Born and raised in Ethiopia, Atti Worku understands what it means to be a child growing up in Africa.
At an early age, Atti was very involved with community programs with the support and influence of her parents, Genet Damtew and Tesfaye Worku. As community leaders and educators, Atti’s parents wanted to give their children, as well as every Ethiopian child, the opportunity and chance to become educated. A common theme in Atti’s house while growing up was “family influence and education.” Sadly, Atti’s father passed away ten years ago while he was in the midst of a project to build a public library in Adama, Ethiopia. With the passing of Atti’s father, and her mother’s continuous crusade to help educate children, Atti started Seeds of Africa.
While studying computer science in college, Atti started modeling and was signed with an agency in South Africa. In 2005, Atti’s life was about to change forever, when she was crowned Miss Ethiopia and traveled the world to represent her country. Shortly after, she moved to the United States and currently resides in New York City.
Atti believes in the importance of education and wanted to start the right program to make Ethiopian children the leaders of tomorrow. Influenced by numerous educational programs, including working with Ethiopian orphans, Atti decided to start a program where she would instill the values and beliefs her parents taught her throughout her life. Atti believes she found her mission in life by dedicating her time and rigorous work ethic to making a difference in the lives of Ethiopian children through Seeds of Africa.
WM: How did you get inspired to create Seeds of Africa? Are you inspired by your own life experiences?
AW: Growing up in Ethiopia, I saw the need for Grass-roots organizations that will work directly with communities and hlep them become self sustaining. Now just help them but create opportunities and provide resources for them so they can be incharge of their own lives.
I was inspired by what my parents have done throught their lives within the community. From opening schools in a new neighborhood they moved to, to being active in social change in the community.
WM: How do you manage working as a busy model and running a non-profit? Do you think the fashion and charity circles are complimentary?
AW: I just end up working long hours and sometimes I have to let go of some jobs, castings etc to be able to work on Seeds. Working in fashion has been helpful because of the flexibility of my schedule. I can move things around, I can take time off if necessary. I also find people in fashion being very dynamic and interesting, always looking for ways to get involved. Fashion and non-profit can go hand in hand, most people you work with are passionate about what they do, so they understand when you have something you believe in and support you in ways they can.
WM: You have a very exciting sounding Christmas event on December 8th – what can guests look forward to at this event?
AW: It’s an event where you learn about Ethiopia, Seeds of Africa Foundation, Have great cocktails and Hors D’oeuvres. Our events always have a great group of young professionals from Fahion, Art, Finance, Film, Entertainment, Education, etc.. As you are having a great time at this event, you are also learning about what we do and find ways to get inspired and involved. We are really excited to share our development over the past year to our supporters and new friends who will be coming. We also have great silent auction items from Mac Jacobs bags to Tickets to a sports event etc..
WM: What are the greatest successes Seeds of Africa has achieved? What are the next greatest challenges for your organization?
AW: We opened our first community center in Adama, Ethiopia this August. Our center (Take-Root center) provides help and support to 16 students in our program. Our next plan is to expand this program and grow our organization so we can impact more lives.
WM: You work with some amazing women who help you make Seeds of Africa a success. What do you feel is the most important leadership skill that helps bring a team together? How do you utilize the whole team’s skills?
AW: Seeds of Africa will not be where it is today if it wasn’t for the amazing women I have working with me. They are smart, strong, dedicated and hard working. We are all friends and we enjoy working together, we also enjoy the project we are working on, which makes all the countless hours of work fun. The most important skill to bring a team together is understanding each individuals strengths and making sure everyone is comfortable with what they are doing. You also have to give people freedom to bring what they have to the table.
We utilize our individual skills by appointing each member to a division they can work on (they are qualified to work on).
WM: We all know that fundraising requires some serious panache and always putting your best foot forward. Have you ever had any hilarious happenings behind the scenes or in the middle of an event?
AW: We have been okay so far with managing issues at events because when you work with women, there isn’t a lot of room for errors. We will be staying up late at nights to make sure everything goes well and we have been good so far. The only funny thing I can remember is how I got so nervous at our last event and got on the stage for my speech and I wouldn’t say a word. So I started by saying “Sorry I am really nervous.”
WM: What can the Women’s Mafia make happen for you? How can we get involved with Seeds of Africa?
AW: We need to get the word out about Seeds of Africa. We are looking for donations from individuals and companies. You can help us promote this event and our organization so we can reach a different group of people that you have access to. We are always looking to partner with other organizations or companies so this could be a great opportunity for us to work together.