05 December 2000
On Saturday, 9 December, volunteers, eminent personalities, government representatives, members of civil society, the media and the community congregated at Addis Ababa's Ras Mekonnen Bridge to celebrate International Volunteer Day and to launch the International Year of Volunteers 2001. The bridge is an important monument in honour of Ras Mekonnen, the father of the late Emperor Haile Selassie.
For the last two years, a well-known singer and artist, known as Gashe Abera Molla (Seleshi Demissie) embarked on a crusade to rid the city of filth and rubbish -- largely due to nighttime dumping -- and to preserve cultural heritage by restoring monuments and beautifying the city.
With his large group of student volunteers, Gashe Abera Molla has given the city of three million people a facelift. The volunteers cleaned up the Ras Mekonnen monument, which had been covered in slime and green moss, its fountain abandoned and non-functional, and its environs used as an open-air toilet. It was therefore fitting that the IYV team decided to showcase the restoration work carried out by the volunteers, unveil new projects and mobilize human and financial resources for the IYV work plan.
The ceremony included music and poetry by well-known Ethiopian author Ato Mamo Wodeneh, a representative of the Ethiopian Writers' Association and Moral Re-armament. The first "Volunteer of the Year" award was presented to Gashe Abera Molla, in recognition of his voluntary work.