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Origin Story Part-1

Updated: Jan 15


Liya here, Global Education Foundation (GEF) founder and director. Thank you for your interest in learning more about GEF! We look forward to building with you, your family and/or your organization.


Well, I want to kick off our new blog with the obvious- our origin story. I hope it inspires you as well as it does us each time we get to tell it.



I was young when I left Ethiopia. I don't have any memories there. However, moving to The Netherlands and then the United States, I always felt Ethiopian at heart- even if I didn't know what it meant to be Ethiopian. I went back 'home' for the first time as a sophomore in college and had the opportunity to spend time at my grandparent's home in Kutaber, a small community of mostly mud homes nestled into the mountain sides of The Great Rift Valley.


One of the first feelings I remember feeling after exiting the landed plane was actually how much of an outsider I was. Everything was both familiar yet unfamiliar at the same time. I saw at least 10 people who looked just like me each day I was out, which was quite unsettling. My Amharic (national language of Ethiopia) was not as good as I had imagined when pitted against the elegant way it rolled off the tongues of my cousins, and I didn't understand the social norms. I have some funny stories to share about my epic fopauxs.


However, when I went to my grandmother's house away from the big city, with no running water, little electricity, and farm animals roaming along the property, I felt so connected to, not just this place, but a deeper sense of purpose in my life.



This video documents my bewilderment the first time I saw a public bus carrying audible livestock on the roof. It is a blooper from a documentary I filmed on my Iphone about the journey that prompted the decision to incorporate GEF.



At my grandmother's farm, I learned to milk cows, call chickens, and make coffee over an open fire from freshly plucked beans. This paradigm shift I experienced was the start of Global Education Foundation Inc. I learned to redefine what I had been taught to believe was 'poverty.' I was able to re-examine my life through a global lens which enabled me to tap into my own potential as well as maximize the resources I had available to me. I understood that we are all citizens of a global community and building organic relationships across borders meant growth for us all. I wouldn't found GEF for another ten years. It was a process, and still is. But the gems lie in the journey. Stay tuned to read more about what that journey looked like for me and how that translated to the GEF journey. Hope to hear from you.

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