Ethiopia III Returned Peace Corps Volunteers

"Return to Ethiopia" Trip

September 22 - October 7, 2012

50th Anniversary of the Peace Corps in Ethiopia


September 27 - Thursday

Debre Berhan

The Peace Corps in Debre Berhan

The Peace Corps volunteers began serving in Debre Berhan in 1962. In 1975, the Peace Corps ended operations after the "Derge" or military take-over and ouster of Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974. Volunteers again returned starting in 1995 approximately four years after the fall of the Derge in 1991. A group of 6 volunteers and some of their family members arrived in Debre Berhan on September 22, 2012, as a part of the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps in Ethiopia.

When the Peace Corps first arrived in Debre Berhan, it was a town of approximately 5,000. Based on the 2007 national census, this town had a total population of 65,231. In 2012, the population was approaching 80,000, due  in large part to the new "Debre Berhan University" which has a population of approximately 10,000 students.

During the first years of Peace Corps service, there were two secondary schools in Debre Berhan that accounted for the large number of Volunteers working there from 1962-1975. The schools were Haile Mariam Mammo Secondary School and the Debre Berhan Teacher Training Institute.

History of Debre Berhan

Debre Berhan was founded by Emperor Zara Yaqob, in response to a miraculous light that was seen in the sky at the time. Believing this was a sign from God showing his approval for the death by stoning of a group of heretics 38 days before, the emperor ordered a church built on the site, and later constructed an extensive palace nearby, and a second church, dedicated to Saint Cyriacus. Zara Yaqob spent 12 of the last 14 years of his life in Debre Berhan.

Historian Richard Pankhurst offers the date of 1456 for the date of the founding of this church, providing a plausible argument that the light in the sky was Halley's Comet, which could have been in Shewa that year, although the traditional dates (10th day of the month of Maggabit, i.e. 6 or 7 March) do not coincide with the days that the comet was most visible (13 through 17 June).

The majority of the inhabitants of Debre Berhan are Ethiopian Orthodox Christians.  There is now a new Mosque in town with an increasing number of Muslims, perhaps 5 to 10 percent of the population. Both religions get along very well in Ethiopia with various family members belonging to either religion.

The Debre Berhan Wool Factory, the first wool factory in Ethiopia, was launched by Emperor Haile Selassie. It started production on1 January 1965 with 120 spindles and 6 looms. In its first six months, the factory produced 7,065 blankets in a single-shift operation with a labor force of about 200, of whom 45% were women. The Derge government announced 3 February 1975 that the Debre Berhan Wool Factory was among 14 textile enterprises to be fully nationalized.

Debre Berhan is also a famed center of rug making.


The following commentaries are from Betty McLaughlin Hagberg, who served in Debre Berhan in 1964.

(Important note: All photographs, except where mentioned,  are copyrighted as of October 8, 2012, by Darrel and Betty Hagberg. Please request permission to use and please credit them).

Ethiopian countryside on the road from Addis Ababa to Debre Berhan.


Ethiopian countryside on the road from Addis Ababa to Debre Berhan.


Ethiopian countryside on the road from Addis Ababa to Debre Berhan.


Ethiopian countryside on the road from Addis Ababa to Debre Berhan.


Ethiopian countryside on the road from Addis Ababa to Debre Berhan.


Ethiopian countryside on the road from Addis Ababa to Debre Berhan.


Ethiopian countryside on the road from Addis Ababa to Debre Berhan.


While in Debre Berhan, we stayed at the Eva Hotel. The gardens were beautifully kept. The rooms were adequate and extra blankets from the blanket factory kept us warm.  As elsewhere in Ethiopia, walkways and stairs were precarious.















With our group there were six RPCV’s who had taught in Debre Berhan.  On our first afternoon, we visited the canyon, pictured, Ray Donaldson, Marian Haley Beil, Bruce Engle, Frances Lacroix, Betty Hagberg, Russ Misheloff, and our local guide.


The group with their family members.












Click below for more Photos of the trip

September 22 Ethiopian Embassy Reception
September 23 Dulles Airport
September 24 Addis Ababa Airport Reception
September 24 Addis Ababa City Views
September 24 Hebir Restaurant Dinner Show - Addis Ababa
September 25 Addis Ababa City Views
September 25 Ethiopian President Welcome
September 25 Kotebe College for Teachers - Addis Ababa
September 25 US Embassy Reception
September 26 Ethnological Museum - Addis Ababa
September 26 Saint George Cathedral - Addis Ababa
September 26 Mercato Market Place - Addis Ababa
September 26 Meskel Celebrations - Addis Ababa
September 27 National Museum - Addis Ababa
September 27 Mount Entoto Overlook - Addis Ababa
September 27 Trinity Cathedral - Addis Ababa
September 27 Debre Berhan
September 28 Debre Berhan
September 28 Ankober
September 29 Lalibella and Market
September 29 Yemrehanna Kristos Church, Bilbilla
September 30 Churches of Lalibella
October 01 Stelae Field - Axum
October 01 Tombs of Kaleb and Gebre Meskel - Axum
October 01 The Enzana Stone - Axum
October 01 Queen of Sheba's Palace - Axum
October 01 Monastic Complex of Saint Mary of Zion - Axum
October 02 Mai Shum (Queen of Sheba's Swimming Pool - Axum
October 02 Fasilo Ghebbi (Royal Enclosure) - Gondar
October 02 Debre Birhan Selassie Church - Gondar
October 02 Wolieka (Falasha Village) - Gondar
October 03 Fasilidas's Pool - Gondar
October 03 Barhar Dar
October  04 Blue Nile Falls - Barhar Dar
October  04 Lake Tana - Barhar Dar
October  04 Church of Ura Kidane Mihret - Barhar Dar
October  05 Dire Dawa - Harar
October 06 Red Terror Museum - Addis Ababa
October 06 Babile - Harar - Dire Dawa
October 07 Dire Dawa
October 07 Farewell Dinner at Crown Hotel - Addis Ababa


Click below for more Ethiopia Web Site features

Map of Ethiopia and Eritrea (circa 1964)
Ethiopia III Trainees Book
In Country Assignments, 1964-1966
Photo Memories of Ethiopia
Ethiopian Art and Culture
Ethiopia III's Attending the 50th Reunion
Books on Ethiopia
Ethiopian Artifact Exhibition
Return to Home Page


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Ethiopia III Official Web Site

Copyrighted 2011, All Rights Reserved.

Betty McLaughlin Hagberg, Web Master

Updated on 4 November 2012