In the lush farming village of Billo, Ethiopia, 297 children cram into a three room, dirt-floor school, eager to learn.
Until this year, they sat on rocks.
Now, thanks to Birtukan Beyenssa an Ethiopian-American from the East Bay, they sit at smooth, newly-purchased wooden desks.
By September, they’ll have another classroom and by sometime next year, two more classrooms and a bathroom, thanks to Beyenssa and 35 friends and supporters from Oakland, Berkeley and Albany.
“I’m so excited,” Beyenssa said about the developments around her project to outfit this rural school near Ambo, the region where she grew up. “I’ve never wanted anything in my life as much as I want this, to build up this school.”
“More classrooms are important,” Beyenssa added, explaining the urgency behind the specific next step in her goals. “If they don’t have classrooms, the children repeat the same grade because there is nowhere for them to go.”
The Billo School project that she launched this year is a California incorporated nonprofit that is on its way to becoming a federal tax exempt 501(c)3. Dennis Colbert of the Balinese Children’s Education Foundation and Riaunda Ayore of Oakland are helping with the incorporation procedures as two of many people helping in a groundswell of support that has allowed Beyenssa to raise $5,650 for the Billo School in a matter of months.
“We’re working on it,” Riaunda said of the filings. Right now, the project’s fiscal sponsor is the First Congregational Church of Berkeley, the church Beyenssa attends. Numerous church members, Beyenssa’s workmates at the Marin Municipal Water District and friends have all contributed. Meanwhile, back in Billo, villagers are raising money to hire another teacher.
Beyenssa – a native of Ambo, Ethiopia who has lived in California since 1988 – became entranced by the people of Billo and the needs of its children last year on one of her trips home. She decided on that trip to visit the place her family often spent summers and her father’s birthplace, Billo. She was taken by the warmth and fellowship of the people.
Read More On: Oaklandlocal.com