How Heroes Make it Through Intense Hardship

Apr 30 , 2021
By Eden Sahle

Among the people I was privileged enough to work with is Dereje Wordofa (PhD), a great family man full of integrity, experience, courage and perseverance. Out of his inspiring traits is how he treats everyone with esteem and compassion, irrespective of where they come from. For many, he is the role model of this age.

He has done much work in human rights policy-making and executive leadership. His humble start to life in a small town of Ethiopia, being exposed to civil war at such a young age, did not prevent him from becoming an influential person.

His exposure to the Red Terror tragedies in the late 1970s as a young man boosted his determination to make people’s lives easier. Passing through those excruciating years did not make him bitter but caring, fearless and strong. It made him grounded in human rights values and open to the views of others even if he disagrees with their outlooks. He dedicated his adult life to serving others and vulnerable children.

I came to know him first four years ago during his assignment to serve as the youngest UN Assistant Secretary-General in New York. His experience working as deputy executive director at United Nations Population Fund, among other executive and international roles in other countries, is impressive and encouraging for any Ethiopian aspiring to make a difference in the world.

There are several things that we can learn from his personality. He is a man that is not defined by the troubled country he comes from nor by earlier challenges in life. For the people of Ethiopia, who are struggling to make sense of their circumstances, Dereje and his remarkable life journey offer hope. If society chooses to respond in kindness to evil, it can transcend it.

Dereje, by generously supporting children, young people, and his colleagues, made us discover the best in all of us. His ability to live up to his own high standards, lead inclusively, maintain a passion, and give courteous consideration to others’ opinions has allowed him to rise above the set of circumstances he was surrounded by when growing up.

People like him are heroic change-makers that can challenge the status quo diplomatically. Being astute and calm under pressure and willing to make tough calls when needed, such people inspire great work from those close to them.

He is living proof that success does not grow on trees - it ought to be earned through dedication and persistent effort to overcome challenges. Being inquisitive and spending time pursuing what is relevant, not just for ourselves but also for others, is critical.

It is essential today to look towards those that inspired the good in us. Many great individuals have gone through immense hardship and come out the other end stronger than ever. They have chosen the path that they were persuaded would do no harm and have stared down the evil they encountered in their lives. Our focus in life, despite our backgrounds and the crisis we are facing, determines how our lives will turn out – this is the lesson we get from our heroes.

We all have much to learn. To advance professionally and develop personally, we ought to focus on the things we want to do in our lives, making sure they are good and can benefit others. The best thing we can do for ourselves and society is to understand our life’s worth and to have a sense of a clear and valuable direction. In such a way, in everything we do, we ought to live our dreams allowing others to do the same.

PUBLISHED ON Apr 30,2021 [ VOL 22 , NO 1096]

Eden Sahle is founder and CEO of Yada Technology Plc. She has studied law with a focus on international economic law. She can be reached at

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