Our Story

Who We Serve

We renew the heart of a nation through serving thousands of families, children and women in Ethiopia. Those in the community of Yetebon and ChaCha benefit from our programs. A special group of children who greatly profit from our services are the “House Kids”. Their biological families are unable to care for them and entrust us with their care. Today, many of the House Kids have grown up and graduated college.

Where We Work

We work primarily in Ethiopia, in two locations: ChaCha and Yetebon. When we started the second phase of our ministry, we built a school and clinic in Yetebon, a remote village. Today, we have not only a primary school, but a hospital, high school, and Health Science College.

Yetebon is also the site of our adult skills, food security and “House Kids” programs. Yetebon is the flagship in our community development model, due to all five program areas are represented: education, healthcare, food security, adult skills and infrastructure. ChaCha is the site of our Dairy Cattle Breeding Program.

The Why Behind The Work

We strive to be a living example of the love of Jesus Christ. We obey the Ethiopian Constitution and do not proselytize. We are faith in action!

About Us

Our vision is to “renew the heart of a nation by rooting out spiritual and systematic poverty at the roots”. We do this by focusing on five different but conjoining areas: education, healthcare, food security, adult skills and infrastructure.

In 1977, two Ethiopian Refugees, Marta and Deme, had a passion to help those back in their home continent of Africa. They received assistance from the Directors of the Rescue Mission in Fort Wayne Indiana, Chuck and Fran Dickinson. The first phase of our ministry was offering aid and relief to refugees in Africa. The second and current phase began in 1993 when communism fell in Ethiopia and we were invited to Yetebon, a remote village, by the Elders. We started with a school and a clinic. Today, Project Mercy has grown to include two locations and five programs.


  • Lucy Roller
    Office Manager

  • Betru Tekle-Wold

  • Barbara Slauter
    Volunteer Coordinator

  • Kidan Alemishet
    Database Manager

  • Spencer Roller
    Director of Digital Media Productions

  • Khrista Boster
    Communications and Appeals Manager

  • Cheryl Gillespie
    Assistant Database Coordinator

Board and Leadership

Marta Gabre-Tsadick Co-Founder and CEO

Marta Gabre-Tsadick, the first woman Senator of Ethiopia under the late Emperor Haile Selassie, was born and raised in Ethiopia. Marta came to the USA in 1954 to attend Adams State University in Colorado where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree. She returned to Ethiopia in 1958 and served as a Director in the Office of Ministry for Foreign Affairs until 1967. In that capacity, Marta had the privilege of accompanying international figures on their visits to Ethiopia, as well as accompanying the late Emperor Haile Selassie and his wife on their official foreign trips.

While serving as Senator in Ethiopia, Marta and her family were forced to flee the country shortly after the Communist take-over. The remarkable story of their escape is told in her book, SHELTERED BY THE KING.

In 1977, after relocating to the USA, Marta and her husband, Deme, and Fran and Chuck Dickson established Project Mercy, Inc., a 501 (c) 3 organization dedicated to providing emergency relief aid, educational assistance, and refugee relocation help to African refugees.

In the 1980's through the 1990's, Marta initiated innovative food and sewing programs that enabled Project Mercy to distribute food and clothing to hundreds of thousands of starving, needy refugees from Ivory Coast, Djibouti, Guinea, Kenya, Malawi, Sudan, and Ethiopia.

By 1993, Marta established a partnership between the elders of Yetebon, Ethiopia and Project Mercy, paving the way for the current community development program. Project Mercy's development efforts have provided tangible hope and help to the children and families in Yetebon, and most recently, towards the care of numerous orphans of HIV/AID victims.

Author, challenging speaker, businesswoman, mother and grandmother, Marta is an impassioned and knowledgeable advocate for the destitute. She currently serves as an advisor to her sons who have taken up the mantel to run the operations of Project Mercy.

Demeke Tekle-Wold Co-Founder and CEO

Deme has his Bachelor's and Master’s degree from Western Washington College in the United States.  Born and raised in Ethiopia, he returned home to serve his country with posts in the Government. He later went on to own and operate a hard bean business. In 1975, he fled along with his family. Once, the family made it safely to the United States, Deme worked in the Middle East and eventual started Hel-Mar, in Fort Wayne Indiana. Along the way, he worked alongside Marta to change thousands of lives in Ethiopia by co-founding Project Mercy. Today, Deme resides in Ethiopia. He still acts as an advisory to the ministry.

Bete F. Demeke President and Board Vice-Chairman, Project Mercy

Bete is the President and Vice-Chairman of the Board of Project Mercy, a US-based and registered 501© (3) non-profit organization implementing programs designed to eliminate poverty in rural communities.

Project Mercy started operations in Africa nearly forty years ago providing aid (shelter, food, health care, education, and resettlement assistance) to refugees in seven countries.  For the past twenty-four years, the organization has focused its efforts exclusively in Ethiopia with development programs that lift communities out of poverty. 

Prior to joining Project Mercy, Bete has over thirty years of experience with IBM in Information Technology.  His last post was as the Vice President of Software for IBM’s Growth Markets, headquartered in Shanghai, China. He was responsible for managing a multibillion dollar business and leading over five thousand employees, in more than 140 countries, across Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa, and Latin America.  Bete was a member of IBM’s Growth and Transformation Team (GTT) – a selected group of senior IBM executives that are change-agents for transformation and growth of the company.  Following a two-year sabbatical from IBM to serve in Project Mercy, Bete retired from IBM in mid-2016 and now holds the responsibilities as President of Project Mercy Inc.

Education: Bete holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and Systems Analysis from Taylor University and a Masters in Management from Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management.

Lali Demeke General Manager for Ethiopia

Before Project Mercy, Lali worked in the United States Air Force in logistics and operations at various basis in the US, Europe and Asia. He has his degree from Indiana Institute of Technology in Organizational Leadership. He joined Project Mercy in 2013. He oversees 300 fulltime and part-time employees including leadership positions for all five program areas. Lali is married to Wanda and they have two daughters.

Jennifer J. Ackles Treasurer

Jennifer (JJ) Ackles is a marketing leader and technology executive based in New York. She is currently CMO at Long Game, a personal finance start-up using games and rewards to encourage users to build healthy financial habits.  Previously JJ ran digital marketing programs at Netflix where she focused on user acquisition, global expansion of the Netflix brand, and the launch of Netflix Original Programs.  JJ began her career in Seattle in 1999 at Blue Nile, where she was a part of the team from early-stage start-up through successful IPO.  She holds degrees in Physics and English from Vassar College.

Bruce Bacon Project Mercy Board Director

Bruce Bacon serves as President of Glacier Sales, Inc. in Yakima, WA.  Established in 1964 by Frank Bacon (Bruce’s father), a pioneer in the processed frozen potato industry, Glacier Sales supplies frozen foods to customers throughout the world.  Products include quality frozen potatoes and other frozen items such as fruit, vegetables and appetizers.  Presently, Glacier continues to be a front runner in the frozen food industry, generating, roughly $58.0 million in annual revenues.   Bruce serves on multiple boards in the Yakima Valley. 

Education: Foster School of Business, University of Washington

Ed Memmen Project Mercy Board Director

Ed Memmen, now retired, served as the Chief Financial Officer of Spectragraphics Inc., with operations in San Diego, California and Logansport, Indiana. He has lived in Zionsville for 38 years. He is an active member of Zionsville Presbyterian Church where he has served as an Elder, Men’s Group teacher, and Mission Commission member.  He also served as a Trustee of Messiah College in Grantham, PA.  Ed is married; he and his wife have seven grown children.

Education: Wheaton College, B.A. and the University of Chicago, MBA

Gary Darmstadt Project Mercy Board Chairman

Dr. Gary Darmstadt has trained in Pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University, in Dermatology at Stanford University, and in Pediatric Infectious Disease as a fellow at the University of Washington, Seattle, where he was Assistant Professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Medicine. Dr. Darmstadt left the University of Washington to serve as Senior Research Advisor for the Saving Newborn Lives program of Save the Children-US, where he led the development and implementation of the global research strategy for newborn health and survival, before joining Johns Hopkins.  Currently he is Associate Dean for Maternal and Child Health, and Professor of Neonatal and Developmental Pediatrics in the Department of Pediatrics at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Darmstadt has authored more than 250 original research and review articles, book chapters, clinical analyses, editorials and policy briefs. His research and program experience has focused on developing, testing and introducing innovative strategies for the prevention, detection and management of serious newborn illness, particularly infections, and improving family and community-based newborn and maternal care in low resource settings around the world.

Education: Harvard Kennedy School, Boston, MA

Colleen S Kraft Project Mercy Board Director

Dr. Colleen Kraft currently holds several appointments at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia including Assistant Professor, Infectious Diseases; Program Director, Medical Microbiology and Medical Director, Microbiology.  She partook in extensive postgraduate training, serves on a number of national and international committees, has presented numerous national and international conferences, holds several editorships and memberships on editorial boards, and has been widely published institutionally, nationally, and internationally.  She also possesses several other society memberships, is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, and grant support in numerous areas of medical field studies.  Colleen was also a member of the team of doctors who treated Ebola survivor.

She first visited Project Mercy as a 1996 Taylor University Lighthouse participant and has since done mission work in both Uganda and Kenya with her husband, Andrew.  Colleen credits her experience at Project Mercy and her great admiration of Marta and Deme with stirring her passion for how she might use her interest in medicine in developing countries.

Education: Taylor University, Indiana University School of Medicine, Emory University

Larry D. Franklin Project Mercy Board Finance Committee Member

Larry Franklin retired July 1, 2013 from his roles as Chairman, President and CEO of Harte-Hanks, Inc. headquartered in San Antonio, Texas. He joined the company in 1971 and served as chief financial officer, president of newspaper operations, chief operating officer, then in 1991, president and chief executive officer.  He joined the board in 1974, was elected chairman in 1999. Traded on the New York Stock Exchange, Harte-Hanks is a global marketing services company that serves Business to Consumer and Business to Business brands by building customer relationships and delivering multichannel customer experiences that builds awareness leading to interactions,  transactions, and ultimately brand loyalty.

Franklin served on the board of directors and chaired the audit committee of John Wiley & Sons, Inc.(NYSE).    He also served on the boards of a number of colleges and universities, as well as numerous industry, civic and charitable boards.

Since becoming involved with Project Mercy in 2006, including serving a 6-year role as Board Chairman, Larry and Charlotte have been to Ethiopia many number of times. During these visits, they have seen a rural area being transformed through Project Mercy’s holistic approach to eliminating poverty.   The Franklins own the Franklin Family Ranch in Blanco, Texas which is managed by their two sons-in-laws and is where their two daughters and six grandchildren live and work. The faith-based programs include summer sports camps and year around retreats. The program’s focus is on building relationships with children, women, men and families.

Education: Texas A & M Commerce and Texas Tech University

Priscilla (Yemi) Sims Brown Project Mercy Board Director

Priscilla Brown is an award-winning marketing executive with a proven track record of success in building brands and successfully expanding businesses into new markets. Since 2014, she serves as Senior Executive Director, Chief Marketing Officer at AXA US. Previous to that she served at Sun Life Financial as senior vice president and head of marketing and strategy. She built the company's first central marketing and brand function, which more than quadrupled the company's consumer brand awareness (from 4 percent to 18 percent) in less than six months. She and Sun Life Financial garnered multiple awards for their marketing and communications programs. Prior to joining Sun Life Financial, Brown spent 18 years at Lincoln Financial Group, the last six of them as chief marketing and brand officer.

Passionate about inspiring youth and building communities, Brown's Board participation includes the Eagles Youth Partnership, Project Mercy, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. She is a former member of the Executive Committee of the Board of WHYY and has served on the National Finance Committee for President Barack Obama. Brown was also named one of Advertising Age's "Forty Women To Watch In Marketing" and Black Enterprise magazine's "Top Executives in Marketing and Advertising."

Education: San Francisco State University