May 24, 2022

Fundraiser sends more than 5,000 books to Ethiopia’s largest library


Skyline of Addis Ababa, the capital and largest city of Ethiopia (photo by ምቅ37382, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Back in January 2022, a new library was opened Ethiopia’s capital of Addis Ababa. Named Abrehot, which is Amharic for enlightenment, it is largest in the country on a plot 19,000 square meters in size, with the capacity to house 1.4 million books.

Now, a teaching fellow and phD student from Imperial College London has organised a donation drive which has collected over 5,000 books to donate to the library.

Bethlehem Solomon, who works for Imperial’s School of Public Health, was inspired to act by The Great Ethiopian Homecoming initiative. The Ethiopian government called for 1 Million Ethiopians to come home for Ethiopian Christmas last year to “support the Economy, show the world that Ethiopia is still a stable country and change western medias negative portrayal of Ethiopia.”

A member of the Ethiopian diaspora but not able to travel for the homecoming, Solomon came up with an alternative plan to lend her support. As reported by Imperial College London:

“I was asking myself what I could do to give back. And if I couldn’t go back at the time, what resources did I have to help?

“When I saw the library being inaugurated, I thought it would need books. That is one of the resources that I know a lot of people, such as friends and family back home, do not have as much access to – especially books in English from abroad.”

And so her campaign Abren Le Abrehot was born. As well as asking for donations from libraries, Ethiopian organisations and friends, she set up a Gofundme page the public could donate to, on which she explains:

“The immense value of books is beyond the reader and can shape the current and upcoming generations –  and ultimately the country.

“I have started an initiative to collect books in London/UK to donate to Abrehot Library. There is a great need for books of all genres in Ethiopia.

“For those who would like to contribute to this initiative (especially those who don’t have book or are not in the UK), this GoFundMe is another opportunity to help!”

The campaign was a big success, collecting over 5,200 books to be shipped to Ethiopia, along with nearly £6,500 worth of donations to help with shipping costs. Solomon said:

“I didn’t think it would get this big. I thought if I did an excellent job, I would get 2,000 books at most. But as people heard, they would tell other people, and the books just kept on coming.”

Sending 60 boxes weighing over 1,800kg to Ethiopia was no mean feat. Solomon has said she would be interested in a second donation drive, if costs for shipping could be found.

Nikki Griffiths is the managing director of Melville House UK.