Nini Legesse is the president of a dynamic non-profit organization called Wegene Ethiopian Foundation (WEF) which she founded with the help of her friends and family members in the year 2000. Wegene has supported 28 impoverished families (8 of which are now self-sufficient) and enrolled over 75 homeless children in schools as a result of sales of baked goods, handmade clay figurines, doll designs and Nini’s poetry books. She has also successfully recruited hundreds of members who pay monthly dues which directly support Wegene’s cause. Each year, Nini spends countless hours knocking on neighborhood doors sharing Wegene’s vision and mission while realizing her dream of eliminating poverty through education.
While visiting a remote village in the Jimma area of Ethiopia in 2006, Nini noticed that the only local school had been ruined and abandoned, forcing the area’s children to walk two hours each way to the nearest school. In response, she spearheaded a project to build an elementary school for the area. By organizing various Wegene fund raising activities, Nini helped raise money for materials and construction. After four years of effort and commitment, the school building dream was a reality. On February 26, 2011, the elementary school was inaugurated and presented to the local people to manage and oversee.
In addition to her commitment to Wegene, Nini works full time and is a mother of three school-aged children. She first arrived in the United States as a 17-year-old Ethiopian immigrant and later became a naturalized citizen. Nini received her bachelor’s degree from Berea College and her graduate degree from Ball State University. She has been working as a patent examiner in the U.S. Patent and Trademarks Office since 2001, where she earned the Bronze Medal Award from the U.S. Department of Commerce.