(KPIX 5) — At the dawn of the 20th Century, wealthy industrialist Andrew Carnegie began creating his legacy by building libraries across this country. That’s sort of what Ahmedin Mohammed Nasser has done, but he laughs when asked if he’s a wealthy man.
Nasser is an unemployed accountant living in Oakland. But he loves books and he loves his native country of Ethiopia, so he’s spent the last 23 years building libraries there – 22 of them so far.
It all began when he graduated from Cal State Hayward in 1994 and couldn’t bear to throw out his textbooks.
“All my teachers were, ‘Wow! Can you take all these books off my shelf, please? I don’t use it,’” Nasser said. “So I said, ‘yes, a burden for you … but it’s gold for my people back home who are desperate looking for books.’”
Books are hard to come by in Ethiopia, so Nasser began collecting them – unwanted textbooks, mostly – and got a grant from Stanford University to send them to the University of Addis Ababa. Since then, the foundation he set up has donated books and old computers to high schools and colleges across the country.
Nasser’s libraries may be rudimentary by American standards, but to those who use them they could be the door to a whole new life.
“Helping another human being, doesn’t matter what race, what religion … it’s a noble thing to do,” said Khaled Almaghafi, who helped with the project.
Nasser has also been inspired to take his beekeeping skills to Africa as well to modernize the industry there. If nothing else, their example teaches that, with determination, even ordinary people have the power to change the world.
“God gives us two things for everyone, equally, Nasser said. “One is death, everybody dies. Number two, everybody’s got 24 hours a day. It’s the way how you use it.”
His is a legacy created not from the wallet, but from the human heart.