MadieFor many of us, a 30th birthday celebration means balloons, presents and parties with friends and family. For Maaden “Madie” Eshete ’07, biological sciences, however, the milestone birthday will also mean a lasting change for hundreds of rural Ethiopians without access to clean water.

A first-generation Ethiopian-American, Eshete is nearing the end of a giving campaign to raise $10,000 for charity:water, which aims to help an estimated 800 million people worldwide without access to clean water by providing freshwater wells, rainwater catchments, sand filters and other lasting solutions.

We talked with Eshete, who is a digital communications manager for the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and co-founder of Divas – MPH Making Our People Healthier, as her March 31st birthday approaches about what drove her to donate her birthday to benefit others. See her fundraising page here.

Q:  What inspired you to raise money for your 30th birthday, and what do you hope to see come of it?

A:  I love my birthday. Always have! And since everyone was making such a big deal out of the “BIG 3-0” I began to look at it as an opportunity to bring some attention to an issue that I really cared about. I am a first generation Ethiopian-American, so raising awareness around the world water crisis and impacting that crisis in rural Ethiopia was a natural fit.

Q: Is this project a first for you?

A:  Yes and no. I gave up my Christmas presents a few years ago, which funded a water project in part, and I’ve donated to charity: water on several occasion in the past. But this is my first time “giving up” my beloved birthday. This is also my first time raising enough money to fund a complete water project – $10, 000 USD.

Q:  Can people continue to donate to your campaign past your birthday?

A:  The campaign period only last 90 days. I started on New Year’s Day 2013, so it ends at midnight on March 31st. But no worries, because I plan to facilitate regular campaigns through charity: water so there will be more to come.

Q:  You’re a health educator…so how does your work tie in with your birthday project? And what do you like best about your work?

A:  We take it for granted but water changes is everything. With that in mind, I care about water for the same reasons I care about health. Clean water impacts not just sanitation or hydration, but it means relief from water borne illness and decreased infant mortality, it means time spent in classrooms for young girls and not out fetching water for hours on end, and the project means jobs for local community members. Health, education, occupation are all intertwined in how they impact our communities and water is integral to that at a very basic level.

Q:  Do you have any favorite pieces of UMBC (classes, clubs or profs, for instance) that helped you become who you are today?

A:  Mr. (Lamont) Toliver, who worked in the Meyerhoff Scholarship office, and passed away suddenly last year was my dear friend, mentor, and brother. I worked in the scholarship office as a student aide my sophomore and junior years — and he treated me just like he did the scholars — inviting me to events and lectures, letting me know abut opportunities to apply for, helping me out of trouble with my classes, writing me recommendations, and even introducing me to his contacts when I graduated. We kept in touch regularly up until his passing, if I ever visited UMBC I always stopped in Mr. T’s office. He has been a huge motivation and my fondest memory from UMBC.

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