SEED honors individuals for outstanding service
Society of Ethiopians Established in Diaspora (SEED), a nonprofit organization based in the United States, conferred membership honor for four Ethiopians and a late American congressman for their outstanding contributions in their respective fields. On its 21st annual Award night SEED honored Ras Mengesha Seyoum, Habte-Sellassie Tafesse, Mekdes Zelelew, Prof. Sosina Haile, and the late Congressman Donald Payne as “Honored Members” at an event in Washington D.C. on May 26.
SEED Secretary, Aklilu Demessie told Voice of America Amharic that the personalities were selected for their inspiring academic, social, cultural and scientific success, and they have done so while remaining true to their roots. “We wanted to recognize their steadfast commitment to the pursuit of excellence and to publicly acknowledge their achievements,” Aklilu told VOA.
The award for Leul Ras Mengesha Seyoum cited for “his outstanding contributions in the development of rural Ethiopia; for the role he has played in the enhancement of communication infrastructure, transportation, education, tourism, governance in the home land, as an outstanding Governor.” Akiliu described of the former Governor as someone who has spent his life bringing people of like minds together to solve problems of common concern. Leul Mengesha was governor of Arusi from 1952 to 1955 and governor of Sidamo from 1955 to 1958 and prince and governor of Tigray from 1960 to 1974. As vice minister in the ministry of communication, he was instrumental in foundling Bole international airport and helping the country in acquiring Boeing 720B from Continental Airlines. While SEED did its part to remember the public figure, Ras Mengesha also missed the 50 anniversary of the AU meeting in Addis Ababa to be in Washington D.C for the award, Aklilu told VOA.
W/r Mekdes Zelelew was accorded recognition for “her selfless deportment, as role model who has endeared herself to our community and in Addis Ababa-Ethiopia in particular,” SEED announced. She is an “inspiring and self-less humanitarian who has made significant difference in the lives thousands of men, women and children in Ethiopia,” it was said. Mekdes is general manger of Integrated Family Service Organization ( IFSO), an NGO based in Addis Ababa, the provide sponsorship service for vulnerable orphan children and establishes a training centre and provide training in hotel and childcare skills for youths in charge of the vulnerable households. Mekedes was saluted for her “demonstrated love for Ethiopia and Ethiopians, for her civic responsibilities and successful leadership in IFSO, and for all her distinctive contributions to our society,” said the SEED Secretary.
SEED also honored Lij Habte-Sellassie Tafesse, considered by many as the father of Ethiopian Tourism. The former Ethiopian Minister of Tourism Habte Selassie was saluted for his “innovation and excellence in Ethiopian tourism”, having revolutionized tourism in Ethiopia in the 1960s. Habte Selassie coined the phrase, “Thirteen Months of Sunshine”, in referring to the Ethiopian Calendar, which in turn provoked the imagination of visitors. He played a major role in the creation of the Historic Route, which to this date has remained as the most popular segment of Ethiopia’s tourist attractions, Aklilu said.
Other recipient of the SEED includes engineering professor Sossina Haile of the California Institute of Technology. Sossina earned her Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1992, the first Ethiopian to earn PHD in this field. Newsweek Magazine named her one of “12 people to watch in 2008. Prof. Sossina received the award for her promising research and discovery of a new class of fuel cell technology that has brought promise to the world’s energy needs. “As a venerated teacher and role model to the Diaspora Ethiopians, Africans, Americans and others, in appreciation of the rich and positive contributions, she has made by exemplifying the highest ideals and standards of our community, “the citation reads.” Aklilu said the speech Sosoina made on the occasion touched the crowd in accepting this latest honor, which she said feels different because “it is given from her own people”.
SEED also singled out the late US Congressman Donald Payne who was honored posthumously. Donald Payne’s daughter Wanda Payne was on hand to accept the SEED Award for her father who lost his months-long battle with cancer on March 2012. The congressman was recognized for his courage in defending freedom and civil liberties of Ethiopian people. “He was a role model to African- Americans Diaspora Ethiopians, Africans and others. “Rep. Payne was described as a very special friend of Ethiopia who strove for years to help improve the human rights situation of the country.“We feel privileged to present his family with the award in honor of his service to our community and ensure that generations to come remember the sacrifice he made for all of us,” Aklilu said.
The honorees share the stage and event with the high school and college graduates honored on the night. The students are awarded for their community service and extra-curricular activities. Tamra Nebabu, a student at Alexandria’s Bishop Ireton High School, is one of high school seniors to achieve this honor. She was given 225 thousand dollars.
Since 1993, SEED has been giving a platform to recognize Ethiopians and Ethiopian friends who showed outstanding achievements and stand out as role models from among the educators, scientists, artists, religious leader, high school and university students and community leaders without any preference for education and career category.