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Messi and Johsias Maru
Messi Maru and her nine- year-old son Johsias arrived in Huntsville in 2006 from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia following a challenging journey through Poland, Italy and Canada. Her father, and the father of another Ethiopian émigré who was living in the US, arranged a marriage for her that brought her to Huntsville. Within months, her brutally abusive husband had tired of the marriage and literally threw Messi and Johsias out into the street and abandoned them completely.  

Within hours, Messi and Johsias were helped to gain safe housing and employment with assistance by the ELM founders.  Determined to take full advantage of every opportunity, Messi and Johsias constantly and consistently pursued educational and employment advancement – both focused on the medical discipline.

Messi received her CNA through sheer determination and grit and worked at several long- term care facilities simultaneously. These jobs were all part-time and low pay.  She then received her Licensed Practical Nurse with educational and other grants from ELM while continuing to work at different care facilities, all the while building her resume with the goal of receiving her RN certification.  ELM was able to provide tutoring, educational, and housing assistance as Missy pursued her Registered Nurse degree until her graduation in 2013.  First employed in a dialysis center in Huntsville, she was ultimately recruited away to further her interest in nephrology at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. After her move, she purchased her first home.  Her next step:Nurse Practitioner studies – while still working, of course, full-time.

All the while, Johsias also focused on his education and successfully pursued academic excellence throughout middle and high school. He graduated at the top of his class and earned a full academic scholarship to Amherst with summer medical research internships at such institutions as Columbia.  His honors graduation from Amherst led to research internships in pediatric endocrinology at Massachusetts General and Women’s & Children’s hospitals in Boston, while preparing for his MCAT. The result?  Interviews and acceptance at six top tier medical schools around the country.  He begins his medical school studies at University of San Francisco in Fall 2020 where he believes his future lies in pediatric orthopedics.  

Messi and Johsias were ELM’s first participants. They have followed a path to ultimate self-sufficiency and service with integrity, commitment and unfettered energy.  They also applied for and received US Citizenship. As they have progressed over these past fourteen years, Messi and Johsias stand as excellent examples of how intentional investments in highly  motivated individuals–diminishing over time – can help a family extract themselves from conditions of poverty and dependency.

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