The Anglo-Ethiopian Society

Twelve Ferengi in Azezo

Author - Adrienne Hack


Dedication to Aysanew Kassa over the entrance to the new library
Dedication to Aysanew Kassa over the entrance to the new library.
Photo © Adrienne Hack

The late Aysanew Kassa was brought up in Azezo, close to Gondar, in a typical Ethiopian family. He had the good fortune to be educated to a high level both in Ethiopia and the UK and, later, wanted to share his advantage with other young people from his home town. He started to give some informal educational support to some local students.

Aysanew's other clever move was to have met and married Jean Bailey in the UK in the early 1990s. Jean, a nurse by training, became involved in the Anglo-Ethiopian Society and acted as Chairman from 2006-9. After Aysanew died in 2000 Jean carried on with the support they had both been giving to the young of Azezo and now several of those young people are at University in Ethiopia, whilst another 150 of them have completed their education. This work was formalised by the setting up of a charity in 2002 - the Aysanew Kassa Trust - with both British and Ethiopian Trustees and a strong committee in Azezo.

As time went by it occurred to Jean that there was nowhere in Azezo for the young people to continue their studies when back at home and, gradually, the idea dawned to build a community internet library for all those living in the town. Energetic fundraising began. Land was given by the Mayor of Gondar and two kebeles and much of the work was done, and supervised, by a local committee - a real community project.

The grand opening of the built, decorated, but not yet furnished Library, took place on 28th October 2011 and this is where the ferengi delegation come in - 12 of us travelled to share in the celebrations along with Aysanew's mother, his aunt, other family members and plenty of excited locals.

On arrival at the site we were greeted by borrowed benches under a balloon-decked awning to protect all the guests from the hot sun. A traditional coffee ceremony was in preparation and we were also offered soft drinks, popcorn and dabo. The bustle of preceremony preparation was all around and the local Amhara TV was there to record the event for future transmission. The day was very blustery which led to some amusing moments of flying hair and speeches! Jean was wearing a pretty habesha dress which had been specially given to her by the nuns who run the School for the Blind so that she "looked different from her ferengi friends"!

Grand opening ceremony - The local Cub Scouts
Grand opening ceremony - The local Cub Scouts.
Photo © Adrienne Hack

The guests were provided with some wonderful entertainment - the local Azezo Gymnastic and Circus Group boys performed a spectacular barefoot display of tumbling and circus skills, followed by 60 well-drilled local Cub Scouts who marched in formation and sang a song of welcome in both English and Amharic. They truly set the scene and received warm applause for their efforts.

The cream-painted building looked spectacular. A permanent plaque over the doorway showed the dedication to Aysanew Kassa and the entrance porch was beribboned for the occasion with Ethiopian and British colours (specially brought from London) and tied together to show the co-operation between the two countries over this project. The ribbon would be cut later as a symbol of the opening.

The ceremony began with speeches in both Amharic and English. Jean's speech was translated paragraph by paragraph and other dignitaries and Trust representatives (both local and British) gave their welcome. Jean made it clear that the Library was a gift to all the people of Azezo for community use and that ownership and management would be handed over to the town in July 2012.

Then came the presents. Jean was given the wonderful habesha traditional dress by the local committee and, in another touching moment, Aysanew's mother gave her a parcel containing embroidered table linen. Other gifts were presented, and some also given by Jean to those local Azezo people who had overseen the building works and the all important bill-checking and accounting. To the amusement and astonishment of the local guests one ferengi (who is Greek but was born in Addis Ababa) briefly addressed the crowd in fluent Amharic!

Grand opening ceremony - the ribbon cutting
Grand opening ceremony - the ribbon cutting.
Photo © Adrienne Hack

The ribbon-cutting was performed jointly by the local Mayor's representative and Jean Bailey and then the doors were opened for all to go inside. There we found a large, bright, room which, though still awaiting delivery of tables and shelves, had a good number of already-donated books displayed on borrowed chairs and tables around the edges. At an angle to the main room is a smaller one which will house the five new computers and a photocopier. There are also lavatories and a shower for the staff, many of whom have already been engaged. It was so good to see the guests, both young and old, admire the building and the books and to see the potential for their entire village community.

After the formal ceremony about 100 guests were transported to St Raphael's School for the Blind where we were treated to a banquet of injera and various wots as well as copious amounts of Dashen beer kindly donated by that local brewery.

Grand opening ceremony - Inside the new library building
Grand opening ceremony - Inside the new library building.
Photo © Adrienne Hack

The library ought to be fully functioning by the time this piece goes to print. Furniture and shelving have been promised and the electricity supply was due to be connected within a few days of the ceremony.

From the UK there is to be a container of books and gifts sent sometime in the spring of 2012 so, if anyone is able to contribute anything appropriate, then please do make contact with one of those listed below. English books are needed for children and adults as well as good condition and modern text books, journals, newspapers and also any Braille books for use by the young people resident at the nearby School for the Blind who will also be able to visit, and use, the library.

Should anyone be in the area the library is well worth a visit and is not too hard to find. Azezo is only about 10km from Gondar, on the Gondar airport-Bahar Dar road towards Gondar city. In Azezo drive past the market area on the left, the new Commercial Bank and Police Station on the right then take the first turning on the right after Azezo Community Health Clinic. Travel approximately 300 metres on this unmade road and you will see the Library close to the cluster of electricity pylons.

This little project demonstrates what can be done with good communications, good committees at both ends and a dedicated will on the part of all concerned to make the project work. Any further contributions or support would be most welcome.

The Aysanew Kassa Trust, UK charity no 1090931.
Website: www.aysanew.org
Contact in the UK:
Jean Bailey: email: jean397@btinternet.com
Contact in Azezo:
Melash: Phone: 00 251 918 77 85 31; email: Melash5Azezo@gmail.com

First Published in News File Spring 2012

Opinions expressed in the articles are those of the authors and not necessarily the views of the Society.
Information is offered in good faith but the Society does not warrant the status or reliability of the information contained.

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