Empower Ethiopia was co-founded by Lisa Buoniconto (former board president) and Todd Hayes (current board president). They are  are parents of two boys from the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR) of Southwestern Ethiopia as well as two daughters. Lisa and Todd are passionate about issues surrounding extreme poverty and its effect on the health and welfare of children and their families. For the past 25 years, Lisa and Todd have committed their lives to helping children, either working or volunteering in numerous capacities including foster care, coaching, mentoring, and teaching. Empower Ethiopia was formed with the philosophy that “community” extends to any area where people join together to create positive change. 

Lisa has an M.S. degree in Communication Disorders with a background in speech and language pathology and currently works for LifePath Senior Services nutrition program in Albany, NY.  Todd has an M.S. degree in Education from College of St. Rose and is third grade teacher at the Waterford-Halfmoon Union Free School District in Waterford, NY.

  Saba G. Seyoum 


Saba G. Seyoum assumed the Treasury role with Empower Ethiopia in March, 2017. Currently, Saba is employed as an Accountant at Auterra Inc. and Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted (SENG). Saba relocated from Virginia where she was a Senior Accountant with Virginia Premier Health Plan in Richmond. She was with Virginia Premier for 6 years. Prior to that, Saba lived in Fremont, CA where she was a Staff Accountant with Brocade Communication Systems and Flextronics International for 6 years. In addition, Saba was an Accounting Coordinator for 4 years at Clorox headquarters in Oakland CA. Saba has a B.S. in. Business Administration with a concentration in Accounting from San Francisco State University. Saba resides with her husband and two children in Clifton Park, NY. 

Gabby Fisher
 Board Member

Gabby Fisher is the Founder of co-mads, a business whose mission is to help individuals, nonprofits, and businesses "do more good" in their communities & beyond through consulting services, events, and volunteerism. Gabby is also the Senior Producer for the Capital Region (CapNY) Brand Initiative. Empower Ethiopia connected with Gabby after hearing her as a guest speaker on Start-Up Grind NY which features young entrepreneurs. Her spirit and passion for creating positive change in communities throughout the world was infectious. Gabby began consulting with Empower Ethiopia in the Summer of 2019, and soon after joined the Board in a volunteer capacity. Gabby assumed the role of board president in September 2020.


                  Macy Hayes 

             Board Member

Macy graduated from the University at Albany with a degree in Public Policy and Management. She has a strong background in volunteering and community service with HOBY Youth Leadership and several other local organizations. She also has a passion for political engagement, having interned on several campaigns and in the US House of Representatives. Macy loves to travel whenever she can and was inspired to become a board member following a trip to Ethiopia in 2018. Currently, Macy works on education funding and policy within New York State government.

           Christy Johnston 


Christy Johnston serves as Vice President of Governmental & Managed Care Services for Premier Home Health Care Services, Inc. and develops information and research on health policy programs and issues across Premier’s territories and serves as liaison for government and regulatory issues. She also is responsible for the development and oversight of Premier’s grant program. Christy is the Vice Chair of the Hudson Mohawk Area Health Education Center Board of Directors, was the former Board Chair of the YWCA of the Greater Capital Region and has served on numerous home care industry boards and advisory groups. She currently serves on various school-related Boards and Committees in Menands, NY, is a youth soccer coach and former Girl Scout Leader. A graduate of Emory University, she holds a Master's in Public Health from University of Michigan.

Valecia Parker

Vice President

Valecia lives in Menands, NY with her rescue dog Spotty. Valecia has worked for the Department of Labor for 23 years in various capacities. Currently, she works in the Research and Statistics Division collecting labor market data. Valecia earned her certificate in Computer Software Applications from Hudson Valley Community College, her Associate degree in paralegal studies from Tompkins Cortland Community College, and her Bachelor's Degree in Legal Studies from SUNY Canton. Valecia also works as a realtor for Coldwell Banker Prime Properties. Valecia has an adult son who is currently serving in the US Navy. Valecia enjoys spending time with family, cooking, travel, and outdoor activities.