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The Founders

The story of Johan and Aynalem

Ethiopian mom of 8 and math teacher

Aynalem founder

Aynalem Wolde Amanuel was born in 1954 near Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. As the culture prescribed, she married young and started a family. She was very bookish and succeeded in her studies as a mathematics teacher. Married life was hard for Aynalem. After raising 8 children she wanted to live het life as a free woman and divorced her husband.

In 2006 she retired and started to invest successfully in cheap pieces of land that quickly paid off. Increasingly she was hired as a consultant and ended up in a network of foreigners. She was also asked as manager of the Circle of Life Hotel in Hawassa, a modern town in the South. From her position at the hotel, she devoted her life to the poor, the sick and street children. Every evening she gave the remains of the restaurant to beggars on the street.



Johan Vandenbossche was born in Leuven, Belgium, in 1986. Until his 10th birthday he was the youngest of a family with two sisters. As a proud big brother of a third sister his first parenting skills quickly emerged. A trait which he later put to good use as a leader at the youth movement ‘Chiro Hekeko’ in Kessel-Lo.

In 2008, at the end of his journalism studies at the Katholieke Hogeschool Mechelen, Johan went through a difficult time. After a stranded relationship and bad results at school, he started looking for a new challenge. He was going to do something good somewhere before he could graduate. But what would he do? And where? After a long bath, he went to tell his parents about his new plans. He was going to go to Ethiopia. An unknown destination, but they spoke a little English there, and Johan was ready for a new challenge.

The encounter

In 2008 Johan went to Ethiopia for the first time with the plan to start a youth movement there. In Hawassa, he met Aynalem and soon it became clear that they both wanted to do something for the many street children in the city. Together they decided to change the life of the then five-year-old boy, Nebiyu, who lived on the streets. They took care of him, fed him and Aynalem took him in. Johan walked Nebiyu to his new school.

After a period of 6 months Johan returned home, but it didn’t stop there.  Johan promised to take care of the expenses and to take action from Belgium, so that the care for Nebiyu could continue.

"Together we can help more children"

Together they decided to help more children like Nebiyu. That was the beginning of Let Us Change  in 2009. What started with one home with nine children, grew into an organization with three homes and 92 children. In the three homes, Let Us Change offers a place where former street children get  opportunities they never had before:

  • a safe home to live in
  • healthy food to grow
  • a great school to play and learn
  • a loving family to grow up with
  • Society building

In addition to the shelters, Let Us Change supports beggars and forty vulnerable families in the region. With their own weaving mill and bakery, Let Us Change creates jobs for the underprivileged. Let Us Change also tries to involve as many underprivileged people as possible for cooking, cleaning and washing in the homes. More information about our projects can be found here.

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