discovering her roots and her identity on a life changing trip to Ethiopia, Rediate Tekeste envisaged the same eye-opening journey for other young Ethiopian diasporas around the world. The young LA resident decided it was time to create an organized platform that gave young Ethiopians abroad the chance to go home, see Ethiopia for themselves, and contribute with their skills.
In 2015, with the help of another young Ethiopian lady — Meseret Hailu, her ideas became reality, and the Ethiopian Diaspora Fellowship was born.
“My motivation was to serve a community of young, professional diaspora that are looking to serve in Ethiopia, but don’t have the platform to do it in an organized and meaningful way,” Tekeste told GIZEYAT. She believes that the first and second generation of the Ethiopian diaspora are at the perfect age and educational level where they can take an opportunity like this and grow from it by building a healthy relationship with their country, their identity, and their people.
However, the organization is not just about taking a trip to the homeland. Young Ethiopian professionals are trained in leadership development, service, and creative storytelling skills before heading off to serve with partner organizations on a six-month fellowship.
The Ethiopian Diaspora Fellowship is now ready to send its first five professional Ethiopian diasporas to Ethiopia. Some of them have never been to the country before.
“I was born and raised here in the States. It will be my first time visiting Ethiopia. I will also meet my entire family for the first time,” says Naome Seifu, a recent graduate of Georgia University.
Seifu also looks forward to using her experience and knowledge to help make a difference in the country, something that Tekeste believes will help contribute a great deal to Ethiopia while also helping build a stronger relationship between Ethiopia and Ethiopians abroad.
Seifu and the other four visitors will work with the Fellowship’s partner organizations on the ground — Selam Children’s Village, Whiz Kids, Endurance Youth Organization, and others. Tekeste hopes the experience will lead them to build a relationship with their country. “Introduction to Ethiopia is the first step towards this,” she says.
The Next Step
Currently the Fellowship’s program is limited to the United States alone. “We would love to grow big enough to include other countries,” says Tekeste, but for now the focus is on making this first visit a success.
As a non-profit, the Ethiopian Diaspora Fellowship also faces the challenge of funding for expansion and scaling up.
Would you like to participate in any way? The organizers recruit their fellows through awareness creation programs through Ethiopian community centers, churches, social media and their website.