It is with great sadness that we announce the sudden death of Zemi Yenus, the founder and Executive Director of Nia Foundation. The Board of Directors offer their most profound condolences to her family, friends, the autism society of Ethiopia, and the entire Nia Foundation Staff and Partners.
Zemi's work included the establishment of the Joy Center for children with Autism which not only train children with autism with both basic and advanced life skills, but also assists mothers of children with autism that need financial support by creating an income generating activity that is sensitive to their needs and schedule. Joy Center also provides a nutritionally balanced meal, particularly focused on gluten-free diet appropriate for autistic children, for all its students including cooking sessions as part of their independent skills training. Zemi also served children with autism that do not attend the school by visiting families in their homes and providing training and most importantly by encouraging and counselling parents. Zemi is also instrumental in creating a vibrant parent support group,
Zemi's work was not only focused on autism but also included other vulnerable groups in society such as women forced into becoming sex workers, street boys, women returning from migration, sexually abused women etc. by providing practical skills and instilling confidence in themselves; so that they can reintegrate and become productive members of society.
Zemi was an active board member of the Red Cross, member of the national mental health advisory committee, a Rotarian, a member of Women for Life – an organization dedicated to ensuring that “no woman should die while giving birth”, to name a few.
Zemi is also highly credited for creating a social movement "yagebagnal" - I Care! - which has been successful in instilling in each of us to become responsible and caring members of society - a society that can think outside of its little box, a society that can transcend divisions based on ethnicity, religion, ability level and other artificial barriers, and instead focus on humanity.
While we mourn the passing of a great woman who has left behind a powerful legacy of humility, hard work and dedication for the most vulnerable, we remain united in the continuity of the service and in ensuring her dreams are achieved.
We appreciate the outpour of grief on social and traditional media outlets. Zemi was indeed a unique woman. There will be a memorial service to celebrate Zemi’s life and achievements and share her vision and continue her legacy. The BoD will announce the date of the service.
The Board of Directors of Nia Foundation