—Sheger FM Radio 102.1. April 28, 2020, Addis Ababa
Humming with heartfelt energy, Mesfin Tadesse’s memoirs span a transformative and troubled era. Bright and charismatic, Mesfin cuts his teeth under the reign of Emperor Haile Selassie I. In horror, he watches the communist Derg coup of 1974, and, alongside his compatriots, struggles to endure the ensuing atrocities. As a headstrong young man, Mesfin must not merely survive, but must do so without compromising his convictions or his love of Ethiopia.
Engaging to the last, Lucy’s People runs the gamut of human emotion. It strikes the tone of an affectionate elegy, such that it feels, at one moment, warmly descriptive, and at yet another, quietly indignant. In this manner, it weaves between the personal and the political: a feat widely accomplished with playful, acerbic wit. Readers can expect an appetising dose of flavourful detail, but without fear of excessive nostalgia or sentimentality. The storytelling remains consistently inventive, and rewards with gripping vignettes starring spirited personalities. These memoirs thereby tell the story of many – a story of resilient compassion and defiant pride.
The result is compelling; Lucy’s People skilfully documents an intimate perspective on an ethically complex time and place. ___Ben Claessens
ISBN: 9780648828709 (paperback, 2020 – out of print)
Series: Saba and Lucy’s People ; 1
Rating: 16 years+
1st edition: out of print; ISBN: 978-0-6488287-0-9; Published: Perth, Western Australia: 2020
Under the Pump: Water for Refugees by Mesfin Tadesse
This follows on from where Lucy’s People leaves off.
Setting: Kenyan UNHCR camps 1991–1994
Theme: Humanitarian work
Summary: Mesfin is a refugee in Kenya. Voluntarily, he uses his engineering skills to save lives. Speaking 6 languages helps him with the human side of things. Refugees are from Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea, Uganda and Zaire (Congo). Despite heat, hunger, thirst, disease, lack of shelter and police bashings, Mesfin builds water supplies – usually from scratch. He does so in 4 hell-camps for UNHCR and UNICEF, as well as in other African countries. Infrastructure serves hundreds of thousands, mostly women and children. Later, it will attract foreign investors.
From the age of 14, Mesfin survived military conscription, prison and torture. However, wherever he worked the world benefitted.
By the age of 17, he had graduated from Building College in Addis Ababa as a construction engineer. After military conscription ended for him, Mesfin received a UN Development Programme scholarship to Cairo University. Mesfin topped his 1st year course in civil (water development) engineering. Upon graduating, he returned immediately to Ethiopia to work under the Derg regime. Only 2 others did so.
In 1991, Mesfin sought asylum in Kenya with his young family. He built water supply there for refugees.
In 1994, he went to New Zealand. There, he built in earthquake zones and introduced locals to an Ethiopian traditional method of preserving freshly poured concrete. This saved his boss when a pour was mis-timed. He also worked in the UK, US, Japan and Fiji.
Forced to work as a garbage collector upon arrival in New Zealand, Mesfin invented the sulo (wheelie) rubbish bin for automatic lifting onto trucks. Contracted to work on an airport in Fiji, he refused to clear-fell coconut-leaf houses (makuti) and coconut-palms. These were the homes and livelihood of uncompensated locals.
After moving to Australia, he built the first block-and-timber combination fences. While volunteering as a bushfire fighter, saving Victorian wallabies was a highlight. He was also a volunteer ranger in Victoria and Western Australia, using his own vehicle.
Aussies continually dish out racial abuse; nevertheless, he’d go to the battlefront for Australia. In Western Australia, he is a registered master builder. Immigrants like him build whole nations.