Death couldn’t stop my purpose as an African leader. Melaku Asmamaw.

They say good people are like candles , they burn themselves up to give others light. This describes Melaku Asmamaw who I met in June in the U.S for the Mandela Washington Fellowship.

I don’t know why I always picture him playing  David, Moses or Joshua, the Biblical characters in a film. Maybe it’s my film making brain side but I digress.

With a diploma in English, a degree in Journalism and communications, a Masters in Leadership and Governance, and having impacted directly over 10,000 people, his journey wasn’t always pretty.

I was what they call an accident child. My older sister and I are six months apart. Born in a family of six other children, my parents were already struggling to make ends meet. My mother tried to abort me twice.

The first time was in a Russian hospital in Ethiopia but the doctor said it was a huge risk for the mother. She tried going the traditional way but this also did not work.

Melaku, whose name means angel, [Malaika in Swahili] always wanted to be a teacher. At 17 years of age however, his dad told him to study medicine otherwise he would disown him if he followed his passion of being a teacher.

It was a very tough time for him and depression kicked in.  His high school grades were poor because of the pressure. His dad was also in prison at the time. He kept this to himself and contemplated suicide.

When it rains, it pours and it poured heavily throughout my childhood. At 11 years of age, I fell in an 11 foot hole. I was in a coma for a month. Doctors lost hope and declared me dead to free the ICU bed.  [laughs]

My family made burial arrangements. As the doctors were wrapping me up for mortuary, I found myself in dream land.

I saw myself in a hole holding two briefcases full of money. A very calm man on top of the hole asked me to let go and give him my hands. I resisted. How do I let go of all this money?

He asked me again and I complied. The minute I let go, I began wailing if not howling. Little did I know that my body also began shaking in the physical.

The doctors who were wrapping me up quickly saved me. I was discharged after two months. In my innocence as  young boy, I was oblivious to the fact that God had a huge purpose for me.

After failing his high school exams, Melaku bought poison to end his life. His other option was to jump off a bridge but he decided not to subject his family to vicarious trauma as if dying wasn’t bad enough.

You know how God uses people to comfort you, he sent his friend who pleaded with him not to end his life. Friends from as far as Netherlands heard about him and sent him some little money for upkeep.

I always encourage young people to invest in themselves and not lose hope. I have worked with many local organizations, big multi-national firms and helped changed very many lives in Ethiopia.

It is key to note many of my relatives decided to pursue education after witnessing my graduation ceremonies.

My vision is to establish a leadership and entrepreneurship institute that will nurture young African leaders.

When this indomitable young African leader isn’t doing the serious stuff, he is either teaching at Sunday School or volunteering as a youth pastor at his local church.

I particularly loved his love for his wife and two sons. He talked and wore them with pride. They say a man’s character is judged by how they treat family and you Sir, earned my respect.

Keep soaring high Melaku. For a minute there I felt like I was writing one of my screenplays.

Many thanks as well for your advice on making delicious Ethiopian Enjera at home.


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