EMPOWER ETHIOPIA is a 501(c)3 that operates as an independent non-profit organization. We are committed to improving the lives of orphans and/or vulnerable children, their families, and extended communities. Empower Ethiopia supports initiatives or collaborations that are community driven and focus on advancements in health care, education, sustainable livelihood, and overall improvement in quality of life.
Lisa Buoniconto and Todd Hayes are parents of two boys from the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR) of Southwestern Ethiopia as well as two daughters. Lisa and Todd are passionate about issues surrounding extreme poverty and its effect on the health and welfare of children and their families. For the past 25 years, Lisa and Todd have committed their lives to helping children, either working or volunteering in numerous capacities including foster care, coaching, mentoring, and teaching. Empower Ethiopia was formed with the philosophy that “community” extends to any area where people join together to create positive change.
Lisa has an M.S. degree in Communication Disorders with a background in speech and language pathology and currently works assisting in the administrative offices at the Menands Union Free School District in Albany, NY. Todd has an M.S. degree in Education from College of St. Rose and is third grade teacher at the Waterford-Halfmoon Union Free School District in Waterford, NY.
Belayneh Woldemariam was born in Bensa Woreda, Ethiopia. He holds a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Planning from Hawassa University. Belayneh worked for four years as a program coordinator for Wide Horizons For Children (WHFC) in the SNNPR region of Ethiopia. In addition, Belayneh has experience in teaching at multiple levels including teaching Social Studies and Civic and Ethical Education in Hawassa at the primary school level and teaching Group Dynamics and Conflict Management for School principals and supervisors at Hawassa University School of Education. Belayneh has experience in writing proposals, strategic planning, working with multicultural and dynamic groups, monitoring and evaluation, public presentation, and partnership negotiation. With this history and background, Belayneh hopes to continue to serve his community by addressing the ongoing effects of poverty with a particular concern for child welfare and education. Belayneh presently resides in Hawassa and is employed by Save The Children as READ CO Manager for SNNPRS South Area Hub.
Christy Johnson serves as Vice President of Governmental & Managed Care Services for Premier Home Health Care Services, Inc. and develops information and research on health policy programs and issues across Premier’s territories and serves as liaison for government and regulatory issues. She also is responsible for the development and oversight of Premier’s grant program.
Prior to this role, Christy was President of the New York State Association of Health Care Providers, Inc. (HCP). As President of HCP, she led all aspects of HCP and its affiliates and has a strong background in public policy and strategy development. In 2000, she served as Health Policy Advisor in the Public Policy group of the Washington, DC law firm of Patton Boggs, LLP, where she provided advice to clients on a broad range of health care policy and financing issues. Prior to joining Patton Boggs, Christy acted as VP of Government Affairs for HCP and before coming to HCP in 1994, she worked as a Senate Fellow for the late State Senator Michael J. Tully and the NY State Senate Health Committee.
Christy is the Vice Chair of the Hudson Mohawk Area Health Education Center Board of Directors, was the former Board Chair of the YWCA of the Greater Capital Region and has served on numerous home care industry boards and advisory groups. She currently serves on various school-related Boards and Committees in Menands, NY, is a youth soccer coach and former Girl Scout Leader.
A graduate of Emory University, she holds a Master’s in Public Health from the University of Michigan.
Valecia Parker lives in Menands, NY where she resides with her dog Spot. Valecia has worked for NYS government for over 20 years and is currently working in the Research & Statistics Bureau at the Department of Labor. Valecia earned her certificate in Computer Software Applications from Hudson Valley Community College, her Associates Degree in Paralegal Studies from Tompkins Cortland Community College, and her Bachelor’s Degree in Legal Studies at SUNY Canton. Besides volunteering, Valecia enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, cooking, and being outdoors.
Saba G. Seyoum assumed the Treasury role with Empower Ethiopia in March, 2017. Currently, Saba is employed as an Accountant at Auterra Inc. and Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted (SENG). Three years ago, Saba relocated from Virginia where she was a Senior Accountant with Virginia Premier Health Plan in Richmond. She was with Virginia Premier for 6 years. Prior to that, Saba lived in Fremont, CA where she was a Staff Accountant with Brocade Communication Systems and Flextronics International for about 6 years. In addition, Saba was an Accounting Coordinator for 4 years at Clorox headquarters in Oakland CA. Saba has a B.S. in Business Administration with a concentration in Accounting from San Francisco State University. Saba resides with her husband and two children in Clifton Park, New York.
Elmo Sapwater brings with him over 35 years of technical expertise and publishing experience. Elmo has demonstrated the effectiveness of combining still video/digital imaging within various environment including digital publishing; assisted in “The Day in the Life of America” book project. His other achievements include having designed and developed an electronic photography platform for criminal investigative purposes; taught traditional/digital imaging at the college level; created the world’s first publication dedicated to digital imaging; former executive editor of two U.S. photography magazines; and developed multimedia kiosks in Europe for the Montreux Jazz Festival. Elmo has also photographed extensively throughout many areas of the world and is the current editor of Imaging Insider and co-host of the podcast, Photo Trash Talk.