Who We Are

Learn more about our the team behind the Disatu EYES Foundation

Inspired by the life of his Ethiopian-born mother, Shiferaw Gebre Mariam, Ph.D., founded EYES in 2015 with his best friend, Mr. Aklilu Demessie. EYES seeks to help young Ethiopian girls harness their God-given talents, reach their full potential and succeed in life when the odds are so dramatically stacked against them.

As a young child, Shiferaw, traveled two miles by foot to learn at his school. He loved learning, worked hard, and, after spending a year abroad in high school in the United States as part of the AFS (American Field Service) program, earned a scholarship to Ohio Wesleyan University. After earning his PhD and working at Johnson & Johnson for over thirty years developing prescription drugs positively affecting thousands of lives, Shiferaw decided that he wanted to enable Ethiopian children like his former self to learn and achieve. Believing through his own experience that a good education is invaluable and the best way to lift a generation of children out of poverty and into positions of power to help their communities, Shiferaw founded EYES to help further his vision of providing educational opportunity to those who need it most. The organization’s name is in honor of Shiferaw’s mother, Disatu Negassa.

Look below to learn more about our co-founders and the rest of the team behind EYES!

Mother of founder Dr. Shiferaw, Disatu Negassa

Did you know?

Only $15 per month can keep an Ethiopian girl in school all year

Meet the team

Dr. Shiferaw Gebre-Mariam

President and Co-Founder

Born in Ethiopia, Shiferaw first came to the United States as an exchange high school student through the AFS (American Field Service) program. By the time he finished his secondary education, Shiferaw earned a scholarship to Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio. He studied mathematics and biology as an undergraduate and then obtained his M.S. degrees in Mathematics and Statistics before completing his PhD in Biostatistics at the University of Cincinnati. Shiferaw then moved to New Jersey to join Johnson & Johnson as a biostatistician. He has more than 30 years of global experience in the pharmaceutical industry. As Vice President for over fifteen years, Shiferaw has managed a global, diverse, and interdisciplinary staff. Through his work, Shiferaw has contributed to several different J & J products in the areas of planning, global strategy, enhancing scientific excellence in clinical trial design and analysis, and maintaining quality standards. At this juncture in his career, Shiferaw is very much interested in contributing to helping young students build a good educational foundation. Partnering with like-minded people, Shiferaw co-founded EYES with Aklilu Demisse, a best friend since childhood, to help the next generation of young Ethiopians with some of the building blocks they need for success in life.

Aklilu Demissie

Co-Founder and Board Member

Mr. Demessie came to the USA as an American Field Service (AFS), exchange student to attend Oberlin High School in Oberlin Ohio in the early 70s. As an AFS student, Akli lived with an American host family and graduated from Oberlin High in 1971.

Aklilu Demessie holds M.S in Engineering Mechanics and B.S in Civil Engineering from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. He started his professional career at Cleveland Pneumatic Company as a Stress Analyst and and progressed to Supervisory position in the Engineering Department over the years. Mr. Demessie worked as a Senior Engineer/Group Leader and supervisor at the former Goodrich Landing Gear (designer, manufacturer and supplier of aircraft landing gear and components-Military and Commercial). After 39 years of work in his field Aklilu retired in 2018 as a Senior Staff Materials/Structures Engineer at the United Technologies Aerospace Systems. He has served as the President of the Northeast Ohio Ethiopian Community Association (NEOECA), President of the Ethiopian Cleveland Connection (ECC) in the 1990s. Mr. Demessie is one of the founding Board members of The Society of Ethiopians Established in the Diaspora (SEED). For more on SEED, visit: www.ethioseed.org. Mr. Demessie is the Secretary of SEED and has served in this position for over 24 years.

Tesh Gebre-Mariam

Vice President

Daniel Shiferaw

Project Manager & Secretary

Menna Demissie

Board Member

Eric Burneson

Board Member

Our latest news

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    Foundation’s 12th Graders Excel on the National Exam
  • Medical Care Accomplishments
    Medical Care Accomplishments
  • EYES Development Partners Inquiry
    EYES Development Partners Inquiry

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