Students launch Ethiopian-Eritrean Association

Seniors+Haleluya+Worku+and+Kidist+Bekele+present+during+the+Ethiopian-Eritrean+Association%E2%80%99s+interest+meeting.+%E2%80%9CMy+favorite+part+of+the+first+meeting+was+when+everyone+started+talking+about+what+they+love+about+Ethiopia+and+Eritrea+and+it+felt+like+we+were+this+one+big+friend+group%2C%E2%80%9D+Worku+said.

Khadija Ahmed

Seniors Haleluya Worku and Kidist Bekele present during the Ethiopian-Eritrean Association’s interest meeting. “My favorite part of the first meeting was when everyone started talking about what they love about Ethiopia and Eritrea and it felt like we were this one big friend group,” Worku said.

The first Ethiopian-Eritrean Association meeting took place two weeks ago, but it was months in the making. It all started after Heritage Night.

“We realized that there was so much that people didn’t know about Ethiopian and Eritrean culture, and we wanted to create a place where everyone can come together and learn more about these amazing cultures,” senior and founding member Haleluya Worku said.

In the uncertain months after school closed for good due to Covid-19, Worku and fellow seniors Beteleham Kahsay, Kidist Bekele, and Melek Mohammed began to plot their next steps.

“We got the information to start a club and worked together through FaceTime to create the basis for the club,” Worku said. “Many, many discussions happened to plan the club, but we had a lot of fun with it.”

“Bety and some of the other officers wanted to create a club to study and celebrate Ethiopian and Eritrean culture, support new students adjusting to American school, and foster a tight-knit
community around these efforts,” club sponsor Ingrid St. Clair said.

There has been a lot of student interest in the club with more than 40 people showing up to the first meeting, held on Google Meet.

“I wanted to join this club because I am aware of all the conflict going on between our two countries and wanted to understand the perspectives of other Annandale students,” sophomore Ruftana Beyene said. “I also really love my Eritrean culture and wanted to share that with my Ethiopian brothers and sisters who have a similar culture.”

During the first meeting, participants mainly focused on introducing themselves and outlining their plans for the rest of the year.

“They gave an overview of the culture, led the students in some fun introductions, and explained that the club would be an inclusive, respectful, and positive environment for members to support each other,” St. Clair said.

They managed to have some fun too by discussing their favorite things about their culture.

“Near the end, when people were introducing themselves and telling childhood memories, I was relieved that they wanted to talk,” Beyene said.

Because of all the imminent roadblocks of starting a club virtually, the club’s leadership is already keeping next year in mind.

“As this is the first year of our club and coronavirus limits what we can do, I think our main goal is to lay the basis for next year and create a foundation that will help this club last a long time,” Worku said.

The club is also not planning to shy away from more controversial topics, such as the current conflict in Ethiopia.

“We know that it’s hard to talk about these kinds of topics, but we feel like they need to be talked about, especially with a lot of Ethiopian and Eritrean media being biased,” Worku said. “Before our discussions, we will have thoroughly researched unbiased and factual information to introduce in order for people to discuss in a calm and respectful manner. Respect is a number one priority for us.”

This is also something that a lot of members are looking forward to and eager to discuss.

“This year, I want to accomplish building a community around our culture where we are comfortable to discuss uncomfortable and sensitive topics that come with being Eritrean and Ethiopian,” Beyene said.

The club also hopes to create EEA merchandise like T-shirts and also educate members who want to learn more about Ethiopian and Eritrean culture.

Needless to say, it’s going to be a busy year but these students are hoping to rise to the challenge with unity in mind.

“I just want the Ethiopian and Eritrean community at Annandale to be closer together, especially because coronavirus has really separated everyone,” Worku said. “We are stronger together, and I hope people will feel that way by being in our club.”

The next meeting will be on Nov. 6. The club is accepting new members regardless of cultural background. Interested students can reach out through Instagram (@ahs.eea).