March 2013:  HULT International Business School Workshop

On February 21, 2013 Donna Sillan presented Common River as a case study at The Hult School International Business School in San Francisco.  She was invited to a class of 50 students working on either their Masters in Social Innovation or Social Entrepreneurship. There were only 2 Americans in the room of 50 international students from around the globe.

A student-led group facilitated a follow-up workshop on March 8 to explore concepts to provide funding, marketing and a sustainable business model for Common River’s program.  The output was extraordinary with the students creating 6 different innovative strategies to create social enterprises to provide an income stream.  We are grateful to the creative ideas generated by the group of vibrant and compassionate global students.  Common River will implement all, if not some, of the exciting new possibilities they presented.

Hult is a top-ranked Business School, and is ranked 1st for international experience and 3rd for international business by the Financial Times, Hult International Business School offers the international exposure and skills required for success in today’s globalized commercial world.

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Feb. 2013:  Ethiopian Cultural Day at MTS

Mount Tamalpais School in Mill Valley has been a firm supporter of Common River since its inception.  The school is Common River’s “gold standard” of an educational institute (Grade K-8) and is our role model for education.  Kate Mecca, the Director, has personally supported the Female Literacy Program, which is named “Kate Mecca’s Women’s Education Center.”  Each year the school has a cultural day to honor and learn about one country.  This year it was Ethiopia.

Ethiopian Cultural Day on Feb. 7, 2013 was MC’ed by Tsegaye Bekele and organized by Cathy Angelo, Don Baker, Rob Potter and Tracy Novick.  The day was filled with activities which included: Ethiopian Music, Folktales, Dance and Tribal Art.  Ethiopian food was served and there was a series of workshops in coffee, henna art, hair braiding, Amharic script, drum ensemble, dance, music and artifacts and a presentation on Common River. It was a fun-filled day, enjoyed by the students.  Mt. Tam students are exceptionally open and receptive to absorbing and participating in different cultures.

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Spring 2012:  Sidama Foodways Cookbook

Donna wrote a “cookbook” on the foodways of the Sidama Tribe, called Sidama Sustenance.  Through the support of Christensen Fund, she spent 2 years researching the staple crop called “enset” and compiling the planting, cultivating and processing of this unusual food.  It is more an anthropological documentation of the tribal foods rather than an actual cookbook, especially since the ingredients are not to be found outside of the southern region of Ethiopia.

Learn more and order it on Blurb.

2012:  Ermias Foundation

David Meyer, a UT medical student who conducted his practicum at Common River in 2011, was inspired to form a foundation to help fund our education program. Visit his website at:

Winter 2011:  PhD Case Study

Here is Ashley Lackovitz-Van Gorp’s Phd candidate’s case study on Common River.
Common River: An Alternative Approach to Creating Change in International Development.

Autumn 2011:   Coffee book with Common River chapter

We had a visitor from Google Headquarters, Alon Halevy, come stay at Common River last Fall. He was writing a book on coffee, The Infinite Emotions of Coffee, and had it published. There is a beautiful chapter on Ethiopia (pages 32-40), which greatly highlights our program: macchiatone.

September 27, 2011:   Girl Photographer

Mill Valley girl takes Ethiopian kids’ 1st photos: Mill Valley girl appoints herself photographer, yearbook editor for school in Ethiopian town. SF Gate

November 2009:   World-Minded Humanitarians 2009

Featured World-Minded Humanitarians in 2009: After 40 years, Tsegaye Bekele returned for a visit to the village of Aleta Wondo in Ethiopia where he was born. During his visit, he reconnected with family members, friends and the community of his childhood, but also witnessed the tremendous needs of his people. Empowered from his trip, Tsegaye decided he wanted to find a way to help the community of Aleta Wando become more sustainable.

June 2009:  The Power of Two

Tsegaye Bekele was born in Ethiopia and emigrated to the US in 1976 where he built himself a comfortable life in Mill Valley, California. Father of two and grandfather also of two, he had never returned to Aleta Wondo, the Ethiopian village where he was born, until recently for a brief trip where he reconnected with family members. After that visit, a thought kept nagging, telling him that he had to do something to help his people who were in tremendous need.

One morning he stopped by Mill Valley Peet’s Coffee shop to have his morning cup and a friend introduced him to Donna Sillan, who happened to stop by too. She was just coming back from Ethiopia where she had helped a couple adopt two Ethiopian orphans. Tsegaye ’s interest grew as he understood that the two kids where from Aleta Wondo. After some exchanges he discovered that they even had attended the same primary school he had graduated from. Fate was helping. Read full story:  I Give You.Net

September 30, 2007:  Common River fundraiser

Ethiopian Cultural Fair. See Poster, listen to KPFA radio show (we are the second to last speakers)

Find out how your visit, medical volunteering, international internship, student volunteering, volunteer teaching and / or donations can help us reach our goal of sustainable development in Aleta Wondo, Ethiopia. For more information about Common River and how you can help, contact us today.