The Ethiopia Projects was born from a fortuitous encounter between two gentlemen — Mohammed Hassen and Frank Peter — who met in 2005 during a one hour flight between Kansas City and Love Field on Southwest Airlines.
The conversation that ensued gave birth to an enduring friendship that has blossomed over the years into a true brotherhood and mutual commitment to help others in a very special corner of the world.
As a teenager, Mohammed immigrated with his family, first to Saudi Arabia, then to the United States, in order to seek a better life and to escape the political turmoil in Ethiopia at the time.
He attended high school in Los Angeles, studied engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, and enjoyed a career as a Civil Engineer before realizing that his heart still belonged to Ethiopia. Married with children, he currently lives in Harar and is pursuing several business-development interests including a television production studio focused on public service programming.
Mohammed visited Korome for the first time as a “tourist” in 2006 and fell in love with the Argoba people and their village. He visited the Sidetegna of Airer in 2007 during Harar’s millennium celebration and was touched by their plight and their resilience in the face of so many hardships.
Passionate, generous, and humble, Mohammed Hassen is the primary energy source that makes the wheels turn on all of the projects as chief connector and organizer.
Frank retired from his first career as an engineer on his fiftieth birthday, and now travels extensively… in pursuit of adventure, education, and bridge-building around the world. Filled with a profound sense of gratitude and responsibility… he does his level best to “have some fun and do some good”.
Single, with no children, he lives in Albuquerque New Mexico, but Ethiopia is undoubtedly his second home.
Frank’s first “cup of tea” came in the Spring of 2014, when Mohammed Hassen introduced him to the people of Harar, Airer, and Koromi and to the people you will meet below. Warmly received by all, he considers them his extended family. He plans to return for his fifth cup of tea in October.
Meet Our Community
Of course two men could never do this alone. Collaboration with those already living, working, and serving in the area is absolutely essential to our success.
But, before introducing you to some of the amazing people we are working with, a few words are in order regarding the term “we”:
- “We” are all true volunteers. We are not professional humanitarians and do not aspire to become so. None of us takes a penny of financial or any other material compensation for our efforts. In addition to donating our time, some of us also donate materially to the projects.
- “We” is not an organization in the conventional sense. We have no offices… no vehicles… and no bureaucratic constraints.
- “We” are a diverse and agile community of brothers and sisters… people of action with an unspoken commitment to serve those in need… regardless of gender, ethnicity, or religion… unencumbered by the confines of bureaucracy or politics… bound purely by mutual affection, trust, and shared purpose.
- “We” includes many beautiful, unassuming people who you will never meet… friends, family, and members of the Ethiopian diaspora… who contribute both morally and financially in many ways behind the scenes.
- “We” also includes the people we are serving. They, too, have resources… and are resources. They are the real key to the trans-generational sustainability of these projects.
That said, let’s meet some who are at the forefront of making things happen…
Married, with children, Mohammed Suker is a farmer who lives down the road from the Sidetagna (displaced Somali people in the village of Airer). He is “the guardian angel” of these displaced people, who settled here on unincorporated land in order to escape the violence in the Ogaden region to the East.
Mohammed is instrumental in marshaling government resources to support their welfare (for example, getting a water well dug and equipped) and more. Like a benevolent magician, he always seems to materialize when and where he is needed most.
Ziyad, born in 1994, is a videographer by trade.
Single with no kids, he met Mohammed Hassen by chance at the 2007 Harar Millenium Celebration. They have been friends and colleagues ever since.
While Ziyad serves the crucial role of translator/interpreter (Somali, Oromifa, Harari) for the Airer and Korome Projects, he does so much more. A humble and generous volunteer… the quiet man for whom no task is too big or too small. He is always there with a smile on his face… whether taking photographs, herding goats, or scrambling around town in search of supplies .
Ayni Abdul Fetah
A clothing merchant by trade, Ayni has been called “The Mother Teresa” of Korome and the surrounding villages.
She began working with Korome in 2002, usually visiting twice per month, and has been organizing donation campaigns and leading service projects ever since.
Her primary focus is meeting basic survival needs for food and clothing, but that is not all. One notable project was the procurement of a gasoline-powered corn mill, funded by a local NGO — a giant step in the direction of self-sufficiency and long-term sustainability.
Ayni and Mohammed Hassen met when they both happened to be visiting Korome at the same time. Ayni brings to the table a wealth of personal relationships, local language skills, and deep understanding of the challenging needs of the Argoba people and surrounding villages.
Mohammed, born in 1994, is in his third year of teaching in the village of Airer.
In his first year he was the very first and only teacher for almost three hundred students. The photo on the left shows the one and only “classroom”at the time. During the summer, he is pursuing his teaching certification at the Teacher Training Institute (TTI).
Mohammed “the teacher” is nothing short of a hero. His home is Harar, but he commutes by minibus (at his own expense) to the start of the dirt road that leads to Airer, then walks and additional three kilometers to get to work. Welcomed and valued by the Sidetagna, he describes the kids as well-behaved and eager to learn. You will learn lots more about Mohammed and “the school” in postings to follow.
Mohammed “the teacher” is best friends with Kedir Adem, who you will meet next.
Kedir Adem Usman
Kedir, born in 1994, is a certified teacher of civic education for grades six and seven. Single with no kids, he is best friends with Mohammed Abrahim.
As you can see from the picture, Kedir is a bundle of joyous energy, is up for anything, and always has time to help. He is both a very knowledgeable resource for matters regarding the education system, and an enthusiastic helping hand for whatever needs done to support his teacher friends and the school kids in Airer.
In addition to our community of individuals above, we also work with local NGOs and local government officials and experts. Doing so leverages existing resources (both human and material), and taps into a rich network of knowledge and practice, enabling us to deeply understand the complex nature of the problems we are trying to solve.
Our primary organizational partner is the Harar Abadir Development Association (HADA). With over 500 members, including students and business people, HADA is an umbrella organization that encompasses several local NGOs engaged in economic development and poverty reduction programs for the Harari Regional State. Projects include welfare and education assistance for orphans, health care for the disadvantaged, food security for the elderly, and HIV/AIDS awareness for young people. HADA has established relationships with local government officials, is intimately aware of the needs of the citizens of Harar, and also serves as a communications hub for the Ethiopian Diaspora.