Miriam Beza Memorial Library
As part of the ministry of Youth for Christ/Ethiopia, a library was started, in 2007 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. At its initial stage, the library was primarily mainly funded by us, her parents. During our annual family trip to Ethiopia in the summer of 2007, we took with us around 2000 new books, and numerous puzzles and games, and this was, by far, a major addition to the already existing 2000 books.
A few days into our stay, something really amazed us, and that was to see a huge number of kids show up each and every day, and their amazing eagerness to hold a book in their hands, flip through the pages and struggle to read. It was obvious to us – right then and there -- that setting up a well-equipped library would be crucial. It goes without saying that this library should absolutely not be a place for kids just to come and read or borrow books, or even do homework, but one where children can get extra help, still having one end in mind: instilling in children a love for books. We should mention here that, though encouraged by parents or teachers, the culture of reading is far from developed. Reaching out to young children at an early age, and help them to get to love to read, and teach them how, soon became the main goal of the Miriam Beza Library. To say the least, the idea of a children’s library gave us a clearer purpose: honoring our precious Miriam’s life by giving to those who do not need much and are so grateful for the little they receive.
In 2007, the Library had just four staff and provided service to children of various age groups, from three neighboring schools. Older high school students come mainly because the place provides a table and a chair for them to sit and quietly do their homework. For younger children, however, it is a place of fun: first to wind down, drink cold water from the tub, and finally be able to sit and read. One major problem soon became apparent, however: a majority of these children come to the library faithfully, but would get a spot in the main library only if they made it before the 45 or so who had run ahead of them right after each school’s bell rang. The option would then be to have them sit in the shade of the trees nearby, or on the few chairs laid out on the porch, and quietly and patiently wait for their turn, or send them off, if need be. Taking turns is the solution that has worked for the last few years to fairly allow each kid get the experience of quietly seating and reading, inside an actual library.
Miriam Beza Library did not reach – and still has not reached after 5 years – the capacity to cater to the growing need of the hundreds of kids showing up month after month. While the materials at their disposal are good and educational enough, space remains a crucial problem. In order to alleviate this challenge, we had to take further steps: in 2010, a move to a slightly bigger, less costly rental property, with additional rooms was necessary. While this new place was ideal for its location, cleanliness and safety, and extra activity-rooms, the need for a much bigger place to include everyone fairly into the library is unquestionable.
In the summer of 2010, a team of us made another trip, this time after having shipped close to 15,000 books, all donated by friends, families, church members, local libraries, book-drives etc. The half-marathon we ran as a family in Atlanta, Georgia on April 21, 2010 (Miriam’s 10th birthday) helped us raise close to $10,000 that we used to have these books shipped, and secure some funds for various library expenses. We are eternally grateful for everyone who has been part of this cause. So thankful are we for girls like Allegra from MD, and Casey from PA, and their respective families, who poured their heart and soul to do book-drives, raise funds, box thousands of books, and get them ready for shipping. What made this trip unique was that Allegra got to travel to Ethiopia and was actually able see where fruit of her labor. Sara, another team member from Kentucky, was another dedicated friend who worked relentlessly painting and cleaning library walls. This trip was such a good opportunity to get to know most of the children in person.
The team’s aim that summer of 2010 was to serve in any way possible, but mainly helping the children to benefit from the Library that is now made available to them. A three-week English reading training we held soon brought to surface the children’s greatest need, and that is English language training. This was mainly where we was the children struggling most. This trip was extremely important to the team as it showed us glaringly the need to invest in the area of child education, especially in English language training.
The major goal of Miriam Beza Memorial Foundation is purely educational. We will conclude here by sharing an excerpt from the MBMF proposal, which brings us to the main focus of the Foundation:
MBMF is convinced that the youth are the backbone of a nation, and strongly believes that they should be supported and guided in the right knowledge by introducing them to books at an early age, and developing in them a love for reading. MBMF is confident that improving the young people’s reading skills would improve their academic performance as well.