Scholar Spotlight: Betelhem Tewodros (MSU ’22) Discusses her COVID-19 Assistance Project for the Members of Her Hometown of Jijiga, Ethiopia

We recently had the pleasure of virtually sitting down with current Puksta Scholar Betelhem “Betty” Tewodros to discuss the work her and her father have been doing to help the people of her hometown of Jijiga, Ethiopia. Watch now below:

Betty was only eight years old when she left Jijiga with her family to come to America, but her heart has always been and will always be back home. For her, maintaining her native language and culture are a central aspect of her identity and daily life. Although she is based in Denver now, she still attends a traditional Ethiopian church, stays active in the local Ethipoian community, and celebrates Ethiopian holidays. Along with all the work she has done to make sure Jijiga stay a part of her life, she’s also made sure to keep her life a part of Jijiga.

When Ameha Admassu, a family friend, shared stories of difficulty and need in Jijga on Facebook, Betty and her father Teddy knew they had to help. Elsewhere in America and other Western countries, other Jijiga natives felt the same: Dawit Degenu, Dereje Asefaw, Wondwossen Tadesse, and Yonas Delelegn. Like Betty, they understood that living in the West puts them in a position of power to help those back home. Together, they joined forces and started a GoFundMe page to fund assistance in the form of masks, hand sanitizers, food and other basic necessities. Through their first campaign, they have raised over $6,000 which was directed to the ENAT Organization which distributed the supplies together with the Jijiga Regional Health Bureau.

Betty credits community elders like her grandmother for instilling this spirit of service and generosity in her. Respect for elders is a pillar of Ethiopia’s culture. With the first fundraising campaign having come to an end, and life slowly getting back to normal in Jijiga, Betty is now gearing up to launch a second campaign specifically to help the elders in Jijiga. For them, normal will come much later than it will for younger generations. Being higher risk, and less capable of managing daily tasks, the elders will be the ones that need the most help. Still, the duty of helping elders is one that Betty is more than willing to take on. In her eyes, there is no work more important than helping the generation that spent their lives raising the community she loves. Betty wants to do everything she can to pay this generation back, and set an example for other young people to do the same.

Click here to help Betty and the community of Jijiga