Hannah Godefa delivers 400,000 pencils to Ethiopian children
By Caroline Grech
Oct. 05 2011
Since 2005, Maple resident Hannah Godefa, then seven years old, has been on a mission to collect pencils for children in Ethiopia. Now 13, Hannah just finished delivering 400,000 pencils to children in her family’s country of origin, something she says she will never forget.
Sitting in her home in a traditional Ethiopian dress, she talks about her two-month trip as being an eye-opener for many reasons. Chief among them is the drive young people have to improve themselves and improve their country in a nation known for its fair share of struggles.
During her stay, Hannah learned government officials are trying to shed the image of the African country as one of poverty and famine and promote instead its natural aesthetic beauty.
During her stay, she spoke with numerous dignitaries, including the deputy prime minister of foreign affairs and the information minister. For the first part of her trip, Hannah was able to mingle with politicians and bureaucrats with ease, but after a ceremony honouring her and her initiative was broadcast live on Ethiopian TV, she couldn’t go anywhere without people recognizing her and calling her name.
Locals also started to refer to her as “Hannah Ethiopia” by the end of the trip.
Her fame gave her father, Godefa Asegahagn, a fright at one point during the trip.
“There was this big man and he came and gave Hannah a hug. I did not know who he was,” Mr. Asegahagn explained, adding he was relieved when he referred to her as “Hannah Ethiopia”.
Much of their trip went like that with people even recognizing Mr. Asegahagn in the street when Hannah wasn’t accompanying him. While she couldn’t meet all the children who would receive the pencils, she did meet a few who told her the impact it would have on them.
“They were so excited and happy. I think their passion and their love for education was what stuck with me the most,” Hannah said. “They were so passionate about learning and that really inspired me. They want to learn and they want to be the leaders of their country.”
Her epiphany moment came when she met with the children and got to see firsthand how excited they were. Many of the children asked why Hannah did what she did, working for years to get help from Vaughan residents to help them out.
The young philanthropist admits it is hard to put into words how emotional the trip was. “It’s one thing to think about it and talk about it, but to experience it is a whole other different thing. It was a beautiful experience,” Hannah said.
But while she has seen the pencil project through, Hannah is showing no signs of stopping her philanthropic works.
She plans to devote much of her time to her own education, because she believes if she promoting education to children around the world, she focus on her own education as well
“I want to express to them that they have been blessed with this beautiful, comfortable, wonderful life, that it is their social responsibility to reach out to these children, who need something to hold onto, who need a dream,” Hannah explained
Among her next ventures is to raise awareness about Ethiopia’s biggest project to date, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
While in Ethiopia, Hannah spoke to dignitaries about the project. It is a gravity dam on the Blue Nile River. It will be the largest hydroelectric power plant in Africa.
Hannah hopes that upon the completion of the project, which was started in 2011, Ethiopia will become more financially independent.
Hannah admits the pencil project took a lot of hard work, but not one to take all the credit herself, she was thankful to Vaughan residents for helping her collect the pencils and Ethiopian Airlines for letting her take the pencils free of charge on the 16-hour flight, to Africa.
“It was a lot of hard work, not only on our part, on my parents’ part, but also the people of Vaughan. It takes effort. You can’t just fundraise from nothing, but it’s worth it,” Hannah said. “Also I think we not only gave pencils but we planted something in the childrens’ hearts.”