Jeff and Emily Mancinetti, founders of the nonprofit 30 Hearts, are pictured with Sena H. (left) and Sena D. in front of the 30 Hearts home in Ethiopia. Photograph courtesy of 30 Hearts

By CYNTHIA SCHUSTER EAKIN
The journey of a lifetime begins with one step.
“My wife Emily and I never imagined that we would start a nonprofit organization, but looking back now, we can see how God has used every step of our journey to lead us to this point,” said Jeff Mancinetti of North Ridgeville, co-founder of 30 Hearts.
“Emily started sponsoring a child, Weinitu, through Compassion International. She chose her because their birthdays were close and for a long time, Emily wanted to help children in Africa. Weinitu lives in Ethiopia,” he explained. “After visiting Weinitu, we learned that she had lost her parents at a young age and was living with her aunt who was very poor. That is why she needed sponsorship. From those discussions with our translator, we learned about the high number of children in Ethiopia who have lost one or both
parents.”
“There are many reasons why there are so many orphaned children in Africa, but we often list the factors as being health, economics, poverty and conflict. If the parents are living in poverty and get HIV/AIDS, they can’t afford proper medical care for this or even simple health problems. They do not live long enough to raise their children,” Mancinetti explained. “Ethiopia’s economy is driven by agriculture, but terrible droughts and locust invasions have led to food shortages. When a parent has to choose who to feed, they feed their children first. Lack of jobs and high inflation make it difficult to provide for a family. Men will abandon this burden, causing women to struggle to provide for multiple children on their own without a decent job. Finally, for years there has been conflict in different regions in Ethiopia. Most civil war is due to rebel groups trying to overthrow the government. This has led to many deaths throughout the
country.”
“There are an estimated 4.6 million orphaned children in Ethiopia alone and the country is struggling to address the crisis. Children are living on the streets or in overcrowded orphanages, and not receiving the love, attention and care that they deserve,” he added. “We felt a strong passion in our hearts to help more children, and we connected with a nonprofit in Ethiopia that had experience in the field of orphan care. Over time, we worked together to create a family-based model where children would be raised in homes by single Ethiopian women from local churches who needed work. And so, we started the 30 Hearts organization to help 30 orphaned children in Ethiopia grow up in loving homes.”
“We started as a small rental complex, like a motel setup, and each family had their own room where they slept. It was small, but it allowed us to start immediately. Our nonprofit partner, Stand for Vulnerable Organization (SVO) has a good relationship with the local government and really approves of this model, so the government donated nearly two acres of land to build homes. This is extremely rare in Ethiopia and it is proof that the government is looking for solutions,” Mancinetti said. “It cost $30,000 to build a home and Emily and I didn’t know how we would raise enough funds for six homes, water and electricity. But, through much prayer and faith, we connected with multiple donors who helped us build the homes and move the families in early 2019. We hosted a concert, gala and birthday fundraisers to share the story. Over the years, we began receiving grant funding to add a learning center, staff offices and a mini
clinic.”
“The name 30 Hearts came about because we started with 30 children and the heart is because we want people to understand that orphaned children are not just statistics, but they have names and hearts. 30 Hearts has grown over the years. We recently launched a new initiative to support vulnerable families. We are now reaching 114 children and have 20 staff members in Ethiopia working with our local nonprofit partner to implement our programs,” he said. “We’ve provided a water point not just for our family development center, but also for the community so that they have clean drinking water. We’ve grown our giving community and now have 112 monthly donors. We’ve raised more than two million dollars since we started in 2015.”
In addition to joining the monthly giving program, individuals can choose to host a coffee party. “Coffee is a big deal in Ethiopia and people always get together to drink coffee and enjoy time together. So, we ask that people gather friends and family together in their homes to share the 30 Hearts story,” he
noted.
Recently, 30 Hearts held a gala at the Pivot Center for Art, Dance and Expression on W. 25th St. in Cleveland. “The event was amazing. About 120 people attended and we completely transformed the Inlet Dance Studio into an elegant space that welcomed guests into the story of 30 Hearts with large photo banners of the children all around the room. The gala was paired with a photography show in the Future Ink Graphics Gallery with work from local photographers Jerry Birchfield and Ryan Peticca who traveled with us to Ethiopia. Spice Catering did an amazing job with the food and we had a huge photo backdrop created by local artists that the attendees really loved,” Mancinetti said.
To learn more about the 30 Hearts story, or to donate, visit www.30hearts.org.