About Us

Hearts Full of Happy is a 501(c)(3) IRS tax exempt charitable organization that can accept bequests and gifts. People often ask how this organization got started. A story from it’s founder, Sue Leister, explains this well:

The first time I visited Gimbie, in 2002,  I met a shy young girl carrying a jerry can of water from the hospital to her home. She asked if she could write to me and the next day Abinet came to the door clutching a letter she had written for me in English. Her letter told me she was the top student in her class, her mother was blind, her father poor, that she wanted to learn and needed a sponsor. After  numerous  inquiries to learn what a sponsor meant to an Ethiopian child I told Abinet I would help with her education. A day later Abinet ran to the guest house with a second letter for me: “Dear Uncle of Charlie, My heart is full of happy.”  Little did I realize then that Abinet had captured my heart and also named a charity I would establish nine years later. 

– Sue Leister

In 2011 Hearts Full of Happy was established for the sole purpose of helping students from rural communities in Ethiopia who, like Abinet, have no financial means for attaining an education.  Each student  selected is carefully chosen by our Board and by Gimbie and Dembi Dollo citizens. Board members Ryan Gaddis and Julianne DuMond have both gone to Gimbie and Dembi Dollo with Sue Leister. Sue Vanderberg, a business owner, has traveled extensively and brings financial expertise to the board, and Robert Backus, a former attorney, serves as secretary and legal advisor to Hearts Full of Happy.   The recipient selection process includes grades from the previous year, recommendations by school and village officials, and the student’s attitude and determination to improve his or her life through education. Priority is given to students who are orphans or who have one parent. No student is chosen whose family has the financial means to educate them.