About Us

Dereje & Mindi Aleme, the founders of Lighting the Ethiopian Path, are blessed to have the perspectives of two countries: Ethiopia and America. Dereje Aleme was born in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia with a population of over 4 million. He left his country as a refugee when he was young and later lived and worked in several Africa countries before moving to Kampala, Uganda. Mindi Aleme was born in a small town in Colorado. She moved to Kampala, Uganda a few years after completion of her degree at Pepperdine University.Family Pic at Adulala May 2014


While working at a Christian non-profit educational resource center, the two met and were engaged. After spending the next 10 years in Los Angeles, they returned to Ethiopia with their two little boys. While faith in a ever-present, loving Lord prompts both to spend their lives in service, Dereje is further driven by his personal experience of life on the streets when living as a young refugee. Knowing the difficulties of this dangerous life first-hand, Dereje is passionately seeking to help the homeless teens on the streets of Ethiopia. Believing that education is the key to transformation, the two started working on innovative ways to approach the communities most vulnerable to the cycle of poverty. In addition to his connections in Ethiopia, Dereje brings his experience in management and entrepreneurship to the organization. Mindi brings over 12 years of professional experience in education administration and nonprofit program management. Mindi also has a MA in Social Entrepreneurship and Change to match her passion for community development, enterprise development, and female empowerment. Lighting the Ethiopian Path is the result of their vision, but is equally infused with the wisdom of their dedicated Board of Directors.

Board of Directors:

With backgrounds in education, construction, non-profit administration, direction of homeless services, and the founding of other African schools, the Lighting the Ethiopian Path Board of Directors comprise a truly amazing group of servant leaders. We are thankful for their time, support, and continued encouragement.


Ezra Plank, Board Member — Ezra Plank currently serves as the Director of Pepperdine University’s study abroad program in Lausanne, Switzerland. He received his Ph.D. in Religious Studies from The University of Iowa, focusing on the Protestant Reformation of sixteenth-century Europe and its impact on families, domestic space, and home rituals. He holds a Bachelor’s degree (1999) and a Master’s degree (2006) in Religion from Pepperdine University. In addition to academic training he has experience in Student Development, serving in various capacities as a Coordinator of Student Ministries, Director of the Student Chaplain Program (SLA), and Resident Director. Ezra has been involved in the ministry of LEP since 2005.


turk_amyAmy Turk, Secretary — Amy Turk has worked in the non-profit sector for 15 years providing services for survivors of domestic violence, adult women and men living with mental illness, families of children with special needs, adults experiencing homelessness, and adults recovering from substance abuse.

Amy obtained her Master’s in Social Work at California State University, Los Angeles in 2009 and Sociology undergrad degree from Pepperdine University in 2001. Amy has worked for 12 years at OPCC, in Santa Monica, CA, with her last position as the Project Director of Daybreak, serving homeless women living with mental illness. Currently, Amy is the Chief Program Officer for Downtown Women’s Center, a homeless service in Los Angeles assisting formerly homeless women with employment and sustaining permanent housing. Amy will obtain licensure as a Clinical Social Worker in 2013. Amy enjoys her volunteer work as a Board Member supporting the efforts of Lighting the Ethiopian Path.

Novita RogersNovita Rogers, Board Member
 — Novita is a Sr. Solutions Architect at Stanford University where she works with executives to design and select information systems that deliver great value to the organization. She holds a Bachelor’s degree (2000) in Computer Science/Mathematics and a Master’s degree (2007) in Educational Technology. She uses her 15+ years of experience in information systems to provide faculty and students with insight into meeting various learning outcomes through assessments and analytics. Her previous experience as a web administrator at a computer game company is used to help administer and update the LEP website.




Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light for my path. Psalms 119:105

Core Values

As a Christian organization, we believe that knowledge alone is vanity. “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”(Matthew 4:4)

LEP believes that faith and education are complementary, strengthening and informing each other. Viewing churches as important stakeholders within Ethiopian communities, LEP hopes to meet real world individual needs of ultra-poor community members hoping to become literate, employed, and educated while connecting individuals and families with a group of Christians that will empower families with life skills leading to self-sustainability. Faith in God, hope for the future, and the loving acceptance of a church family are important sources of strength in anyone’s life. And as a deeply religious society, LEP’s inclusion of all stakeholders within a community, especially church members, is directly in tune with Ethiopian culture.

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