The powerful love of a mother – Zemi Yenus was a successful beautician in the U.S. But upon returning to Ethiopia, her son Jojo Yusuf, pictured left, was diagnosed with autism.
The powerful love of a mother – Having received her training in the U.S., the passionate young mother decided to return home. "Many people ask me why did I come back. And you know, this is my homeland. I belong here," she says. "The first thing I did was I opened a beauty school."
The powerful love of a mother – Work was thriving as her new beauty business was doing well. But at home, it was a different story. Yenus' second son Jojo was being labeled a "problem child" and had been expelled from multiple schools for his behavior. Brought to the UK for medical tests, the four-year-old was diagnosed with autism.
The powerful love of a mother – "On one hand I was very successful with my beauty work... at home I was frustrated because of my son's autism. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know how to help my child. I wasn't able to communicate with my own son," recalls Yenus, pictured with her two sons, Jojo in the middle and older brother, Bilal.
The powerful love of a mother – Unconditionally devoted to her children, Yenus decided to swap beauty for autism advocacy and began developing a technique -- that helps children with autism learn to read and write -- called "Abugida Fonetiks." She began first with Jojo when he was eight. By nine, he was able to communicate to his mother.
The powerful love of a mother – And it was the little milestones that would bring tears of joy to her eyes. She explains: "He goes like this 'love you, mama,' and it feels so wonderful. This is at a late age, he was about 16 years old when he told me that. Can you imagine for a 16-year-old boy telling you he loves you and you make a big deal out of it?"
The powerful love of a mother – Yenus' success with helping her son, pictured, has allowed her to become an autism champion in Ethiopia. The Joy Center's educational program means that not only can children with autism learn how to read and write, but the techniques taught also help adolescent students with fine motor skills and further development.
The powerful love of a mother – "I'm so lucky to have Jojo. I'm so lucky and blessed to be able to work in the area. I'm happy with what I do because I always see people being happy about it and you know, the little change you make is big and people smile at you," says Yenus.
Jojo, now 24, hanging out with his older brother Bilal, a 28-year-old film student.