You CAN go home again

Oct 5, 2007

Dr. Petros Gheresus continues to make a difference to the people of his homeland, by taking his expertise home to Eritrea.

Contrary to the adage that "you can never go home again," Dr. Petros Gheresus has, and continues to go home on a regular basis, to share the opportunities he has been given with others.

"What is in my sphere of influence that I can do, I do," he said of his commitment to help the people of Eritrea. "They don't have the resources and I do."

Gheresus has gone home approximately every two years since 1992 when the country re-opened after 30 years of civil war. Since 2000, he has been helping Eritrean higher education by sending textbooks and academic supplies to educate future the engineers and scientists who will re-build the country.

Born and raised in Eritrea, Gheresus has been assisting Asmara University, the only university in the country since 1992 by shipping books and delivering lectures to faculty, students and administrators from the Eritrean Ministry of Education.

During his last visit in December of 2006, Gheresus spent a month teaching at the recently opened Eritrean Institute of Technology (EIT). He was able to dedicate 20,000 books sent from Flint and Washington, D.C. during his visit. The books were the result of a book drive sponsored with the support of Association of Eritreans and their Friends in Michigan (AEFM).

Many of the books were collected at Kettering University from faculty, staff, students and administrators. Gheresus served two years as the president of AEFM and several years as a board member. The Eritrean Ministry of Education sent letters of thanks to Kettering President Stan Liberty and interim Provost Robert Simpson. The cross-cultural support is important to the Eritreans, according to Gheresus, who said they are diligently trying to rebuild their educational system from grade school through university level.

Currently there are eight colleges in Eritrea, offering bachelor's degrees in Science and Arts and diplomas. EIT has three colleges: the College of Engineering and Technology, the College of Science and the College of Education. Gheresus is working primarily with the College of Engineering and Technology.

During his 2006 visit, Gheresus and his son Yosief volunteered their time to the Eritrean educational system, Gheresus teaching computer programming as well as engineering economy to 60 graduate students and EIT administrators, and Yosief working with high school teachers and their students to help improve English language skills through drama and performing arts.

In addition, Gheresus traveled on weekends to remote areas of the country to lecture students and teachers on the importance of education. Although education is a high priority in Eritrea, there is a shortage of teachers, space and resources, according to Gheresus. "Therefore, not everyone has the opportunity to secure education," he said, "this is especially true in the villages where the majority of the population live."

At the college level students can not choose their field of study because there are not sufficient resources to accommodate all of them, he added. The main goal is to graduate and retain all graduates in Eritrea. However there are not sufficient employment opportunities for every graduate at this time, but the long term goal is to provide with a skilled workforce at the regional and international level, according to Gheresus.

"I feel that I am abundantly blessed with educational resources and I feel obligated to assist those who are less privileged than I am," Gheresus said. "I hope that it will pay great dividends in the future. In the end I believe education will be the key route to everyone's economic prosperity," he said.

He plans to return to EIT for two months during the fall of 2008 to assist with curriculum development, teach one or two courses and again deliver educational seminars to students, faculty and administrators.

Prior to his next visit, Gheresus will conduct an educational resources drive to support the 50 blind students at EIT. "These students have dire need for educational resources such as books on tape and Braille books," he said of the under-served group.

He is not alone in his efforts. "Many Eritreans in diaspora, as well as people of non-Eritrean origin, continue to support Eritrea's educational, economic, and health services needs irrespective of their political ideologies," said Gheresus.

In addition, the AEFM continues to support various educational and health related endeavors, including providing financial support for war orphans and diabetes control and eradication efforts with medicine and supplies from the U.S.

To help Gheresus and the AEFM with donation of educational supplies, contact Dr. Petros Gheresus at or call 810-762-7936.

About Eritrea:
Eritrea is a country with about 4.5 million people located in East Africa along the coast of the Red Sea. The 4.5 million inhabitants represent nine ethnic groups. The population is about 50 percent Muslim and 50 percent Christian. Eritrea was an Italian colony from 1898 until World War II. England occupied the country 1941. In 1952 the United Nations federated Eritrea with Ethiopia. In 1962 Haile Selassie the emperor of Ethiopian emperor annexed it which kindled over 30 years of arms struggle where 1991 Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia.

Eritrea is a country situated in northern East Africa. It is bordered by Sudan in the west, Ethiopia in the south, and Djibouti in the southeast. The east and northeast of the country have an extensive coastline on the Red Sea, directly across from Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The Dahlak Archipelago and several of the Hanish Islands are part of Eritrea.

Eritrea was consolidated into a colony by the Italian government on January 1, 1890. Upon Italy's losses in World War II, Eritrea was ruled as a British protectorate between 1941 and 1952.Following a UN plebiscite in 1950, a resolution 390 was adopted to have Eritrea enter into a federation with Ethiopia in 1952. Emperor Haile Selassie I, nevertheless annexed Eritrea as Ethiopia's 14th province in 1961 sparking the 30-year war that lasted from 1961 to 1991. Following a UN supervised referendum called UNOVER Eritrea declared- and gained international recognition for its independence in 1993. Eritrea's constitution, adopted in 1997, stipulates that the state is a presidential republic with a unicameral parliamentary democracy. The constitution, however, has not yet been implemented fully due to, according to the government, the prevailing border conflict with Ethiopia which began in May 1998.

Eritrea is a multilingual and multicultural country with two dominant religions (Sunni Islam and Oriental Orthodox Christianity) and nine ethnic groups. The country has no official language, but it has three working languages: Tigrinya, Arabic and English. Amharic and Italian are also widely spoken amongst the older generations. Excerpted from Wikipedia.

Written by Dawn Hibbard