Elizabeth Asrat (Co-Founder, Director—FinanceCommittee)
Elizabeth was born and raised in Ethiopia and has over 20 years of full-time professional work experience here in the USA and in Ethiopia. Currently, she works at the City of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power as a senior auditor. She is a member of the Institute of Internal Auditors and Los Angeles Municipal Accountants and Auditors Association.
Elizabeth likes to spend her free time volunteering for non-profit organizations. In 2004 she co-founded the Ethiopian Community Association in Los Angeles. She served as a board member and officer of that organization for five years.
Elizabeth is a Certified Public Accountant and a Certified Internal Auditor with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.
Etsegenet Ayele, MD (Director—Fundraising Committee) Born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Etsegenet completed medical school in Minsk, Belarus. After a residency at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Etsegenet established a private practice in internal medicine in Southern California. She also conducts clinical trials in collaboration with different pharmaceutical companies and is a Clinical Assistant Professor of internal medicine at Western University of Health Sciences.
Etsegenet is married with two children and her hobby is gardening as well as actively participating in charities to make a difference.
Hirout Dagnew (Director – Program Committee) was born and raised in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia and has resided in California for the past thirty-five years. Hirout completed her undergraduate education at UCLA, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology. She then pursued graduate studies at Pepperdine University, where she received a Master’s degree in education. Hirout also completed a two-year graduate program in Marriage, Child, and Family Counseling.
In addition to her academic achievements, Hirout has extensive hands-on experience in childhood education. She is a National Board-certified teacher specializing in middle-childhood years, gifted students, and English language learners, and has worked as an elementary school teacher in Los Angeles since 1986. Hirout is a member of the National Science Teachers Association, the California Gifted Association, and the Association of Supervision and Curriculum. She leads workshops and trainings for parents and teachers, mentors and coaches other teachers, and has served on education advisory boards.
Jennifer Costa (Director—Fundraising Committee)
Jennifer works in the children’s room of her city’s public library. Before taking on this direct work (and fun) with children and families, she worked at a variety of nonprofit organizations, advocating for policies and practices that improve the health and well-being of women and children living on the margins of our society.
She visited the Fregenet Kidan Lehitsanat in November 2010 as part of a volunteer trip to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She was deeply impressed by the potential and energy of the students, the commitment and expertise of the teachers and staff, and with the way the FKL community has done so much with what seems like so little.
Jennifer has a Master’s degree in social work and is at work on a second Master’s degree in library and information science. She and her husband, Phil Costa (Volunteer—Technical Support), live with their two school-age boys in Massachusetts. The whole family enjoys reading; Jennifer loves to bake and the rest of the Costas love to eat treats, so it works out well.
Chris Kurtz (Director and Secretary; Public Relations Committee)
For the first five years of his life, Chris lived with his parents and siblings in a very remote village in Southwestern Ethiopia called Maji. Water was pumped up to the house from a stream using the flow of water to overcome gravity, and nights were illuminated by battery or kerosene. When Chris was five years old, the family moved to live in the capital city of Addis Ababa. Chris started school at Good Shepherd, a missionary school with an American curriculum and American teachers. Until the tenth grade Chris enjoyed music, sports, literature and endured religious studies and chapel.
In 1974, Chris’s family left the country as a family for good. Chris attended and graduated from Portland State University as a teacher and began teaching. In 1987, he returned to Ethiopia to teach English in a girls’ school. It was during this time that Chris studied and began to be able to communicate in Amharic.
Chris currently teaches third grade in Portland Oregon. He has three grown kids, a wife, and a dog. For fun and for frustration, he writes children’s books and has three published titles to his name and one book under contract.
Lu Selassie- (Director – Fundraising Committee)
Lulseged got the name Lu from the eldest daughter of the family he came to stay with in upstate New York on the day he landed at JFK. He finished high school there in a small dairy town called Mt. Upton, not very far from the famous Woodstock, NY. Lu credits those years for educating a very shy, impressionable young man, and introducing him to American culture. He will always remember that time as being homesick but very enjoyable and wonderful nonetheless.
Lu’s childhood years in Ethiopia were, he says, the best of his life. Even though he grew up somewhat “privileged” just being there exposed him to need that existed all around. His mother and father instilled in him the value of giving or assisting those who were not as “lucky.” In his view, Lu’s father probably spent as much time in charitable work as he did at his full-time job over the course of his entire life; giving was his passion till the end. Lu insists he does not have anywhere near that capacity for generosity, but over the last two decades or so, has tried to do what he can to follow in his parents’ footsteps.
Lu’s educational background is in economics and information systems. He says he fell in love with computer programs late in his school life and never looked back. Currently, he works for a utility in Southern California managing a team of software developers.
Peter Davids (Director – Public Relations and Visibility Committee) is an attorney at the law firm of Jones Day, which has more than 2,400 lawyers in 35 offices around the globe. Peter received a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Master’s degree in history from U.C. Berkeley, where he received the Heller Fellowship in History. He also graduated with distinction from Stanford Law School, where he served as executive editor of the Stanford Law Review. He then served as a law clerk to a United States Court of Appeals judge in Pasadena, California for a year.
Peter has been a practicing attorney since 2004. In fewer than eight years of practice, he has developed a reputation as a highly effective appellate advocate in the federal and state court systems. Among other acknowledgments, he has been recognized by Super Lawyers magazine as a Northern California “rising star” in appellate litigation in 2009 and 2010 and a Southern California “rising star” in appellate litigation in 2012. Peter has demonstrated a commitment to legal representation of the indigent through his pro bono representations, especially in the area of immigration law.
Tafesse Woubshet – (Founder and President)
Tafesse was born and raised in Ethiopia. He used to work at state owned Wholesale Corporation, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for about 16 years in different capacities. In his private life, he was also a free-lance radio program producer and television newscaster.
Here in the US, Tafesse has worked at precious metals brokerage company, the Hilton Hotels, California State University—Dominguez Hills, and at the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles for a total of another 14 years. Tafesse retired from the Housing Authority and currently works full time at the Fregenet Foundation. Tafesse has a Master’s degree (MBA) in international business.
Luisa Del Giudice, PhD was born in Italy, immigrated to Canada in 1956, and has lived in Los Angeles since 1981. She is an Independent Scholar and has been a university academic (UCLA), public sector educator (Founder-Director of the Italian Oral History Institute), community activist, and through these multiple activities has sought to bridge various roles and audiences.
Luisa has published and lectured widely and is internationally known for her work on Italian and Italian American and Canadian folk life, ethnology, and oral history. She taught a graduate seminar in oral history in the Dept. of Ethiopian Studies at Addis Ababa University in 2011 and continues to work to strengthen folklore and oral history research for graduate students in the department.
Richard Male is an internationally recognized leader in the fields of leadership development, fundraising, community organizing, and public policy for non-profit organizations, faith-based entities, private foundations, and local municipalities and schools.
Rich has taught both undergraduate and graduate level courses in subject areas such as grant writing, fundraising and resource development, leadership development, community organizing/public policy, since 1971, and has an undergraduate degree in economics from New York University and a Master’s in social work from Washington University in St. Louis. Rich resides in Denver, Colorado, managing and leading his consultancy, Richard Male & Associates.
Fekade Selassie Mesfin was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and completed his high school studies there at St. Joseph School. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree at Cal Poly Pomona in civil engineering and is a registered engineer in the State of California. He currently works at Cal Trans as Office Chief of Construction Management Office, in district 7.
In his private life, Fekade is the owner of Feedel Software for Ethiopic Languages, and is also a publisher of the Liturgy Book of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church – in Geez, Amharic, English, and phonetic transliteration. In addition, Fekade served at St. Mary’s Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Los Angeles as secretary and continues to serve in different capacities in various committees and sub-committees.”
Marcia Thomas holds a Master’s Degree in education and worked for a number of years for the Boston Public Schools in various capacities during the 1970s. In addition, she has worked for organizations such as Oxfam America. Ms. Thomas presently is the Executive Director of USA for Africa.
Marcia has served on a number of Boards and Advisory Committees for Africa-focused women and youth organizations. Marcia was a Founding Board member of the National Summit on Africa (Africa Society) and is presently on UCLA’s James S. Coleman African Studies Center Advisory Board and is a member of the Pacific Council on International Policy, Los Angeles.