Saturday, January 4, 2014

Coming Together to Make the Impossible Possible -- AGAIN! Open Hearts Big Dreams 2013

Our Open Hearts Big Dreams event is a celebration of the power of education and the power of dreaming.  Neither would be possible for many kids in Ethiopia without the many open hearts that supported our efforts these past three years.  And it is an event that is put together and run almost entirely by volunteers.

Yadesa Bojia asked me, when he was starting his painting for this year, what was our vision for the event.  Yadesa planted the seed for this endeavor three years ago and has been a wonderful friend and supporter to make it a reality since then.  I mulled this over for a bit.  I then realized my vision is to bring people together to make something possible that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.  My husband, who is a lifelong educator, and I want to equalize educational opportunities in Ethiopia while celebrating the amazing culture and country of our daughter’s birth.
The results of our last two years were amazing and powerful; exceeding our ambitious aims.  We saw diverse individuals and companies with different backgrounds and cultures from all around the globe come together and open their hearts in support of kids who deserve to dream big dreams.  Seattle is the hub of these efforts but the spokes reach to all parts of the US from Tigist in New York to Astrid in California to my mom in Colorado to Carol in Illinois to Jennifer in Wisconsin to Cynthia in Maryland to Marc in Paris, Mimi in Indonesia, Ben in Dubai, Tom in China, Ken in Japan, Stas in Luxembourg, Scott in London, Vally in Greece, Ana in Spain, Signoretti Studios in Venice, Federico in Milan, Ethiopian Airlines and Yerra Solutions in Switzerland - -and the list of people and places with big hearts goes on and on and on -- the list and diversity increasing with each year.

Leyla spoke as part of the appeal this time.  She arrived just that day from our current home in France.  She was tired and jet lagged so I wasn’t sure if she would go through with it.  Although in the comforts of our house, she was confident and ready.  This year, she did not want me to script something for her as I did the previous one.  She knew what she wanted to say and rehearsed it with the family over and over, even pretending she was holding the microphone.  She also toyed with adding a French song she loves at the end. 
When it came her time to speak, she nestled her head into my neck and whispered in my ear, “I don’t think I remember.”  I whispered back some words of encouragement.  Although the French song was not to be that night, her words rang out clearly:
“Hello. My name is Leyla Marie Fasika Angelidis.  I come from Ethiopia.  And I do not think it is fair that some children do not get the chance to go to school.  Please help us build schools and libraries in Ethiopia so more children can go to school.  Thank you very much!”
It's NOT fair!
The inequality in opportunities truly is not fair.  And thanks to the efforts of many in the Seattle area and many more around the United States and from places as remote and diverse as Indonesia, Dubai, France, Spain, Luxembourg, Greece, Italy and Ethiopia, many more children will get the chance that Leyla and her brothers enjoy without thinking about it.   

Leyla also figured out another way to help through the bidding part of the auction -- slightly more dangerous for the family finances. 

This year we again saw new friends and old ones as well as friends of friends join us to amazingly exceed our goal of raising $90K to support on-going and new Ethiopia Reads programs.  

You will see just a few in the picture here which give you just a glimpse into the celebration of this rich culture and the sense of community rising to address a need and work to remedy an inequity.  Many guest expressed their awe and wonder at the beauty and power felt through that simple act.
And yes, we raised over $90,000 – double our first year results of $45K and four times our first year goal of $25K – impossible became possible –WOW! 

Each year I wonder if everything will again come together and somehow each time it does.  But the truth is it takes hours and hours of volunteer time and dedication by many as well as many generous donors and sponsors who give in so many ways. The auctioneer shared that Seattle is one of the most giving cities and that was certainly on display. 
These funds will change lives.  They will empower more donkey drawn mobile libraries for rural children with no access to books, vulnerable teenage girl runners will get an opportunity to coach and improve their future while helping others, and most importantly this will continue to support the foundation of sustainability of the schools and libraries already in existence. new is fun, exciting and easy to sell.  Tending, growing and sustaining is tougher. Its results more subtle and less glamorous but so very important if these efforts are to truly grow deep roots within the communities they support.  We want the investment to continue to grow and multiply rather be a one time act.  We want true change to occur which is a longer term effort

We appreciate everyone who came together with us on this eye opening journey.  Words are not adequate to express our deep gratitude.  And as we enter 2014, we look forward to setting new ambitious goals and asking people to come together again.    

This journey will not be complete until all children in Ethiopia have the same opportunities as those we are raising. This is truly a family affair for us.  Wishing much joy and laughter in 2014.  In the words of the incomparable Nelson Mandela who we bid a sad farewell to this year,  “It always seems impossible until its done.”