FEBRUARY 14, 2014 |
Appreciation Day. Celebrating the 16th anniversary of “Voice of Eritrea” Washington DC Radio Program
By Amanuel Biedemariam,
Just after the war with the TPLF started in 1998, Eritreans in the Metro DC found it imperative to have a communication vessel to combat the propaganda schemes of the TPLF, provide correct information, and empower the Eritrean community.
The effort of a few concerned Eritreans helped establish the Voice of Eritrea. Since then, the Voice of Eritrea has done a marvelous job serving as the only voice of the people of Eritrea in the Metro DC area and beyond.
On the 15th of February, the Voice of Eritrea (VoE) will mark its 16 year anniversary.
This article will look at what the VoE meant by its accomplishments and hopefully look at how the VoE can move on to benefit Eritrean communities not only in DC but around the globe. It will try to highlight its needs, implications, and possibilities.
Since the start, the VOE has served the people of Eritrea in many ways. In this age of social media, the internet, emails, and sophisticated-PR-designed to manipulate opinion; the VOE became the voice of the people, particularly those who cannot exploit these modern technologies and those who cannot understand English. These mothers, fathers, newcomers, and the like need the service and need to hear about their country and community from a source they trust.
Every Saturday afternoon, Eritreans tune in to listen to VoE with anticipation. They are tuned in because the VOE serves most of their needs. The VOE informs Eritreans about what is taking place in their communities and Eritrea. It introduces businesses and services owned by Eritreans and advertises their businesses in the process. It promotes Eritrean-related activities be it fundraising for their interests or Mekete dinners.
It serves as a vessel for promoting essential activities such as the language education given to Eritrean children in the area by volunteers. Weekly commentaries and poems by dedicated Eritreans provide a morale boost, entertainment, and education. The VoE teaches Eritrean history. Every Saturday there are surprises because one week there is a book reading program and the next a doctor will give health education. It exposed Eritreans to many creative programs. The programming lineup varies weekly depending on the season and the current situation, based on relevance and current events.
The VOE compiles, disseminates, analyzes, and distributes news relevant to the people of Eritrea in the diaspora. The VOE brings Eritrean government officials to brief and experts to examine current developments that can affect the lives of Eritreans in and out of the country.
Gebremeskel Ghebregziabiher delivers current news from inside Eritrea directly. The weekly coverage from Eritrea by Mr. Gebremeskel is news that all Eritreans await eagerly. It is fiery, timely, precise, and professional. He is the embodiment and reflection of the values of the VOE.
In short, the VoE is the spokesperson, the voice and expression of the people of Eritrea in the diaspora based on the metro DC area. However, the VOE is super unique because of the listener, the people who funded and sustained it to date.
Voice of Eritrea is the actual public radio station funded and supported by Eritreans of the area for the most part. Over the years, Eritreans from other regions in the US, Canada, EU, and other places have made modest contributions to making it the representative of the people, by the people, and for the people.
As a result, Eritreans gather every year to raise funds and to express appreciation for the volunteers that have sustained it with unmatched selflessness and hard work. These volunteers write, edit and record the programs that we have learned to enjoy and benefit from.
The Voice of Eritrea has done what it can with the support of volunteers and the generosity of Eritreans. VOE sustained Eritrean communities by filling a need. However, there are many questions that we need to address regarding the future of the VOE.
To mention some: Is what we have done thus far enough? Should we continue on the same path? Can we improve? What does improvement mean? What should we improve upon? Do we have a vision or, are we satisfied with what we have and continue without change?
A room filled at Voice of Eritrea fundraising event
These are questions and thoughts percolating for a while. And if there is any time to address these questions, now is the time. It is time to assess and reassess the direction of VOE now. It is incumbent upon all stakeholders to take the time to think and plan the future of VOE and determine how we can move forward and fulfill the needs.
For starters, the name Voice of Eritrea is a powerful representation of who you are. Unambiguously, as Eritrean, it is your voice. One of the best attributes of the program is that it is genuinely funded and supported by you. It is yours. No one government or establishment supports the VoE. It is public radio publicly funded by you to serve you. It is engineered by volunteers that are part of the community. It is community radio in the truest of forms. Great job!
Over the last 16 years, Eritrea faced many challenges. Eritrea withstood these challenges and is knocking on the doorsteps of a bright and prosperous future. The VOE traveled this journey with the nation and became the backbone of Eritrea in the Diaspora. However, as Eritrea progresses, it is time for the progress to be reflected in the diaspora.
There were many challenges along the way, particularly when considering the amount of time the volunteers had to present the programs every Saturday.
To move forward, we need a vision and pursue the idea. In the process, we can meet the needs of our communities and beyond. We can be the Voice of Eritrea at the highest of levels. We can empower Eritreans and be another source of Eritrean pride. The question is, what should the vision be? Are there any examples we can glean that can serve as a guide?
The simple answer is yes, WE CAN DO IT. The people in Eritrea are paving roads building dams, bridges, and highways with minimal resources under tremendous duress. If they can do it, there is no reason we cannot match their determination and reciprocate their success somehow. We need to. We must do it for our causes.
Establishing the Voice of Eritrea at the high level it deserves is the least we can do. It is the least we can do in the diaspora to continue the legacy of Ghedli and those that sacrificed the nation. In their Honor, it is the least we can do to give their visions the voice it deserves.
It is, therefore, high time for the VoE to grow to meet the needs. It needs to grow by incorporating all the resources and technologies available. It needs to grow by creating the space necessary that can serve as an anchor. It must grow by incorporating print, web, TV and not be limited to radio.
It needs to grow to compete in this fast-paced, dynamic world. It needs to grow to unite Eritreans from every corner of the globe. It needs to grow so it can reach all Eritreans around the world.
The resources and expertise are available. There are many Eritreans who are journalists and PR experts who love their country to sustain it at very high levels. If anything, the challenges of the last 16 years have brought Eritreans closer and united them on these endeavors. Social media presents an excellent example of this.
Eritreans have been working hard to present the Voice of Eritrea in their communities in a fragmented way. It is time to bring these resources together, marry them, and make it a success.
As Eritrean communities grow, the needs of the communities have grown exponentially. The programs need to reflect the demographic picture accurately. The youth need to play a massive part in this and express their love for Eritrea with work.
Eritreans in the Diaspora need the Voice of Eritrea to operate at the highest level. It needs to be able to serve all needs. In Oakland, California, Eritreans have set a great example by purchasing a massive Community Center that reflects their needs. They have remodeled the building with voluntary contributions and hard work. That remarkable success is an example that we can and must come together to make these endeavors successful. The VOE needs that level of achievement and more.
It requires drive and determination now. We have tremendous resources, including the expertise to make it a success. Hence, we must all make efforts to participate. For starters, here is a link to the site to initiate contact https://www.voiceoferitrea.com
Congratulations, Voice of Eritrea, on your 16th anniversary, and many thanks to the selfless volunteers for their dedication. Please come and thank the volunteers on ECCC this Saturday.