Projects for Peace: The Vision of Kathryn W. Davis

"My challenge to you is to bring about a mind-set of preparing for peace, instead of preparing for war."

Featured Fellow: Eshetu Feleke

BUILDING A FUTURE

Thousands of homeless children throng the streets of Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. Many have been orphaned by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. “It’s one of the first things you notice when you go there: how many people have nothing,” says Eshetu Feleke. “It can be pouring rain, and they might have one small piece of cloth.”

Eshetu wants to improve the lives of those children and give them a chance for a brighter future. They can’t escape poverty without getting an education, he says, “but you can’t expect a kid to attend school after spending the night out on the street.” So the first thing they need is shelter, and Eshetu thinks he can do something about that.

“I can’t imagine turning my back on where I came from. I always knew I would return."
—Eshetu Feleke, 2015 KD Fellow

RETURNING HOME TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Although he was born in Addis Ababa, Eshetu moved to Swaziland at the age of 11, when he received a scholarship to attend Waterford Kamhlaba United World College of Southern Africa. After completing his studies there, he came to Middlebury as a Davis United World College Scholar, majoring in the history of art and architecture.

Now he is back in his homeland, putting his education to practical use. “I can’t imagine turning my back on where I came from,” he says. “I always knew I would return.”

Eshetu has designed a lightweight, inexpensive, and easily portable shelter for Addis Ababa’s street children. It is built on wheels, so a child can move it, and capped with a roof that covers a space adequate for both sleep and work. (Shining shoes or selling things provides a critical source of income for food and school fees.) Most critically, even though the structure is a transitional space, it gives the children something they can call their own. It gives shelter, but also pride and hope.

A FELLOWSHIP FOR PEACE

The next step is to get funding to build the shelters, but Eshetu has an idea about that, too. A Kathryn Davis Fellowship for Peace enabled him to return to Middlebury last summer to study Chinese. A working knowledge of the language will enable him to approach the Chinese companies that are gaining influence in his country as developers and builders. He hopes they will help him to manufacture his shelters and distribute them to street children.

In addition, he expects his language skill to give him a distinct advantage in the job market. He has yet to meet another Ethiopian in the capital who speaks Chinese.