A hero devoted to getting books to Ethiopia's children
CNN has chosen Gebregeorgis Yohannes as one of its heroes (picked as one of 10 out of 10,000 nominations) and it was an excellent choice. Yohannes has devoted himself for much of the past decade to getting books into the hands of Ethiopian children.
His goals are ambitious. Not only does he want to bring books to a country where they are are scarce (in Ethiopia 99 percent of schools have no library and more than 57 percent of people over 15 years old are illiterate) but he wants to change the world.
"This is really my way of changing society, starting with children, who connect to other cultures, to other ways of thinking," Yohannes said in an interview with The Associated Press this week. "Books have changed me, have changed my world view."
Yohannes knows first-hand what books can mean to Ethiopian children. He grew up in Ethiopia and before the age of 19 he'd read so few books that he remembered each one he'd ever seen with great clarity. Finally, at the age of 19, he read his first book for pleasure outside of school.
It was a love story. It made an enormous impression.
Yohannes eventually sought political refuge in the United States and there became a school librarian in San Francisco. But he never forgot his home country or its children.
Eventually he founded the non-profit Ethiopia Reads and now he dedicates himself to bringing books to young Ethiopians.
He is currently touring the US to personally thanks groups and individuals who have donated to his cause.