From Bread Wraps to Books: Betty Combines Her Loves of Literacy, Ethiopian Culture and Cuisine to Make A Delicious Dish for OHBD

My name is Betelhem (Betty). I moved to the USA eight years ago. I am a mother of 5 kids. Growing up, I saw my mom helping needy people. She would make food and tea and take it to a beggar who lived on the street or she would help kids from families in need. Twelve years ago, I got a chance to found an international non-profit organization which is based in Arizona. I am working as the Executive Director.

I like the Open Hearts Big Dreams literacy program very much because growing up even in the capital city of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, we never had a single story book we could read. English is my second language. I learned it at school and taught myself by reading old newspapers I got from bread wrap. The lack of books always makes me sad. When I got married, I spent a lot of money buying books for my kids because I didn’t want them to be like me, without books to read.

I wanted to get an advanced education but entering college in Ethiopia was very hard. There were only 2-3 government universities when I completed high school. I moved to Tokyo for a better life. I stayed there for four years to save some money and went back to Ethiopia. Then I was able to get into and attend a private university for four years. I was married with two kids when I started and I had my last three children while attending the university.  I was also working full-time.  It was very difficult but it was worth it to me and for my family.

In Ethiopia, sharing food with someone is an expression of love and respect. So if you go to any Ethiopian house, the first thing they will do is cook and serve you a very nice meal made from food they do not usually eat for themselves. Even if you told them you are full, they will force you to eat. We like feeding each other, and we eat on one big round plate.

I like introducing my culture’s food because most people in the world have a lack of knowledge or incomplete facts about Ethiopia as a country and our cuisine. Ethiopia has many good and beautiful features and the food is a great way to show people more of that beauty.  I volunteered to provide a cooking class as a OHBD fundraiser to raise money for the book project and to share how to make the tasty Ethiopian dish, beef tibs, with more people.