Frew Tibebu thought he'd never want to see his home country
of Ethiopia again after he ran barefoot for six days and nights to cross its
border in 1978.
Now he's working to bring books to children in the
Tibebu, 50, says he was locked in an Ethiopian prison for 1½
years as a young man for protesting the country's military government. He
caught a flight from Djibouti, where he lived in a refugee camp for more than a
year, to New York in 1980 with the help of United Nations High Commission for
In January, the real estate agent was persuaded to travel
back to Ethiopia with his son to see how it's changed in nearly 30 years.
Tibebu said the scary thing was, very little had changed.
It was still a country where the majority of children have
little chance at an education.
"It felt like a dream," he said.
Tibebu and his 8-year-old son, Paris, visited schools to
find out that there are few books in classrooms and only a handful of community
libraries in the country. He heard about a nonprofit group called Ethiopia
Reads that plants libraries. Tibebu knew this is how he could help.
He will hold an ongoing book drive at his office, Realty
World Millennium, to try to get books in the hands of Ethiopian children. He
will turn around and sell some of the donated books to help pay for shipping
and for books that are translated into Ethiopian languages.
"Most of these children have never owned a book,"
Tibebu said. "If a child can read, the world is opened up to them."
Book donations of any reading level can be dropped off from
9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays at Realty World Millennium, 1486 W. 11th St.
Money donations can be sent to Ethiopia Reads, 50 South
Steele Street, Ste. 325, Denver, CO 80209.
For information: 629-3765 or www.ethiopiareads.com.
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