Students pack books for Ethiopian libraries

Students pack books at Ethiopia Reads event

By Kendra Litwiller – News and Features Editor

The moment I walk into Mary Miller Library, I know that any book I could possibly need is right at my fingertips.  Even if the library doesn’t have what I need, there are always interlibrary loans or internet databases.

Books are resources I take for granted, but unfortunately, not everyone can.  One organization, Ethiopia Reads, helps fill that void through donations of money, books, and time spent packing books to ship.  Hesston students participated in the Ethiopia Reads packing event March 31.  In two-hour shifts, students sorted and packed books that would be sent to Ethiopia, a country in dire need of more books.

“I thought it was really great to be taking part in something that will actually make a difference in a child’s life,” said Hannah Bachman, a sophomore who participated in the event. “I felt we had a more personal connection to this service project compared to others because we were working directly with people who had actually been in Ethiopia and seen the need.”

Especially within their schools, Ethiopian students are often not equipped with written resources that would benefit their learning.  More books in their own language are needed, according to, but books in English are especially necessary because most high school learning in Ethiopia is done in English.

The lack of resources takes a toll.

“The teachers at my school in Ethiopia worked a lot harder than they would have had to if they had had appropriate materials to use,” said Asbel  Assefa, an Ethiopian student.

A new library was added to Assefa’s former school in Ethiopia through an organization called Ethiopia Reads.

“My two sisters attend my old school now,” Assefa explained.  “I was able to see pictures of the new library, but I haven’t seen it in person since I haven’t been home in two years.”

When Assefa saw the new library, she was overjoyed to know that her siblings’ educations would be improved that much more.  She said she is excited to see Ethiopia Reads helping fill this need in her country.

Started in 2003, the organization has already contributed to more than 60 libraries in Ethiopia. Their website explains the magnitude of the need in Ethiopia, a place “rich in culture and people” but one of the poorest in the world: “With over 40 million children and only 1 in 10 people in rural areas having access to books, safe reading opportunities for these hungry learners is an escape out of poverty.”

The passion of those who had seen Ethiopia’s need firsthand was evident on Saturday.  They were able to inspire students to take their time to help out.

“It was cool to see the Ethiopian students taking part in the event because they have such a personal connection to the cause since it is their own country,” said Bachman.  “They have the most passion.”

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