Eritrean Youth in the Diaspora – Volunteering in the Homeland

Our guests today are young Eritreans in the Diaspora who are volunteering at ministries and other governmental organizations. Their placement at the organizations has been facilitated by the “Eritrean Youth of the Fourth Front (EYFF), which has been formed by the National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students (NUEYS) to create an environment for the youth to visit Eritrea.

Please introduce yourselves.

My name is Raey Berhane. I was born in the UK and raised in the United States, where I did all my schooling up to grade 10. Then I came to Eritrea, attended 11th grade and went to Sawa as a member of the 34th round. Overall, I’ve been in Eritrea for four years. As of last year, I’ve been working at NUEYS Diaspora Affairs Division in Asmara.

My name is Sifora Berhane, and I was born and raised in Holland. I earned a B.A. in Law and a master’s degree in European and International Law. I worked there for a year before I came here to volunteer at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

My name is Mekseb Eskinder, and I was born and raised in London, UK. I went to Lancaster in Northern England for my B.A. in Geography. During my time there, I participated in a few voluntary initiatives related to African affairs. My first role was as a charity office coordinator with the African Caribbean organization, and my second one was related to the First Africa Conference, on topics pertaining to the African continent. Then I took a break and decided to come here, to Eritrea, and spent some time learning my mother tongue and getting to know my country better. I also wanted to use my time more productively and decided to do voluntary work. I’m now working as a volunteer at the Central region’s office.

My name is Yosan Biniam Afewerki and I come from Columbus, Ohio, USA. I am a 3rd year premedical student at Ohio State University and am on track to be an optometrist. When I got free time, I came to Eritrea, and I wanted to use the opportunity to volunteer at some organization because I heard a lot about the program from Eritrean fellows in the Diaspora. So I contacted NUEYS and made arrangements to work at Berhan A’yni Optometry Hospital in Maytemenay.

As representative of NUEYS’s Diaspora Affairs Division, Mr. Raey, tell us the division’s goals and accomplishments?

The division operates under the auspices of NUEYS and provides services to the Eritrean youth living abroad. It has been working in collaboration with NUEYS website, where we used to post articles about the Eritrean youth. Then we formed a new Diaspora group, which I believe is our most significant accomplishment thus far. Before we did that, there was no officially known Diaspora group, and Diaspora visitors to Eritrea had no organized meeting point.

We formally launched a new group named “Eritrean Youth of Fourth Front” in January 2023; it had existed unofficially since November of last year but became an officially recognized group on January 26th of this year. Its membership includes youth whose ages range from 18 to 40, and its goal is to create a platform for its members to network, exchange experiences, and participate in various events and activities. This year, the division has organized a unique tour for the youth in the Diaspora, including a visit to the trenches in Nakfa. The major goal of this journey is for Eritreans raised abroad to witness their own history while traveling along with their peers.

The volunteer program is one of the division’s key operations. Anyone who wishes to engage in and contribute to the volunteer program or take an internship in any field is welcome, and the office serves as a bridge between them and the ministries and other governmental organizations in Eritrea. When volunteers come, we ask for three documents: their CV, a recommendation letter from the embassy, and a letter explaining what motivated them to volunteer. So when they send us these three documents, we connect them to the appropriate institutions. We send volunteers to ministries where their areas of competence is relevant. We also ask ministries for openings so that when volunteers arrive, we can show them the available vacancies and they can choose a ministry that is suitable for their profession.

What motivated you to volunteer, and what do you think about the work you are doing?

Yosan: When I complete my studies, I will become an optometrist and come back here. I’m now having some experience and becoming familiar with the system here; when I come back I am not going to be new to the system. And the members of staff at Berhan A’yni Hospital that I have met are mostly young and friendly, welcoming me really well when I met them.

Mekseb: I am working at the mapping, statistics and GIS Department at Central region. I think what I will be able to learn by volunteering in Eritrea is a lot more than what I’ve brought here. I am getting a lot of experience here which I couldn’t find easily in other places. Despite the limitations people here are doing a very remarkable job. They are very cooperative, friendly and willingly to teach you.

Sifora: I’ve always wanted to come and serve here since I was very young. After I completed my studies, I thought that was the perfect time to come to Eritrea. As I mentioned I work at the Foreign Affairs minister’s office as a legal advisor. At the beginning it was a little bit difficult for me to work in the office. But later on I found it enjoyable and interesting because I started gaining experience working there and everybody is welcoming.

Any message you would like to convey to the Eritrean youth in the Diaspora …