Although separated from Eritrea by thousands of kilometers, the members of the Eritrean Patriotic Group (EPG), located in Frankfurt, Germany, maintain a strong connection to their home country. From Germany, the group has extended considerable support and supported development in Eritrea and made. We had the opportunity to do discuss the organization and its important work with Desale Asfaha, of Frankfurt, one of the EPG’s founding members.
- -What was the motivation behind establishing the Eritrean Patriotic Group (EPG)?
When we decided to establish this organization, there was a lot of bad news about Eritrea floating in the media. As Eritreans living in Germany, we wanted to show the people in Germany the truth. Sure, Eritrea has challenges, like everywhere else. However, the Eritrean people are proud and hard-working. And Eritrea has many, many positive aspects, which people hardly hear about.
More importantly, however, we established the EPG in order to support our brothers and sisters back home. Eritrea is young and still growing; thus, it can still use support to help it reach its full potential. In 2017, we began working in Frankfurt. We had only 4 members. However, we have grown rapidly and we have 66 total members from all over Germany, including Stuttgart, Mannheim, Frankfurt, Essen, and Hannover. In fact, we are looking forward to grow even more!
- -How does the EPG work?
In Germany, we were supporting Eritrean organizations with our various skills and “manpower.” For example, some members of the group from Heilbronn, in cooperation with the National Confederation of Eritrean Workers (NCEW), are helping to build schools in Eritrea. When they want to ship things, like new school materials to Eritrea, we help them load the containers.
We also organized a football tournament in Gießen this year and we invited recent Eritrean migrants as a way to “come together” and help them to get connected to the local society.
We are also driven by the question of how we can support the Eritrean people directly. We heard about a project for pupils of the school for the visually-impaired in Godaif. It arranges annual tours for students to Massawa. I directly contacted the EHD (Eritrea Hilfswerk in Deutschland e.V.) and connected with Martin Zimmermann, the manager of this organization. I met him in Eritrea a couple of years ago and already knew that he was great work for Eritrea. I informed the EPG members about our conversation and within a week we collected €3500, which we handed over to Mr. Zimmermann. 9 months later, we decided to create EHD-Frankfurt in order to improve cooperation between the EPG and the EHD. Now, we are running the two organizations so that we can assume responsibility for the yearly Massawa tour.
We also wanted to support the Eritrea’s war veterans and we have collected donations. In the end, we were able to donate two electric wheelchairs, one running wheelchair, and one billiards table for the veterans.
- -What benefits are there from being active in different cities?
Let me answer this question with an interesting story. We had our founding conference in Frankfurt, as we received the news that we could give the veterans a billiards table as a gift. However, someone would have to go pick it up from Stuttgart. However, because of the conference, no member was able to go there. So Solomon Hagus, an EPG member, simply cancelled his appearance at the conference without informing anyone. Secretly Solomon called his Eritrean friends in Stuttgart to help him pick up the billiards table and deliver it to the War Veteran’s Association in Stuttgart, because they were sending a container to Eritrea that day. He later surprised us all with his unexpected story. So for us it is a big advantage to be active in not only one city.
- -You have now been here for about 3 weeks. What have you been up to, besides catching up with family and friends?
Together with Martin Zimmermann, I visited the school for the visually-impaired and the orphanage in Godaif. We wanted to talk about the Massawa project and have a closer look at their actual needs. Development requires open communication and we want to ensure that we are providing the requisite support. We are planning to build a new sports field there.
We also went to the BIDHO headquarters to see how we could support them. BIDHO works to address challenges related to HIV/AIDS. They have done excellent work over the years and we simply want to support that.
I went to the War Veteran’s Association office to talk to the manager about our past and future donations and how we could help improve the mobility of veterans. Some days, later I visited them at Denden to see how they live and better understand their challenges and needs.
I guess you could say that a lot of the trip has been doing research in order to better understand how we can more effectively support our nation.
- -Do you guys already have plans how you want to support Eritrea in the future?
Of course! We have already collected enough money for the Massawa trip in 2019. We are planning to buy new swimming vests for the 65 pupils so that everyone can go on the trip, even the young ones. In fact, we are hoping to get more and more members in the near future. We welcome any and all who want to support Eritrea.
- -Thank you for the interview Desale. Best wishes to you and the EPG!