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Pencil Mountain founder Hannah Godefa travels to Ethiopia next month

By Caroline Grech
June 24 2011

Tigrai Online - Hannah Godefa

If there is one person who can win over even the most hardened Vaughan politician, it is pint-sized Maple student Hannah Godefa. The young girl who inspired a community to donate pencils to those less fortunate in Ethiopia through her Pencil Mountain campaign is at it again.

Hannah is heading to Ethiopia again in mid-July — this time with 50 boxes of pencils in tow.

She is fresh off a second-place win at a York Region public speaking competition for her speech on child labour, having been inspired to write on the topic after researching Canadian activist Craig Kielburger. She chose the topic to highlight the struggles of other children.

“I wanted to make it very basic because I wanted to try to expose them (classmates) to what child labour really is because I’m not sure what their knowledge of child labour is,” Hannah said. “I wanted to let them know that this really does happen and I think it was a good reminder because it goes along with the work I’ve done in the past.

“Sometimes you forget when poverty is not face-to-face. When it happens in front of your face, it’s easy to rush and try and help. But sometimes, when it happens halfway across the world, it’s hard to remember.” Helping impoverished people is exactly how the 13-year-old got started on her effort to bring pencils to children in Ethiopia at the ripe old age of nine.

Hannah’s trip to Ethiopia is sponsored by Ethiopian Airlines, as well as the 50 boxes she’s bringing. After writing letters to the airline, Hannah also spoke with the company’s CEO to make it happen. Before embarking on the 16-hour flight to Ethiopia, Hannah is stopping in Washington D.C., where, last year, she spoke at the Ethiopian Evangelical Church of Washington. She is hoping to visit them again. Upon arriving in Africa, Hannah is stopping at the capital, Addis Ababa, but will going to Axum, which is considered the holiest city in the country. It is also the city where Hannah’s family is from.

“We are going to areas where schools are really rare,” Hannah said. Her latest delivery of about 12,000 pencils will bring the total number of pencils she has delivered to needy children to more than 200,000.

Hannah is staying for two months and while she is visiting with relatives, most of her time is devoted to the pencil project.

Not one to take too much credit, despite starting the project entirely on her own, Hannah was thankful to many Vaughan politicians, who wrote letters of support for her Pencil Mountain initiative. Among them are Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua, Vaughan MPP Greg Sorbara and Vaughan MP Julian Fantino. Hannah insists she couldn’t have successfully collected this many pencils without the help of the community, who she said was incredibly generous

“They accepted my project. It’s very easy for someone to say no when you ask if they can help you out because you’re trying to get this going. I think they were so welcoming and they just opened up their hearts and they opened up their minds to my project and they gave the way they knew how,” Hannah said. Her father, Godefa Asegahagn, was impressed by the community and the local politicians who helped his daughter.

The Pencil Mountain project was also a lesson that someone of any age can effect change, Hannah said. “There’s so many things that kids can do to get involved and this is just a testimony to that. This whole project just shows that you don’t have to be 30 to start an initiative. You can be as young as you can be, it doesn’t take much, you just have to have the drive to do so and the will to do so,” Hannah said. “Anything can happen once you put your mind to it.”

She has different plans when she visits Ethiopia this time. The first time she was nervous and a little afraid. “I didn’t really know if they would accept me,” Hannah said. This time around, she wants to dig deeper and she wants to interact better with the children. “I want to hug them and embrace them. That’s what I will do this time.”

Source York Region.com