SELEDA The Getachew Bolodia Foundation (GBF)
At a time when we - that is, those of us who still care – are despairing about the future of
our much beleaguered people and country, there are those few, we'll call them the
diehard visionaries, who choose to act rather than sit and discuss ad nauseam the
seemingly never-ending trials and tribulations of Ethiopia. One such group of individuals
are the members of the Getachew Bolodia Foundation (GBF).
GBF, the brainchild of Professor Ermias Dagne, was founded in 1994 in memory of Dr.
Getachew Bolodia who was an Associate Professor of Biochemistry in the Faculty of
Medicine at Addis Ababa University (AAU). GBF was established to promote higher
education and research in Ethiopia, extending its financial support through fellowships to
"gifted and deserving medical students" as well as "aspiring" to propel the development of
science in Ethiopia. To this end, GBF has awarded a total of 80 fellowships since 1995
to students in the field of science at AAU, the Gondar College of Medical Sciences and
the Jimma Institute of Health and Sciences.
A GBF fellow receives a 30 Birr ($3.75) monthly allowance until he or she graduates. In
1999, a total of 19,712.00 Birr ( $2,464.00) was distributed as allowance to fellows.
Now, paltry as this may seem by our often distorted, occidental standards, many of the
recipients of the GBF fellowship are grateful for this support and freely express their
gratitude in the annual progress reports that they submit to the GBF board of directors.
Below are direct excerpts from students at different levels in their studies and some who
have graduated and are now interns:
Mehretie Kokeb in her final year at Gonder College writes, "that the financial support
[she receives] through the GBF fellowship has contributed significantly to alleviating [her]
financial problems." She hopes, once she finishes her studies and becomes a Medical
Doctor, "to contribute some input as a member of GBF towards supporting other
student GBF fellows."
Yonathan Lissanu who is in his second year of clinical studies at Gonder College states
that "being a GBF Fellow has made [him] realize that there are concerned people of
good will in [Ethiopia] who try their best to promote the enhancement of the education
and knowledge of young Ethiopians." He goes on to say that the monthly allowance met
some of their financial needs and that specifically a certain textbook provided through
GBF, Hutchinson's Clinical Methods, "has become [their] close companion."
Yeshigeta Gelaw at the Jimma Institute takes the GBF fellowship as an indication that
hard work and academic excellence can indeed be rewarded, encouraging the student to
work harder and dare to dream of achieving a bright future.
Sintayehu Delelegn, a fellow at AAU writes, "The GBF fellowship allowance has helped
me to be financially less dependent on my family and I hope it will last until I finish my
studies. I do also express my appreciation for the Memorial Lecture organized by the
Foundation in 1997, from which I was able to enrich my knowledge in an important area
related to medicine."
The Memorial Lecture to which Sintayehu refers is one that GBF organizes annually.
These seminars, workshops or open lectures are led by noted scientists. The first
Memorial Lecture was on "Cellular and Molecular Biology of Insulin Action, Insulin
Resistance and Diabetes Mellitus," delivered in 1994 by Professor Paulos Berhanu, an
Ethiopian Senior Fulbright Fellow at the University of Colorado. In 1999, in conjunction
with the 35th Annual Conference of the Ethiopian Medical Association, Professor Jemal
Abdulkadir, a member of the Faculty of Medicine at AAU, delivered a lecture entitled,
"Diabetes in Ethiopia: The Trial up to Here and the Road into the Future." For his
excellent lecture, Professor Jemal was awarded the GBF Life Membership Certificate.
On July 30, 1999, GBF was finally awarded a certificate, renewable annually, to register
as a non-political, non-profit association functioning independently from AAU, thus
enabling it to seek funds from donors, individuals and corporations alike.
After much cajoling and certain tacit promises, this writer was able to wrangle an
interview out of one very reticent GBF Life Member, who made it quite clear that this
profile should not (better not) be about him/her. So far, I've kept my promise. Let's see if
I'll continue to do so, shall we?
When I asked my reluctant interviewee, of all that the Foundation has accomplished,
what particular thing makes you glow with pride? S/he replied, "That we have started
something that has not been tried before; that we are trying to achieve the betterment of
the nation by helping the best and brightest students." S/he also added, that "GBF, as a
living memorial, is the best reward for someone who spent the better part of his life
To my enquiry of where s/he would like to see the Foundation in 10-20 years? S/he
remained ever humble and replied that they didn't have lofty goals. It was enough, it
seems, to offer some kind of help to those who are in need of it, to those who are the
promise and the future of Ethiopia.
My interviewee, let's call her/him X, stated that each member of the Foundation is
responsible for raising funds in his/her area. Some, including X, go so far as to add to the
Foundation's funds from their own pockets. The involvement of every member in the
foundation, X stressed, is invaluable.
I was much impressed by how much in the collective X referred to the members of the
Foundation. There were no individuals, as such. This was a team, and as a good friend
of mine used to say, "There is no I in TEAM." But you could conceivably pluck out the
"m" and the "e" and spell out "me" in team (which could and does, when grammatically
coerced, turn into an "I." What I'm getting at is this. Now, we're all familiar with the very
famous and much abused Kennedy-ism, so let's say it together: "Ask not what your
country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." I'm not suggesting
we all volunteer and schlep off to the front, such as it is, but we can certainly do our bit
for our countrymen and countrywomen who, for one reason or another, have remained
in Ethiopia and battle their often bitter reality every single day to achieve what, by many
standards, are nearly impossible goals.
Yes, I did promise X a certain anonymity, but I simply could not bring myself to write
about this visionary Foundation without trying to put a human face to it. Those who
dedicate their time - and sometimes, their own money - to making sure that this most
worthwhile foundation flourishes, should not, in my opinion, languish in blissful anonymity.
We should sing out their names and praise them for their willingness to believe when so
many of us have given up and turned away. We should celebrate their fortitude. But
more than anything else, we should find that ChilanCHil of hope and join in the effort to
fan it into a flame to brighten our collective future.
Please feel free to visit the GBF web site at http://www.safemail.com/users/getacd/GBF/.
There you will find a full list of the members of the Foundation, complete with contact
information. You will be able to obtain information on how you too can become a
member of the TEAM (60 Birr if you live in Ethiopia or $60 if you reside in the Diaspora
for a one-year membership, etc.). Or, you may simply peruse the details of the
Foundation from its "Status and Mission" to its Constitution.
For the record, the Getachew Bolodia Foundation is a non-profit (in the truest sense of
that word) organization, currently comprised of a total of 73 members. These stalwart
members, in one way or another, support the activities and the goals of the Foundation.
However, the Foundation does openly "appeal to other individuals and
organizations for their support in the form of membership subscriptions, grants
So, stand up and be counted. You might just find your name listed next to X's.