Denver, CO -- YohannesGebregeorgis, a native of Ethiopia and children's literacy advocate, has been named a Top 10 Hero of the Year by CNN. Mr. Gebregeorgis was selected from more than 3,000 individuals nominated by viewers throughout the year. Finalists were selected by a Blue Ribbon panel of judges that includes Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Jane Goodall and Deepak Chopra. The Top 10 Heroes will be recognized in CNN's "All-Star Tribute" to air on Thanksgiving.
Mr. Gebregeorgis was first recognized as a "hero" by CNN in May for his work championing children in Ethiopia. A former political refugee who worked as a librarian at San Francisco Public Library, Mr. Gebregeorgis is the co-founder of Ethiopia Reads, a non-profit organization that works to create a reading culture in Ethiopia by connecting children with books. In a country where 99% of schools have no libraries, Mr. Gebregeorgis and Ethiopia Reads are improving lives, one book at a time.
From October 12 to December 15, Mr. Gebregeorgis will visit cities across the United States, sharing his story and vision for Ethiopia Reads. Cities include Washington, DC; San Francisco, CA; Seattle, WA; Kansas City, KS; Denver, CO; Albuquerque, NM; Los Angeles, CA; Minneapolis, MN; and New York, NY. A complete itinerary follows.
ABOUT YOHANNESGEBREGEORGIS Growing up in rural Ethiopia with very little access to books, Gebregeorgis was 19 years old the first time he picked up a book for pleasure. This experience went on to shape his life as a literacy advocate, children's book author, and co-founder of Ethiopia Reads, a non-profit organization based in Denver, CO and AddisAbaba, Ethiopia.
Gebregeorgis came to the United States in 1983 seeking political asylum from the then-military dictatorship in Ethiopia. He worked as a hospital pharmacist and continued pursuing his education, earning a Bachelor's of Arts in journalism and English literature and a Master's degree in library science.
Later, as a children's librarian at the San Francisco Public Library, Gebregeorgis realized there were few books published in local Ethiopian languages. So he wrote Silly Mammo, the first bilingual Amharic-English children's book. He enlisted the support of acclaimed children's author, Jane Kurtz, who helped raise funds for the first printing. Ms. Kurtz is now President of the Ethiopia Reads Board of Directors.
In 2002, Gebregeorgis left his job in San Francisco and returned to Ethiopia. With 15,000 books donated by the San Francisco Children's Library, he opened a children's library on the first floor of his AddisAbaba home. The library was so deluged by children that it soon required the addition of two large tents.
Today, Shola Children's Library records an average of 60,000 visits per year. Additionally, Ethiopia Reads is planting libraries in public schools across AddisAbaba and Awassa at the rate of one per month. Ethiopia Reads has published six bi-lingual story books for children.
Gebregeorgis is the recipient of the 2008 Presidential Citation for International Innovation from the American Library Association, the first to receive this honor in its inaugural year.
Gebregeorgis lives in AddisAbaba, Ethiopia, where he serves as the Executive Director of Ethiopia Reads.
This is my story of the journey that led me to Ethiopia to meet my daughter and how she teaches me to Liv everyday.
"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye." --Antoine De Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince.
The colored stripes on the Ethiopian flag are significant - the red stripe stands for power, faith and blood; the yellow symbolizes peace, natural wealth and love; and the green represents the land and hope. The colors were also interpreted to have a connection to the Holy Trinity, and the three main provinces of Ethiopia. The star represents unity of the people and the races that make up Ethiopia. The five rays on the outside of the star represent prosperity and the blue disk represents peace. The three equal horizontal bands of green (top), yellow, and red with a yellow pentagram and single yellow rays emanating from the angles between the points on a light blue disk centered on the three bands; Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa, and the three main colors of her flag were so often adopted by other African countries upon independence that they became known as the pan-African colors.