Unrest in Ethiopia inspires App State student to return home and give back


Maheder Yohannes is a senior accounting major at Appalachian State. She is involved with the Walker Fellows within the Peer Mentor Committee, Holland Fellows program for the 2017 year and is the the treasurer for Minority Women’s Leadership Circle.

Jackie Park, Reporter

Maheder Yohannes, a senior accounting major,  and her family are from Ethiopia, and came to the United States when she was 10 years old due to political unrest in her home country.

“At this point, the current government back home in Ethiopia is borderline a dictatorship because they have been in power for about 26 years now, which is way too long for any government that I know,” Yohannes said.

Yohannes said that her dad was in the military and that after he got out, he started organizing groups and leading movements against the current government.

“There have been a lot of human rights violations under the current government’s watch.They have silenced a lot of journalists that tried to uncover what the government was doing,” Yohannes said. “If a protest arises, they send military power to shut it down. You don’t hear about a lot of these things here, which is crazy, but many people have lost their lives under the current regime.”

The United States’ government additionally does not allow those here under a refugee visa, like Yohannes and her family, to return to their home country until they have their U.S. citizenship.

Yohannes and her family finally got their citizenship in February, and she plans to return home in December, along with uniforms and school supplies for the children in her community.

“It seems wrong to go back empty-handed, considering that for the last 11 years I’ve been fortunate enough to receive a higher education here,” Yohannes said, “and I just was thinking of something I could do to give back to the community that pretty much raised me and made me who I am today. I knew I wanted to do something but I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and I thought about how big education was, how big it is in my family and how big it is across the globe.”

According to Yohannes, education is an area in which the children of Ethiopia are not as fortunate as Americans, and many of them drop out of school when they are 7 or 8 years old in order to work and save money for their families.

“I thought about buying school uniforms and basic school supplies that we take for granted here in the U.S., so I rolled out a site similar to GoFundMe,” Yohannes said. “As of right now, I have close to $650 raised in donations. I didn’t know where to set the goal at because this is my first time doing anything like this, so I set it at $1,000, and hopefully that gets shattered soon”

On Nov. 16, the Black Student Association at App State hosted a fundraiser at Galileo’s for Yohannes’ cause.

“BSA is sponsoring the event in order to give a portion of the proceeds in order for Maheder to use those profit to send back with her to Ethiopia,” Shania Daniel, the BSA’s current vice president, said via email.

The event BSA hosted was able to raise $230 for Yohannes’ fundraiser. “As far as the fundraiser goes, the smallest amount helps. Currently, one American dollar equates to 23 birr, the Ethiopian currency, which can definitely make a difference,” Yohannes said.

“This is definitely the beginning of something bigger I want to do,” Yohannes said. According to Yohannes, there are several human rights problems occurring throughout her home country, and throughout the world, and she said she believes that people ought to have conversations with those from these struggling countries.


Story by Jackie Park, News Reporter