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Adwa Heritage Preservation: Elizabeth Ambaye and Rick Stoner (Addis Alem ‘68-’70; Training ‘72-’75)

Some years back as reported in the July 2016 E&E RPCV Herald, we set out to build a cultural museum on the site in Adwa where Elizabeth"s father was born.  Our ambition was to rebuild the old house and restore the compound to serve as a cultural center to highlight the rich social, political and cultural history of Adwa and in the process help preserve some of the crumbling old stone buildings and walls of the neighborhood of Medhane Alem in the old town.  We've made good progress over the past four years on what has now morphed into three interrelated projects:  the Adwa Heritage Center; the Assem Park; and, the Campaign to Save Old Adwa.

The Adwa Heritage Center

The buildings are now complete as are the walls of the compound, the amphitheater, the landscaping and walkways.  Instead of a working cultural center; however, the compound currently serves as a location for storing building materials for the ongoing Assem Park project.  Hopefully that will change soon and the first exhibits will be able to find their home in the cultural center.

The Heritage Center where the family home once stood.

Heritage Center compound with the Adwa Mountains behind.


Assem Park

We are working in partnership with the City of Adwa to develop the section of the park below the Heritage Center's compound into a clean and green landscape with public toilets, all-weather paths, and a pedestrian bridge over the river creating a much safer, year-round route to Medhane Alem Church and its neighborhood from the Adigrat Road.  A secure way to cross the river is particularly important during the rainy season when the water level rises dramatically and flows quickly, often with sudden surges.  The bridge, key retaining walls and the well-lit path are now complete and well used.  We are 75% done; however, the toilets, remaining boundary walls and entrance into the park are left to do.  Not easy tasks with some boundary demarcation required along with additional funding.  When complete, this section of Assem Park will serve as one of the key boundaries between the Old Town and modern Adwa as well as an inviting pedestrian entrance into the Old Town.

Well-lit pathway across pedestrian bridge up to Adigrat Rd.
Dramatically increased water flow in the rainy season.
Pedestrian bridge next to steps leading to Medhane Alem.


Campaign to Save Old Adwa

Prior to our beginning work in the area the City's Master Plan called for the old town to be razed and replaced with modern buildings, large roads and condominiums. No one saw value in the old; only the new promised something better.  The recently built major road through the Old Town destroyed much and has split the old church neighborhoods (Selassie, Gabriel and Medhane Alem).  However, these developments have helped focus our efforts in the Medhane Alem neighborhood.  Importantly, the City has now declared the Medhane Alem neighborhood as the Old Town and has restricted the type and height of buildings in the neighborhood, but much work still remains to get the City's Master Plan changed and to preserve and rebuild some of the more noteworthy buildings and walls, including the church buildings and the neighborhood mosque, the oldest in Adwa.  One promising development this past year was the laying of cobblestone on the pathways around Medhane Alem Church.  To help raise awareness of the value of the Old Town we have commissioned two architects working on their Masters in Heritage Preservation under Architect/Professor Fasil Giorghis to map, photograph and document the Old Town - highlighting the buildings and features that should be preserved.  Their work will be shown as a special feature in the Heritage Center.

Current Community Needs

Families collecting the first of their monthly food supplements.

Unfortunately due to the coronavirus we have been unable so far this year to visit the Adwa projects and further the work.  We manage from afar, but with added difficulty.  Given the immediate needs of the poor surrounding Medhane Alem Church and our project site, we have turned our efforts and resources to setting up a food bank for the most needy.  Our first monthly distribution to thirty families is underway.  We hope to add many additional families and support this effort through the rainy season until October.  If you would like to contact us or contribute via ZELLE, please use my email, Our heartfelt thanks to those who have already supported these efforts.