Native Ethiopian Lily Yoseph founded Tangible Hope Foundation, a nonprofit that empowers young girls living in poverty in rural Ethiopia by giving them access to education, medical care and nutrition.

By Colleen Bidwill (Marin Independent Journal) |

MILL VALLEY, Cal.―Lily Yoseph considers herself lucky. Growing up in Ethiopia, she had a privileged life. She came from a middle-class family, got an education and was encouraged to follow her dreams.

While on a trip back to her childhood hometown of Kofele in 2008, the Mill Valley, CA resident realized not all women in Ethiopia were as lucky. From the trip came Tangible Hope Foundation, her nonprofit that empowers young girls living in poverty in rural Ethiopia by giving them access to education, medical care and nutrition.

Lily Yoseph started the nonprofit out of her then one-bedroom apartment in Sausalito, while working various odd jobs to make ends meet. Today, it supports 100 young girls in Ethiopia and continues to grow each year.

Q What inspired you to start your nonprofit?

A I grew up in a family who always adopted children from the street. My father was a mayor and then governor, always helping the poor. I grew up with this influence all my life. I moved to Europe. I lived in Europe for 13 to 14 years, went to school there and came to the United States. My passion at the time was fashion. I worked at Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom, but I always wanted to do something more than just working for myself. The vision came in 2008. Something came to me after hiking in the Marin Headlands. I said, I need a purpose in my life, something greater than only focusing on myself. I decided to go to my birth town. I emailed friends and some family and I said, I am trying to find my purpose, donate whatever you can. I got $5,000 from my family and friends. After 25 years of being away from my country, I went back. I broke down, because the poverty was heart-wrenching. People looked so sick, especially the boys and young girls. I didn’t know what to do. I can’t help everyone. … I was in the village and I saw this young girl. She’s 7-years-old and everything she does is work, cleaning, washing dishes, doing all kind of work. One day I took her picture and spoke to her. She saw her image and she said, “I didn’t know I was so beautiful.” That changed my whole life and focus — empower young girls. Her name is Ubo, and she is the beginning of Tangible Hope Foundation.

Q What was your dad’s reaction to you starting Tangible Hope?

A He’s my big supporter. He lives in the U.S., actually. My uncle and my dad are my big influences in my life. They made me who I am today.

Q How do you feel about what you’ve achieved so far?

Continue reading this story at Marin Independent Journal
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