Respond to the Call to help with the Starvation at home
but Many More are Needed!
October, 1, 2008
This is a follow up to report on progress since I sent
the open letter to Ethiopians concerning the widespread
starvation of our people last Friday, September 26th.
At that time I was very upset with the lack of compassion
on the part of Ethiopians, particularly on the part
of Ethiopian organizations who were not speaking out
regarding the urgent crisis of hunger and starvation
in the country.
The lack of response by Ethiopians to this crisis was
all the more noticeable in that outsiders—non-Ethiopians—were
taking a more active role in pleading for emergency
food assistance than were we Ethiopians.
In that letter, I called on all Ethiopians, especially
those in the Diaspora, to start helping immediately,
even if it was simply helping one person at a time.
The response I am now getting from Ethiopians is encouraging
enough that I want to give you a report that might inspire
many more of you to join in with these people. However,
please know, we need far more people to catch this vision
if we are to achieve the goal of helping the large numbers
of people who are struggling, especially those unlikely
to survive without our assistance.
First of all, let me tell you what happened. The letter
went out at 2:30 AM on Friday morning on September 26,
to Ethiopians on my email list. Later in the day it
was posted on the various Ethiopian websites. By 3:30
AM, I began receiving call after call from Ethiopians
who wanted to do something! By the end of the first
day—Friday—at least six groups had formed
that had already sent their first $100 to Ethiopia—a
total of $600.
Four days later, I personally knew of twenty-three
groups that formed, each with about five members. They
had committed to contributing $100 per month ($20 each).
Another woman said she would contribute $500 on her
own. These funds would be sent to trusted relatives
or friends in Ethiopia who would then distribute the
$100 or (1000 birr) to the most desperate in their communities.
Those who received this unexpected gift would be advised
to use the money for food or whatever they needed to
survive, but also, if possible, to use part of it to
start a small business so they could sustain themselves
in future. This model provides an example of an easy,
but effective, way to help.
As I mentioned in the letter, this idea had come from
a good friend I know in Washington D.C. who has been
doing this with four other friends for ten years! These
are the quiet Ethiopian heroes that we need in a “new
Ethiopia!” If we do the math and these Ethiopians
are good on their word for the long-term, these twenty-three
groups will contribute $27,600 over a one-year period
and if they hang in for ten years, it will mean $276,000
that would never have gotten to the poorest of poor
without their generosity!
None of these funds go through organizations, so there
are no administrative costs. Instead, they go directly
from the funding teams to the appointed friend or relative
in Ethiopia who gives it to the neediest individuals
or families in the country. If you conservatively estimate
the number of people these groups might be helping—if
each recipient group averaged three people—these
funds from twenty-three groups over a one-year period
would reach approximately 728 people! Over a ten-year
period it would total 7,280 Ethiopians! What an impact—but
it is only a start because I want you, the reader, to
In fact, I would like to see a thousand groups form,
who could send $100 per month. That would require a
total participation of only about 5000 Ethiopians. This
is only a very small percentage of Ethiopians in the
Diaspora; yet it would mean $1.2 million dollars within
the first year or $12 million over ten years! This is
why coming together is so effective—we can make
a much larger impact!
Remember, this should not take the place of helping
one’s own family, but some families do not need
help and in the cases where they do, you may be able
to help both your own family and others in the greater
family of Ethiopians. If you want to change Ethiopia,
this assistance can become part of a long-term solution.
The way it is being done is in three steps.
1) Identify five people in the Diaspora who are willing
to contribute $20 each, every month—like your
wife, your adult children, your work friends, your neighbor,
members of your mosque or church or those in your favorite
political or civic organization. These people do not
have to meet regularly, but can set up a system that
makes it easy to continue. Do not let arguments or disagreements
interfere, but do everything possible to continue your
2) Identify people in Ethiopia who you really trust,
like your relatives, friends, neighbors, previous community
members or any others you can rely on to responsibly
and honestly distribute the funds. Accountability is
very important! They can be in different cities and
regions, representative of the various members of your
group, but keep it to a small number of committed people
who are all accountable to each other.
3) Direct them to find an individual or family who is
in the most desperate of circumstances to receive the
$100 or 1000 birr on a one-time basis.
a. Their ethnicity, cultural background or any other
differences should be overlooked because this is about
putting humanity above ethnicity.
b. The designated giver of the money should tell the
receiver that there are people outside the country who
are sending 1000 birr and that they appointed you to
locate the right person or family to give it to on a
one-time basis. They could ask the recipient to write
a small thank you note in return so it could be sent
back to the people who sent the money. They should also
be asked to keep the gift a secret because there are
so many in need that it will be impossible to help everyone.
The next month the process will be repeated with a new
individual or family being the recipient.
c. This is the commitment that you are taking on that
should go on for as long as you live, but you can start
by committing to doing this for one year or until things
substantially improve in the country.
4) Report back to the Solidarity Movement any special
stories, results or difficulties so others can be mobilized,
informed and inspired by real life experiences.
For those of you who do not know what the Solidarity
Movement for a New Ethiopia is, it is a non-political
movement that is attempting to bring diverse Ethiopians
together to advocate for the well being of Ethiopians
and to bring political parties, religious groups, ethnic
groups, civic groups and other organizations to work
together to prepare the environment for sustainable
justice, freedom, equality, human rights, prosperity
and opportunity for all where democracy can take root.
This call to help our people is part of the value system
of this Solidarity Movement because it is about saving
lives and empowering people, helping them to survive.
Imagine if we had 1000 groups like this who would help
people back in Ethiopia. Through this simple structure,
we do not have to worry about politicians or government
creating obstacles like might happen with a large organization
doing the same thing but on a larger scale.
If you raise enough money and are able to provide larger
amounts, you can enable more people or provide larger
amounts. It is up to you and your group to decide. You
can teach this value to your children to be carried
on inter-generationally. The group in Washington D.C.
has already turned over two memberships to a daughter
when her father died and to a wife when her husband
died. It has become a family commitment.
Most of the Ethiopians outside the country are the
lifeblood of our families back home. What we are doing
now is extending this a little bit to people who are
not our relatives that will contribute to creating a
better society. Those of us who have made it to free
countries where there is greater opportunity are lucky
and we should be grateful for that. However, the majority
of Ethiopians were not as lucky and do not have family
here to send back money for their support through Western
Union. Those of us here need to help, especially during
this time of great difficulty when even Ethiopians who
have jobs in the country cannot afford to buy food due
to the skyrocketing inflation.
This is what the Solidarity Movement is about. Parts
of it are theoretical and parts are practical. The theoretical
part of it is based on the underlying principles that
call us to accept others because we are human beings
first above any other distinctions. We are born with
no knowledge or preference for tribe or language. We
could be adopted into any cultural group in the world
and their language and culture would be what we first
We come into the world with nothing but our souls and
leave the world the same. Every one of us, from the
second we enter this world, are in someone else’s
hands and when we die, people we leave behind will take
care of our remains and bury us. While we are here,
others help us and we are to do the same because every
one of us needs others. We are created in the image
of God to be in relationship, not only with God, but
also with others and that means having a heart of compassion
that the well-being, justice and freedom of others besides
Tyranny—a form of heartlessness—destabilizes
families, organizations, communities, societies and
nations. Unfortunately, it most often results in warring
groups taking sides to compete to be on top so they
can turn around and tyrannize others. This is the cycle
in which we Ethiopians have been ensnared. Are we Ethiopians
guilty of dehumanizing others outside our chosen groups
who are less fortunate than ourselves by ignoring their
pain and by refusing to sacrifice on their behalf when
they are suffering?
We cannot help everyone, but like these Ethiopians
who have already committed to taking action, we can
take on a small share, not only because it will help
our country, but because it is the right thing to do.
Sharing creates unity and solidarity with others in
the same way that tyranny creates resistance and anger.
Tyranny will ultimately lead people to rise up against
it, but too often we simply become the next power-grabbing
oppressor who gets in bed with greed, corruption, lies,
hatred and selfishness at the expense of others. Eventually
you will never sleep because your actions will cause
others to rise up against you.
Look at Meles right now. He must be constantly watchful
for those who will rise up to challenge him because
they simply have had enough of this misery! He must
know that this increasing hunger and starvation creates
a volatile atmosphere that could erupt at any time.
Even while his emissaries at the United Nations present
a false picture of economic advances, the reality of
the millions of hungry children makes such claims all
the more upsetting to the mothers and fathers who are
burying their children. Because of this, Mr. Meles is
one of the most “unfree” persons in all
Tyrannizing others does not come without great costs.
For one, it leads to the deadening of the heart to the
worth and the pain of others and an alienation of the
soul from God so that one is blocked from receiving
the love and peace that God gives to his children.
It is replaced with shame, depression, paranoia, loneliness,
hyper-vigilance and fear that can drive a person to
become obsessed with self-protection. God can provide
a way out even now and we genuinely hope that Meles
and others holding up this system will take that path
and become free!
Yet, what is our part in stopping this cycle of tyranny
and oppression? The answer is in upholding the freedom,
rights and value of others and caring about their hunger
and suffering. This is the only way to free a society
because no one is truly free until we all are free.
This is the theoretical foundation upon which this Solidarity
Movement for a New Ethiopia is grounded.
The next aspect of the Solidarity Movement for a New
Ethiopia is of equal importance because it puts flesh
on these values. The best of values and principles do
nothing if not applied in real life situations and this
is what I am calling Ethiopians to do. Eventually, this
regime will fall, but what will replace it and how can
we people who desire to see a more loving and humane
society take action towards that end right now at this
great time of need?
An example of the practical part of this Solidarity
Movement is forming your own group of five and faithfully
committing to sending monthly help back to the country
for those most in need—giving to the diversity
of Ethiopians who will create the beautiful garden of
Ethiopians. I want to see the formation of a hundred
or a thousand more groups. As I have already said, this
is only a tiny percentage of Ethiopians in the Diaspora
and is a very modest goal that I would hope would be
I call on leaders of all of the Ethiopian political
groups, armed groups, civic groups, community groups
and especially the religious leaders in the Muslim,
Jewish and Christian communities to step up to be advocates
and to empower your people to help. Communicate your
support to your people about joining in with this effort.
Help them form groups and help coordinate the efforts
in whatever ways you can. Work with resources and connections
you might have in Ethiopia.
A future goal of the Solidarity Movement would be to
help make the connections between the 100 or 1000 groups
that eventually form, but the longer term goal is: to
establish a viable alliance—a united front composed
of all dissatisfied groups, irrespective of their ethnic
backgrounds, religious affiliations and political tilts,
with the common goal of installing genuine democracy
and social justice in the spirit of a united Ethiopia.
In other word it is to really bring everyone from diverse
groups together to see if we would be able to create
a peaceful solution to the crisis in the country and
a strategy to bring about a healthier society. It will
never be perfect as long as each of us is part of it,
but it can be improved!
In conclusion, this movement is about the restoration
of the roots of humanity that God has given to us when
He created us to be his ambassadors of love, caring
and sharing in this world. In the Qur’an, the
Torah and the Bible, we can see how much God cares about
the poor and vulnerable.
Here is a verse from the Qur’an that calls those
who desire righteousness to give benevolently:
By no means shall you attain to righteousness until
you spend (benevolently) out of what you love; and whatever
thing you spend, Allah surely knows it. (III: 92)
Look at these passages from the Bible, one from the
New Testament and one from the Old Testament where believers
are called to show generosity and love towards each
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one
claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but
they shared everything they had…. There were no
needy persons among them. For from time to time those
who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money
from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet,
and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. (Acts
“Give generously to him and do so without a grudging
heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless
you in all your work and in everything you put your
hand to. There will always be poor people in the land.
Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your
brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.”
(Deuteronomy 15: 10-11)
Some of the harshest statements are warnings to those
who oppress, exploit and ignore the plight of the poor,
to change their ways. God does not only call us to help
our own families, but also those wounded on the side
of the road—the wayfarers. He calls us to help
before we ask about their ethnic group, political views,
religion or cultural background. We are to be Good Samaritans.
We Ethiopians have been disconnected from these roots
that are grounded in the value of others—something
that we should pass on to our children and grandchildren
so they can live in a more humane society. Can you imagine
how rewarding this would be? Imagine if each of us could
join together and help by relieving the hunger of our
people until kindness and generosity were restored to
be a primary value and a description of what it meant
to be a good Ethiopian?
It could be a model to revive not only Ethiopia, but
also Africa and even the western countries where many
people have become so individualistic that they are
only concerned about their own comfort, losing touch
with the bigger community. It could be a gift to the
world, especially if it came from the people known for
always begging from others to feed their own people!
What if some of the poorest of the poor were the ones
to revive the principles of sharing and caring back
to this troubled world?
What we are saying is that most every Ethiopian can
put this into practice. You do not need permission or
a license to do this. Just go ahead and do it like these
others I have mentioned from six different regions of
the country. This is only a beginning! Most everyone
has a connection back home and can afford $20. Don’t
brag about it and don’t expect to get credit for
it. Do it because it is the right thing to do.
Don’t be worried about keeping it to your own
region or ethnic group. Be a dog that barks at trouble
instead of a dog that rolls over. You can do something
meaningful and lasting. Give back the God-given dignity
to the people created by God. We are giving back the
worth to these people because they are not discardable
people. They are precious human beings. We are saying
to them, no way will we forget you, neglect you, or
abandon you. God did not forget you and will never forget
you because He created you in the first place. Be the
arms and feet that God uses to restore his people.
Imagine if people would start doing this all over the
country! It will be such a powerful force for good and
would break down prejudice, hostility, suspicion, division
and hatred. Can the government stop people from sending
money to their families in Ethiopia? No, especially
as hundreds or thousands of Ethiopians individually
take action. It will even help the Ethiopian economy.
We in the Diaspora will be doing more than the Ethiopian
Remember, we need new people to become involved because
we cannot depend on the few who have taking most of
the burden.These in this minority are the ones who usually
contribute, who attend meetings and who help the most
in our struggle; however, this is too small a group
of Ethiopians to do this size of task alone. They have
already been paying the heavy price, more than anyone
else, contributing all the time when it comes to anything
in the community—they are the first ones to help,
whether with a funeral, a community meeting, a donation
and so on.
I want to really appreciate these people who make up
maybe .1% of the Ethiopians in the Diaspora because
I know many of them who are sacrificing much for others.
Now, some of these people are facing greater difficulty
due to the American economy because they are involved
in work that has been affected by this troubled economic
situation—like those in real estate, restaurant
workers, taxi drivers and so forth.
Because many of us may now be having greater difficulty
making ends meet (and are already sending money home
for our families), it will take many of us to step forward
to help if we are to measurably help those dying back
home. It is time for all of us to share with them if
we truly want to see a new Ethiopia emerge from the
ashes of destruction.
Our disappointment with our leaders is no excuse because
our people are dying. As one Ethiopian friend recently
told me, Ethiopians follow leaders like ants that join
together to devour a meaty bone on the ground, piling
up on top of each other to get their share. However,
if someone picks up that bone and shakes off the ants,
they fall off and are aimless and in total disarray,
forgetting their purpose.
This friend compared many Ethiopians to the ants, which
have fallen off of the bone; but we do not have to be.
We have minds and hearts that should direct and inspire
us to go beyond individual leaders to the people who
need our help so that we take responsibility for doing
what is right. That means overlooking the failings of
human leaders and carrying on with the bigger purposes.
I am talking directly to you, the reader. You are the
ones I am asking to step up to help. Please call others
to form your groups until we can become a blessing to
our own people and a model for other nations. Think
about what would happen if the million of Ethiopians
in the Diaspora gave only $1 every day, that would be
$365 a year each and together, $365 million in one year!
Imagine what kind of Ethiopia we would have if Ethiopians
took such action!
Out of this million, there are already people doing
remarkable work like some Ethiopians in Washington D.C.
who are paying for the education of a child, one at
a time. In California, ten Ethiopian formed a group
called “Ethio-Village” with the purpose
of helping and uplifting other Ethiopians in their city
by helping them find jobs. They are also sending money
to Ethiopians who are in need who are not part of their
There is an Ethiopian woman in Addis Ababa, Abebech
Gobena, who many Ethiopians call the “Mother Teresa
of Ethiopia,” who searches the streets for abandoned
children and brings them to her home. She has created
a compound for them and gets the funding for their support
from individual Ethiopians like Teddy Afro who awarded
her for the excellent work she was doing. By ethnicity
she is Oromo, but the ethnicity of the children she
takes home does not matter to her. What an example she
provides of reaching out in compassion.
There are many Ethiopians who are, one at a time, making
a difference in the lives of others. Will you be one
of them? Compassion that leads to kindness and generosity
will heal some of the deepest wounds in our society.
Will you do your part or Dirsha? Will you be an ambassador
to others, encouraging them to do theirs? If you do
and many others follow, the blessings that will come
from it will be too great to be contained in Ethiopia
and will overflow to like the waters flowing into the
May God soften our hearts and give us a passion for
For more information please contact
me by email at:Obang@solidaritymovement.org