WORTHINGTON - Worthington Middle School students came together Friday afternoon to make bracelets as a way to support the Oromo Awareness Project.
The Oromo Awareness Project is an effort led by WMS student and Oromo eighth-grader Chaltu Uli, who hopes to bring awareness to the community about injustice happening in her home country of Ethiopia - specifically with the Oromo people.
The Oromo, Ethiopia's largest ethnic group, have developed their own cultural, social and political system throughout history that differs from the rest of the country, which is governed by the Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF). The TPLF has stepped over human rights and silenced any entity or individuals who don’t support its leadership, creating an environment of crisis in Ethiopia. There is constant confrontation currently taking place between the TPLF and the Oromo people that has resulted in significant loss of life.
Initially, Uli handed out letters during Worthington’s International Festival in which she shared her story and the situation in Ethiopia.
“The letter had a good response among some but she wanted to make it bigger, and so we thought, ‘What we can do to get the word out?’ said Kelly Moon, English immersion teacher at WMS. “And what actions do we want people to have in response to the letter?”
Moon was able to answer those questions while attending a student council leadership conference at which she connected with More Believe, a multimedia organization that helps companies promote their causes. Although the company agreed to produce the video for an affordable price, Moon still needed to come up with an idea to finance the video.
“The video is basically going to be about her story and what is happening in Ethiopia,” Moon said. “In order to make that video, we need the funds to create it.”
Uli and part of her family came to the United States in 2014 to flee the violence taking place in their country. However, her mother and youngest sister are still in Ethiopia.
“I have family there, so I am really concerned for them because there are really bad things happening there,” Uli said.
Despite the difficult situations she has had to overcome, Uli has been able to learn English and adapt to her new environment. She still worries, though, about the injustice happening in her native land.
Moon and Uli came up with the idea of creating bracelets and will sell them in the community to raise funds for the video. The student-made bracelets have four beads that represent the Oromo flag. Along with the bracelet, a short description of the meaning of each color is written on the back of the packaging.
Students will sell the bracelets, and a $500 goal has been set.
Moon explained that students are still deciding how to proceed after video is made. Possibilities include approaching legislators or donating funds to an organization, among others.
“We are still trying to figure out which avenues are going to be legitimate - like if it’s going to be donation, where is that money going to go where it will actually help and not just be incorrectly used,” Moon said.
Uli explained that her ultimate goal with the project is to bring awareness to government officials so they take action in helping the Oromo people.
“If they want they can donate money, but more importantly, we want them to contact the government and tell them about the Oromo people and what is happening in Ethiopia,” Uli said. “In the end, our goal is to make the government aware and to take action.”
Moon noted that although the project is focused on the Oromo, she hopes people will be more empathetic with refugees - or any individual who arrives in the country who is running from violence.
“I think when you know somebody’s story, it puts a face to the issue,” Moon said. “it’s not longer just an issue or problem “