Feature Stories Campus Events All Stories

Turning a Vision Into Reality Melos Ambaye ’25 is helping children in Ethiopia as part of her Shepherd summer internship.

IMG_8614wp-1140x642 Turning a Vision Into Reality

San Diego native Melos Ambaye ’25 chose Washington and Lee University because she knew it was where she could truly make a difference in people’s lives during and after college.

This summer, Ambaye is completing her internship with the Shepherd Program remotely with Amen Charitable Organization, which provides free housing for orphans and vulnerable children in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Ambaye’s responsibilities over the course of her eight-week internship include enhancing their communications and advertising efforts by developing a new website, boosting their social media presence, designing posters for print in Ethiopia, organizing digital files and coordinating sales and other financial operations. Much of her work is a continuation of a project that began last summer centered around Ambaye’s idea of adding a bakery to Amen’s daily operations.

Ambaye, a double major in journalism and American government with a minor in poverty and human capability studies, started her work with Amen in January 2023. Her family has roots in Ethiopia, and her aunt, Hiwot, introduced Ambaye to the organization. Solomon Habte, co-founder of Amen, told Ambaye that his organization couldn’t reach its full potential due to funding limitations. Ambaye realized that a bakery could provide something valuable to the community and create a sustainable model to support the orphanage. In Ethiopian culture, bakeries are more than just places to buy bread; they are integral to the country’s culinary heritage, social fabric and economy.

Ambaye received the James Tyler Dickovick Internship in International Affairs, Global Political Economy, and the Public Interest award to partially fund her project. She traveled to Ethiopia last summer to bring the bakery to life. Ambaye said she immediately grew close with the children — and with the organization’s mission to improve their lives.

“Right away, Melos connected with the children,” said Habte, “and they loved her immediately.”

Ambaye spent the remainder of her time in Ethiopia securing a bakery space, coordinating the installation of bakery equipment with electricians and volunteers, preparing the space and organizing the initial inventory. After leaving Ethiopia, she continued her work with Amen and the bakery remotely. The bakery officially opened for business 10 months ago, and customers can purchase a wide variety of baked goods, including breads, cookies, croissants and donuts. Solomon said establishing a bakery was a learning process for everyone involved.

“There is so much to learn in a big project like this — we all learned together how to start a bakery from nothing,” Habte said.

“It has been inspiring to serve such a wonderful organization and to build lasting connections with the children.”

~ Melos Ambaye ’25

The bakery covers the cost of school uniforms, shoes and transportation for the children and provides food for the orphanage. This summer, Ambaye is developing a sponsorship program to help fund the specific necessities of the children cared for by Amen. With 50 children in need of support, Ambaye said the program aims to raise $5,000.

Solomon said Ambaye’s work with the organization has given her an understanding of how to turn a vision into reality, and he knows she will carry that lesson to future endeavors.

“Working with Amen has given her a good understanding of what it takes to make something powerful and lasting, like the bakery,” Habte said. “Melos, with her hard work and big heart, will create more wonderful projects, helping many more people and changing many lives for the better. She has a bright future ahead, full of amazing achievements.”

In addition to completing her Shepherd internship requirements, Ambaye is also working as an editorial intern this summer for the National Journal, reporting on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Ambaye said she foresees her work with the orphanage continuing indefinitely.

“It has been inspiring to serve such a wonderful organization and to build lasting connections with the children,” Ambaye said. “Knowing that I positively impacted their lives has been incredibly rewarding.”

Amen-Bakery-2wp-1024x768 Turning a Vision Into RealityMelos Ambaye ’25 poses with children involved with Amen Charitable Organization.