Yared Ayele, a Seattle-based IT specialist who volunteered in Ethiopia with Cuso International, received one of five Diaspora Service Awards from the Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance (VEGA).
The awards were presented on July 26th in Washington, DC.
Mr. Ayele worked as an IT advisor to Dire-Dawa University. Originally from Ethiopia, the 26-year-old returned to his homeland from the US to install a high-speed, wireless network from scratch at the fledgling university.
Cuso International recruits volunteers from the US as well as Canada, and offers volunteering opportunities to diaspora communities in North America. The organization wants to help people use their skills in their countries of birth or heritage.
VEGA launched the Diaspora Volunteer Service Awards to recognize the work that is being done by diaspora volunteers around the world. VEGA is the world’s largest consortium of economic growth-oriented volunteer organizations, with 17 member non-governmental organizations that have assisted 140 developing countries.
Ayele is an employee of Accenture, a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company with nearly 250,000 employees worldwide. He participated in Accenture’s employee volunteering program, which allowed Yared to take a leave of absence to share his skills overseas.
Yared Ayele, seated at centre
When Ayele arrived at the six-year-old Dire Dawa University, with its 300 staff and 7,000 or so students, it had only one computer lab with about a dozen working computers and dial-up Internet. He hit the ground with a sprint and within six months, the network was up and running.
But there was no point in building a system no one would understand or be able to maintain, so he chose four young men who were operating the computer lab to become the university’s official IT department.
“I wanted to make sure it’s not just me doing the stuff and leaving,” he says. “Knowledge transfer is a big part of our jobs at Cuso.” Nurturing the budding IT team and watching the men develop pride and professionalism in their work was tremendously satisfying he says.
“Being a role model, with people my own age looking up to me … that was very rewarding.”
Read our story on the work of Yared Ayele in Ethiopia.