They were born three decades apart. Their lives cross three continents. Yet tutor Don Haffner and student Esayas Tasew share so much in common.
Both have dedicated their lives to helping people. Don worked in the Peace Corps teaching English in Korea. He lived in Korea for a total of 15 years, continuing to teach English at schools and U.S. military bases. When Don later returned to Detroit, he produced books for blind and dyslexic people. Don now teaches world history at Oakland Community College.
Esayas immigrated from Ethiopia three years ago, joining family already in the Detroit area. He leads a congregation of 50 parishioners at St. Mary Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in Ferndale. Esayas’ wife and young son still live in Ethopia. He looks forward to the time when they can join him in the United States.
Both enjoy talking about current events and learning about each other’s countries and cultures. Don reads BBC and Reuters every day. Whenever he finds an article about Ethiopia, he makes a copy to read and discuss with Esayas. Don explains, “It is interesting for the student because it is their country but also shows that I am interested in his country, not just the other way around.”
Don also has a chance to get a deeper understanding of Ethiopia. “He [Esayas] knows more about it than what is in the article.”
Esayas is an eager learner, with the goal to learn English well enough to attend an international theology school. Prior to the pandemic, the pair were meeting up to four hours a week at the Ferndale Library – twice the required weekly hours. Once the library closed, Esayas and Don tried to meet over Zoom, but Esayas doesn’t have a strong Internet connection and finds the computer challenging.
Don and Esayas have found a new way to meet. Don prints and leaves study materials in Esayas’ mailbox every few weeks. Then they have phone meetings twice a week.
While the arrangement might not be ideal, it is working. Esayas is grateful to Don: “He is my prize, my light.”