When Westfield High Junior Naomi Tekola was six years old, she lived in Ethiopia, where her aunt would drive her to and from school every day. In the back seat, Naomi would look out at the Ethiopian children and wonder why they weren’t in school.
“I was really lucky that my family prioritized my education, because that’s somewhat rare in Ethiopia,” she stated.
Naomi’s family relocated to the United States, where she started first grade. In an attempt to improve her English skills, she became a voracious reader, amassing a huge collection of June B. Jones and the Magic Treehouse Series. She was such a big reader that when her family returned to Ethiopia for a visit in 2015, she brought a backpack entirely filled with books—and then finished them in the first week of the trip. She asked her aunt to take her to a library, but although she was in the capital of Ethiopia, they couldn’t find one. They finally found a bookstore, but the selection was small, and the prices inflated. Thinking back, to her huge collection at home, Naomi realized she had the ability to conquer the problem. “I wanted to give the children of Ethiopia the chance to benefit from reading the way that I had.”
This was how her project, One Book for One Ethiopian, was born. Together with her parents, she created a website and found a way to send books directly to Ethiopian schools in need. She began working with the Ethiopian embassy and connecting with specific schools. Then, she enlisted the support of her community.
Club leaders at Westfield High have come together to hold a book drive on January 16th-18th, where anyone can bring used books from 10-4 p.m. It will take place at the Dollar Tree on Westfield Drive. The books will be sent to Ethiopian schools in need.
Naomi says that making a difference has been extremely rewarding, as well as meeting and working with people who share her passion for literacy.
Although she’s only in her junior year, she has her sights set on law school. And she’s far from finished with advocating for the people of Ethiopia.
“I’m hoping to minor in African studies, and hopefully be able to advocate more for the people of Ethiopia,” she said of her college plans.
Naomi wishes to extend her thanks to the teachers at Annandale High school who have contributed books, as well as students who have helped with book collection and storage, especially Ben Garcia.
You can learn more about the project and upcoming book drive https://oboethiopia.com/index.html