Seble Meshesha from Ethiopia
Could you tell us about yourself and your background?
My name is Seble Wengel Meshesha. I was born, raised, and currently reside in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I am a college dropout, and I have had many jobs since then. I have done it all, from being a radio programme host to an office assistant and from being a purchaser to a production assistant and video editor. Right now, I am working from home and loving it. But I plan to venture deeper into the film industry as the next step in my career.
What prompted you to participate in #libraryselfie2021, and how did you feel when you emerged as one of the winners?
I found out about #libraryselfie2021 because of my current job as a social media manager for an app called Ahun. I manage the events page on this app, meaning I try to find any virtual, free, and paid events in Addis Ababa and add them to the page.
As I added the #libraryselfie2021 event, I decided to participate. The main reason for this was that I used to be an avid reader a couple of years ago. I used to go to our school library almost every day and then after I graduated I went to a public library in my city. I remember spending all that time in those libraries and enjoying every minute of it. Reading helped me see the world through stories and thus started my lifelong love for storytelling.
Even though I have transferred from books to movies since college, I fondly remember living vicariously through the characters on the pages I read. I don’t read as much as I used to, but I have wanted to get back to that time in my life, and finding this challenge was a wake-up call for me. I didn’t think I would win, because the winner had to get the most likes on Facebook or Instagram, but as it turns out, I was the only contender from Ethiopia. This huge surprise has only inspired me to work on not only my reading habit, but the reading habits of the youth in my city and my country.
How has participating in #libraryselfie2021 contributed to your passion for reading and learning?
Frankly, I was only focused on the reading tablet prize at first, because I didn’t think I would win this challenge. So I figured at least if I come in second or third, I would get a reading tablet, which would jump-start my reading habit again. When I found out I had won and would also get a grant to work on a mini-library project, I was ecstatic. And so, I did some research and wrote a couple of project proposals. My research mainly covered educational aid organisations that work to help out students from low-income families with books and school supplies; and a couple of small, local privately operated libraries that are located in some neighbourhoods in Addis Ababa, including mine. But in the end, I decided to go with a school I discovered when I was working on a documentary for Al Jazeera a couple of years ago called "My Ethiopia".
'My Ethiopia’ follows four Ethiopians as they come to terms with their country’s fast-changing social and political landscape. But these people weren't just the average Ethiopian citizens. They were staples of change and development that was to come in Ethiopia's future. One of our choices was called Behailu Wasse. Behailu is a director, producer and writer based in Addis Ababa and, at the time, he was working on Ethiopia’s first political satire show to be broadcast on state television – "Min Litazez", which translates to "How may I serve you". In fact, the set of "Min Litazez" was located in the school on which I planned to focus my project.
So Behailu and his siblings, Ashenafi Wasse and Tigist Wasse turned their late father's house into a small school called Siblings Academy. Siblings Academy has about 300 students enrolled and teaches until the 6th grade. This school's tuition fee is the least expensive in Addis Ababa, because they mainly focus on enrolling and educating underprivileged kids. They also give out scholarships to those who can't afford it. So my decision was a very easy one to make. In our visit to this school with Goethe-Institut, we discovered that the library had a very small collection of books. They needed many school supplementary and educational books as well as children's storybooks. We ended up taking the school librarian with us to book shops and getting exactly what these students have been missing for so long. We increased the variety and quantity of books found and made sure that books about Ethiopian history were included.
I am proud and honoured to be a part of this project, and it has opened my eyes to how important it is to make sure children start to read at an early age and make a habit out of it. I hope to do more for schools and kids in need.
I want to take this opportunity to thank Library Aid Africa and Goethe-Institut for letting me be a part of such a profound project.