Awoke Genetu, Project Leader
Awoke is a former history teacher who holds a university degree in history and currently owns and operates his own tour company in Addis Ababa. Awoke is the ‘can do’ man. Right from the start when Judy and Dennis felt overwhelmed at the logistics of digging a well, Awoke assured them that together they could implement whatever plans would help the community. He is the interface of Project Ethiopia with the government, regional officials, and the supporters. He has a long history of providing guidance and support to people to improve their situation, beginning in his high school days when he organized a group to educate his fellow students on AIDS through plays and posters.
Workineh Genetu, Project Leader
Workineh is an organic farmer and beekeeper who lives and farms in the Dangla area where both he and Awoke were raised. He was named Ethiopia’s Farmer of the Year from 2007 – 2010 for his progressive farming practices and named a Millenium Man in Ethiopia. Workineh is highly respected by all in the region including officials who recognize the high quality of the Project Ethiopia’s work and by the farmers with whom he has generously shared his agricultural expertise and advice. He has a natural ability to recognize each person’s gifts and to train and encourage work teams for project work. Workineh sees ‘the big picture’, and is a change agent who can help people to be confident and independent as they embrace improvement in their lives.
Under Workineh’s direct supervision and leadership, our in-country staff consists of local residents who, in addition to running their own farms, work as well diggers, plumbers, cement masons, carpenters, metal fabricators, and maintenance staff on all Project Ethiopia projects. Because our team live in nearby villages and value the work being done by Project Ethiopia, many have been part of the organization from the very beginning.
Sue Wilkes, Executive Director
Sue joined the Project Ethiopia team in January 2017 having worked for over 25 years in the nonprofit sector in Seattle both as an executive director and a consultant. Her first connection with the Ethiopian community began in 1990 as a volunteer with Refugee Women’s Alliance (ReWA) in Seattle where she went on to join the staff and work for eleven years. She has also worked with a wide array of health and human service organizations, housing providers, faith-based communities, and coalitions throughout Washington state and around the U.S.
Dennis Wilkins and Judy Sanderman, Founders
Upon retiring from their respective careers as a telephone drafting manager and a college mathematics professor, Dennis and Judy discovered their new passion—fighting poverty by facilitating life-changing opportunities for rural Ethiopians. They enjoyed extensive independent traveling, always desiring to be close to the culture which resulted in what Dennis called “National Geographic- type” adventure experiences. Motivated by a trip to Ethiopia in 2002, they established Project Ethiopia, which satisfied their desire to be closely connected to a culture and their vision of addressing poverty in rural Ethiopia. Dennis’ passion for problem-solving led him to research and design latrines for schools and families and create a method for utilizing diluted urine collected from the toilets to use as fertilizer. Judy’s love of statistics and data collection has verified the effectiveness of the project work.
Board of Directors:
Rob Magnusson, President
Rob spent eight years working on account management and product development for local area tech companies. He’s now a happily at-home dad, deftly managing two rambunctious little kiddos. Rob and his wife, Brooke, have been Project Ethiopia supporters since 2005 – when Judy and Dennis first shared their inspirational story. He was honored to become Board President in 2016.
Lynnda Laurie, Treasurer
Lynnda was the office manager for a Seattle-based environmental consulting company for 21 years. She met Judy and Dennis through a mutual friend and immediately knew she wanted to be involved. Currently she’s the President/Treasurer of her condominium HOA and the Treasurer of Project Ethiopia. Her initial involvement started by creating a system to assist Judy in tracking costs for work accomplished throughout the year.
Sally Jo Gilbert de Vargas, Secretary
Sally Jo Gilbert de Vargas has been a public school educator and administrator for over 30 years. She is an Associate Minister at Interfaith Community Sanctuary, and has served on their Guiding Council for 12 years as Secretary, President, and currently as Treasurer. It was there she got to know Judy Sanderman and Dennis Wilkins, co-founders of Project Ethiopia. Sally Jo has been a volunteer, supporter, and member of the Board of Directors of Project Ethiopia since 2005. She is also on the Board of the Suraiya Ataur Medical Clinic for women and children in the village of Chondipur, Bangladesh, a service project of Interfaith Community Sanctuary.
Kim first learned about Project Ethiopia in 2007 when she met Judy Sanderman and Dennis Wilkins at Interfaith Community Sanctuary. The following year she traveled to Ethiopia and was able to meet Awoke and Workineh firsthand and see the amazing work of Project Ethiopia in the villages surrounding Dangla. As a teacher, Kim feels passionate about the mission of Project Ethiopia to educate children. Before leaving for Ethiopia, her elementary school held a fundraiser to help provide desks and chalkboards for rural schools. On this trip she was able to witness firsthand the impact of her students’ support as the donkey cart was loaded with supplies and delivered to the schools.
Niesha is an instructor for Pure Food Kids Foundation were she teaches elementary students to become food detectives and make healthy choices. If she is not teaching you can find her volunteering for the Ethiopian Community in Seattle and other community based organizations. Niesha took interest in becoming a board member for Project Ethiopia as she feels deeply passionate about empowering others so that they can build strong self reliant communities for themselves and generations to come. Her connection to Africa stems from her late grandfather Dr. Lamar E. Fort whom lived in Liberia and Ghana and were he worked with rural villages to learn and share ways to improve and sustain agriculture and economic development.
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