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post E. African Village Outreach

July 31st, 2008

Filed under: Who is Who? — Lissan Magazine @ 13:11

One of the main objectives of Lissan is to present promising project-establishments for the benefit of Ethiopian people. We admire those who are behind such projects and encourage them to keep up their unbreakable dedication to make a change. Seifu Ibssa is one of these determined Ethiopians.

We contacted Seifu recently and he has kindly sent us an article describing about his project and about himself.

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East African Village Outreach

I started what I call “community transformation” by accident less than 3 years ago.  In February 2005, Fremont Presbyterian church, located near Sacramento State University, asked me to help seven Americans as they travel to Ethiopia to visit their mission fields to which I agreed.  After helping them with their mission, I invited the team to visit my birth-village, which was on our way to the capital from the trip.  They agreed.  We had a wonderful time staying in my dad’s hut overnight, built at the top of a very cold hilltop, about 10,000 feet above sea level.  The next morning, we started walking and we saw a small boy fetching dirty water in two containers.  The water was so dirty that no one in his right mind would even wash his feet, let alone drink it.  The 8 year old boy didn’t even care what those 7 foreigners and a few Ethiopians were doing near the pond.  He had a job to do – fetch water and go home.  We took his picture and my depression began right there!

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Seifu Ibssa tests the faucets on the water storage tank he and his Sacramento friends constructed in the remote Ethiopian village where Ibssa was born.

I was depressed for two months after I arrived in USA to be with my family.  I would hardly eat, drink or joke around with my wife and kids during those two months.  Something was wrong with me.  I couldn’t take the picture of that child off my mind no matter how hard I tried.  So, I decided to do something about it.  I sold my car, sold my African collections at a garage sale, begged at a church, washed cars for donations and sent about $6,000 to get a water tank built and make clean water available for 200 villagers and their cattle.  That was not the end.  I had a new vision.  Education is in high demand.  Women deliver babies on dirt floor at the only clinic in the village. Deforestation is at work at an alarming rate, and soon the next generation will have little or nothing left to eat due to soil erosion.

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Before construction of the well, villagers such as this young boy gathered their water from this mud hole, which they shared with livestock and hyenas.

I wanted to build a school, work on reforestation and upgrade the clinic for a population of more than 10,000.  After establishing a board consisting of 3 Americans and 3 Ethiopians that would oversee my activities, I accomplished the following:

·         Built a Kindergarten on a land given to me by the farmers. We now have 105 children attending with 2 teachers and a janitor.  Last year, we had 176, but 70+ had graduated and moved to the nearby government school.

·         We tutor 8th graders in the afternoon in my KG, get them involved in sport activities.  Last year, all 43 students who sat for national exam passed as a result of our efforts!  We are hoping to see the same result this year.

·         We added 2 more class rooms at the government school, and donated 100+ desks.

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Provided classroom desks to these schoolchildren, who previously sat on sticks on the ground.

·         We built a four-room living quarters for teachers in the area to live free of charge.

·         We donated a delivery bed and other medical tools and drugs to the clinic.

·         We helped finish a school building in a nearby village (the rooms had no doors or windows)

·         We are currently supporting 85 high school students (23-10th graders and 62-9th graders).  You see, there is no high school in my village.  After 8th grade, the kids would have turned to farming rather than walk 25 miles one-way to get to school.  We rented houses and have them live there.

·         We have planted 500 trees to help curve the soil erosion.

·         We conducted 3 to 6 days clinic each year we traveled to Ethiopia, to treat the sick free of charge (drugs from us too).

·         We paid to have a 15 year old boy’s split lip medically fixed.  He is one of the high school students, and was in tears when we were there 3 weeks ago to visit and give pep talk.

·         We are currently collaborating with Ethiopian Tree Fund Foundation (ETFF) to get apple trees, honeybees and mushrooms introduced in the area to help generate income for the farmers.

Seifu Ibssa
www.eavo.org
East African Village Outreach

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A PRESS ISSUE about SEIFU IBSSA

Corporate Employee Brings Water, Hope to Ethiopian Villagers

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Ibssa’s native village

In McClatchy’s corporate Finance Department, they call him King Seifu. That’s the good-natured nickname given to Seifu Ibssa, a financial systems analyst for The McClatchy Company whose “kingdom” encompasses the PeopleSoft financial network.

In the remote Ethiopian village where he was born, however, Ibssa is treated as if he were king. Upon his visits, he is welcomed as a returning hero by the thousand or so residents. Lambs are slaughtered and feasted upon in his honor. He is given a white horse to ride during his stays.

“When you are away from the village for a long time – and especially if you are living in the Western world – they think you are just the most precious person, the most educated person,” he said. “They think you are the richest person in the whole world and, comparatively, you are. You are like a king, literally, because you can afford to buy anything in that part of the world.”

Ibssa, 47, is more than the hometown boy made good. He has become his village’s benefactor. He has initiated a number of humanitarian efforts to lift his native village and the surrounding community out of poverty and suffering.
Ibssa was born in Kerebigne, a tiny mountain hamlet within the surrounding village of Acheber. Acheber sits 10,000 feet above sea level in the mountains of southern Ethiopia. Kerebigne is only accessible by donkey, horseback or a 45-minute hike from Acheber.

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Since 2005, the area has been the focus of Ibssa’s relief efforts. He has provided medical supplies and purchased a maternity bed for the health clinic. He’s bought classroom desks and benches to relieve schoolchildren from sitting on sticks on the ground. He’s paid for a new building wing at the local high school and has secured land and the government’s OK to start construction of a kindergarten and after-school center. He has recruited Sacramento churches and missionaries to the cause, raising about $15,000.

“My dream is big. I want to transform that village,” he said. “I want to train the children. I want to focus on the next generation. I look forward to my retirement days so that I can go back to my roots and help my villagers.”
No gift was bigger than the supply of safe drinking water Ibssa and his Sacramento friends provided last fall.
Ibssa raised money for the construction of a well and water storage tank to supply the villagers and their livestock with reliable – and separate – sources of clean drinking water. Ibssa spent three weeks of his vacation in Ethiopia last year overseeing the construction.

“People are just very, very grateful for what we’ve done to help them,” he said. “You have to remember that this is just a forgotten village. It’s never been looked after by any government entity or any nongovernmental organization. Nobody ever goes there.”

Ibssa began returning to his birthplace in 1992. That’s when the political situation in Ethiopia stabilized enough to allow him to visit his father and other relatives there. He fled Ethiopia and its brutal Marxist government in 1982, making his home in California ever since. Acheber’s remote mountain setting had largely insulated it from Ethiopia’s chronic problems – devastating cycles of drought and famine, environmental degradation, over population, a history of civil war and oppressive military regimes.

Villagers still live the way they might have centuries ago, tending to their livestock and farming wheat and barley. The village even had its own water supply provided by two natural springs and a nearby river. Ibssa fondly remembers his childhood there. He worked as a shepherd until he was 10. That’s when his father, a relatively well-to-do farmer and landowner, sent him to Addis Ababa, the capital, to get a formal education. “At the age of 10, I didn’t even know what a car looked like,” Ibssa said. “All I knew were horses and donkeys, cows and goats.” In Addis Ababa, Ibssa worked his way through school, ultimately earning a university accounting degree. He started a career as an accountant until he found an opportunity to leave the country and its military regime in 1982.

“Anybody who had a chance to run away and leave the country would run,” Ibssa said. “It was just a horrible time. There was no freedom. I needed a visa to go from the capital to where I was born 130 kilometers away. That’s not how I wanted to live.”

In California, Ibssa immersed himself in his new country, taking English and U.S. history classes at night and working entry-level accounting jobs during the day. He married, started a family and went back to college to get a business administration degree from San José State University. A job offer in 1994 took him to Sacramento, where he gained computer and PeopleSoft experience. He joined The McClatchy Company in 1999 to help install and oversee the PeopleSoft financial applications.

His job is to make sure those systems work and to help finance employees throughout McClatchy with questions and problems. “That’s what I do best – helping people,” he said. “It goes with my character.”
In February 2005, Ibssa accompanied a Sacramento church group to Ethiopia on a humanitarian mission, serving as a translator and guide. At the end of the trip, Ibssa invited the church members to his village as his guests.
To his shock and dismay, Ibssa discovered that Ethiopia’s widespread suffering had finally caught up to Acheber and Kerebigne. The local elementary school and health clinic were in bad shape, and water was in short supply. The two underground springs had dried up from neglect and overuse. The mud hole that remained was being shared by villagers and livestock during the day and by hyenas at night.

“I was just devastated,” he said. “I came back just depressed. I was depressed for about two months.” That depression eventually turned into action. Ibssa started asking friends and relatives for donations to help improve the situation. He gave Power Point presentations at his church. He formed a relief organization called Ethiopian Village Outreach complete with a board of directors, brochures and a website.
“I am so thankful to my American friends who have joined me on the board and have given so much,” Ibssa said. “They are very, very generous.” Ibssa’s relief work doesn’t surprise his McClatchy coworkers who know him best. “Seifu is a prince of a guy. He’s just one of the real precious people in the world,” said Ted Norris, a fixed asset accountant in McClatchy’s corporate Finance Department. “He’s still really drawn to Ethiopia and feels a need to share his good fortune and blessings with his countrymen as much as he can.”

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4 Comments »

  1. Well done Seifu! You are a motivation to us all!

    Comment by Million — 13. September 2008 @ 00:05

  2. Thank you Million! I didn’t see your note as I was back home most of October to work on one more water project for our school and the community surrounding it.
    Regards…..

    Comment by Seifu Ibssa — 14. November 2008 @ 16:19

  3. thank you Seifu! art and i are so thrilled to have heard from you and now to read your report and history of your projects in this website. it is awesome…and very motivating in wanting to help. we would like to accompany you when you return in november of 2011…you are a true disciple and leader. we are honored to have met you. the pictures are so helpful and beautifully tell the story too. we will keep checking back in case you are able to send more.
    when you write mulu, tell her i emailed her too and hope to hear back. tell her hello, give her our best wishes, and thankful hearts.
    and….another coincidence! i got my teaching credential at san jose state too! i was a teaching intern in 1963 and taught high school in san jose. later i got my master’s and a doctorate in education…i became a resource specialist for children with special learning needs. dyslexia was a focus of my studies.
    i was also on a workteam to germany where we laid water pipes and helped to build a youth hostel.
    looking forward to hearing about your new activities this month. please do not feel pressured to write back. we can wait until you have a moment later on.
    thanks!
    sincerely,
    lesley (and art) huffaker

    Comment by Lesley Huffaker — 17. November 2010 @ 05:50

  4. Dear Lesley and Art,
    Sorry I didn’t get back to you quickly. I was in Ethiopia in November and December, doing what I love to do - visiting my project sites. What a nice compliment, thank you very much! I enjoyed talking to both of you during the fundraising dinner for the Children of India. Marjorie is doing an excellent job in spreading education in her Indian village.

    It’s quite a cooincidence to have gone to the same school (San Jose State Unviersity), meeting in Sacramento to help similar cause.

    My new activities? Well, I am delighted to inform you that 14 of my high school students who were in my program are now in colleges and universities through out the country. I now support 124 high school students who would otherwise have gone to be farmers for lack of a high school in their own village. They attend school in two towns (Harba Chulule and Tulu Bolo), about 20 and 35 miles respectively away from my village. People in my village are now enthusiastic about building their own high school. They caught the vision!

    Let’s touch base off line. I look forward to the day we will travel together to Ethiopia so you can visit my village and tour historical places such as Lalibela, Gondar, Axum and Harar.

    Cheers!
    Seifu

    Comment by Seifu Ibssa — 7. January 2011 @ 01:00

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