The Power of One Writer
Back Yards, Ethiopia and Children's Books

What we leave behind

I think I’m addicted to Ethiopia Reads.

How can I resist with this kind of email popping into my life?

“Hi we are Sami Phelps and Anna Hilterbrand, two 11 year olds who have been fundraising for Ethiopia Reads. The first thing we did to raise money is doing a lemonade stand where we made exactly 60 dollars. Right now we are asking for pledges for every book  we read this summer we are also going to have a bake sale and sell book marks  at the local library . Mrs. Cole said she mentioned us to you.We look forward to skyping with you, we are very optimistic about helping Ethiopia.”

Sami and Anna!  Wowee.  It seems like every week brings a jolt of joy like their email.

It’s thrilldom to see how many people love reading so deeply and want to share the experience.  People have such intense faith that they can do something important.

And they can.

One of the realities in Ethiopia is that families and schools and individuals in the US can raise the money pretty easily to hire someone who can work for literacy full time.  Ethiopia Reads has five young Ethiopians who are encouraging things like book clubs in the schools where Ethiopia Reads has planted libraries.  Take a look at a happening book club!

Dr. Laurie Curtis from K-State, who just volunteered for Ethiopia Reads, writes, “I was very impressed with the passion of the Ethiopia Reads staff and the work they did.  I had never had the chance to work in Ethiopia with the staff in place as you were in transition when I was in Ethiopia in 2010- they were an amazing group of folks! I was incredibly humbled by the hard work and dedication of the teachers/ librarians that I had the good fortune to meet.”

Volunteers come to Ethiopia Reads through long and short and winding paths.  LeAnn Clark was the incoming president of Kansas Reading Association when I moved to Kansas.  She stopped by my house while I was still unpacking boxes.  She recruited Kristina, who had been a student teacher in her third grade classroom, and packed her bags to be part of a teacher-to-teacher project in Ethiopia in 2007.  She’s been back three times–and when she’s in Kansas, she spends huge chunks of her life gathering and storing and sorting and packing and shipping donated books.

People send her books from all over the country.  She loves sharing some of their stories with me–and no one tickled her more than Robert Quade, a professor at Centenary College and a proud grandpa of a Peace Corps volunteer in Ethiopia.

When LeAnn got back from her latest volunteer trip to Ethiopia this summer, she told me that heaven had another reading angel.  She writes, “As a volunteer for Ethiopia Reads, I came to know Bob through his determined work to supply books for Caitlin’s Peace Corps library in Adet. Bob’s never-give-up attitude moved books across oceans and mountains and into the hands of eager readers. As I visited Ethiopia Reads’ libraries in Ethiopia last week, I knew Bob’s footprints had left a lasting mark not only for today, but for generations of Ethiopian children in the future. I will cherish his witty email messages and spirited conversations.” He will be greatly missed by his family and friends, and one woman on the Kansas prairie. He was truly a Reading Angel.”

Robert Quade’s students shared comments about his passion for teaching and how he wanted his students to succeed.



An outrageous sense of humor.

He will be missed by the Ethiopia Reads family.

But his compassion, his service, and, yes, his humor will live on in our stories and in those books he cared so much about.

This fall, the Bring a Book Buy a Book volunteers will all pick up the torch and raise the money to move those books on from Kansas to Ethiopia.  And educators will volunteer their time to work with the adults who will put books into kids’ hands.

What an amazing and joyful project to work on.  What a thing to leave behind.

2 thoughts on “What we leave behind”

  1. thank you so much for reading our story and leaveing a comment… thank for writing such inspirational books. we are continuing to do STT and thanks again.
    LOve, Mia, Ava, Angela, and Chloe 🙂


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