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USPTO Examiner and Founder of Wegene Ethiopian Foundation

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Nini Legesse, an examiner at the USPTO, is the founder of Wegene Ethiopian Foundation and a 2012 Champion of Change honoree. 

 

Please see below Nini Legesse's interview with TADIAS MAGAZINE in 2012.

New York Nini Legesse was one of the fourteen community leaders from the East African Diaspora that were honored at the White House as "Champions of Change” last month. Her organization Wegene Ethiopian Foundation provided, among other services, financial support to build an elementary school in Abelti-Jimma, Ethiopia. The White House said:These leaders are helping to build stronger neighborhoods in communities across the country, and are working to mobilize networks across borders to address global challenges.TADIAS: Please tell us about Wegene Ethiopian Foundation. What inspired it?

 

Nini Legesse: I founded Wegene in 2000 with similarly inspired friends who like me had left their home country in their teenage years. We felt morally obligated to give back. Even though my friends and I feel grateful for the security, opportunity, education and better life that we enjoy in our adoptive country, the United States, we wanted to assist those who have less opportunities in Ethiopia. The goal of Wegene is to enable hardworking, poor families to meet their daily needs and send their children to school in a sustainable way.

We also have Wegene Kids Club. The club raises funds through bake sales, movie nights, crafting, and other various activities in order to create awareness and reach out to Ethiopian American youth. In addition to our projects in Ethiopia, the Wogene Kids Club also volunteers by feeding and distributing clothing to the homeless in the Washington, D.C. area. One of Wegene's unique features is that it is 100% volunteer based. As a result, our overhead cost is near to nothing, because everyone involved is donating their time, money, and other in-kind donations.

TADIAS: What do you most enjoy about your work?

NL: My work for Wegene is more of a mission and it’s something that I’m very passionate about. It is meaningful and intensely rewarding. Also, I'm grateful that Wegene has created an opportunity to cultivate social ties to my home country and to make a difference in someone's life at a personal level. This work offers me fulfillment and civic satisfaction beyond imagination. I think we each have to realize our human potential for compassion and love. I see our world as a generous place where we reach out to others as we move through life. It doesn't matter if our contribution is large or small; doing what we can to positively affect the life of a single person provides immense gratification. I also work full time as a patent examiner at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. I have been working at this job since 2001.

TADIAS: In a celebrating Women’s History Month, who are your female role models?

NL: I have numerous. One of my role models is Dr. Catherine Hamlin. I admire her lifetime devotion and mission to treating childbirth-related injures of disadvantaged women in Ethiopia. I'm amazed at how humble and loving she is. Her book, The Hospital by the River, is one of my favorite books. My other role model is Mrs. Marta Gebre-Tsadick, the founder of Project Merci. Marta is a remarkable woman. It is incredible what she and her husband have created. They built a school and hospital and established agricultural development programs. To me, she is a woman who has become a force of nature. Lastly, but equally as important, my mother and each of my six sisters have been my role models especially because I am the youngest child in my family.