Mearg Tareke understands how a gift of shoes and school supplies can radically change a life.
Tareke, a third-year pharmacy student at Shenandoah University’s Bernard J. Dunn School of Pharmacy location at the Inova Center for Personalized Health in Fairfax, received the gift of both, from sixth grade forward, as a student in Ethiopia. She initially received the gifts for ranking first in her class, and these gifts continued to give her an incentive to do well, as the shoes and school supplies appeared every semester that she ranked first in her class.
“One reason I am where I am today is because someone helped me and gave me these incentives,” she said. “Since my childhood, I always dreamed to help girls that are in a similar situation to my past, and to motivate and inspire them so they may better their lives and the lives around them. I am a strong believer that simple/little things can help and show love to these girls. That is what I have been doing since 2014.”
Through her organization, Walk With Me, Tareke, who grew up one of seven children being raised by a single mother and, who, at times, did not have shoes to wear or had to wear her brother’s shoes, provides shoes and supplies to girls in Ethiopia.
The organization started through donations from her and her godfather Tino Dusi. “My godfather used to give me some money for my birthday every year, but when I came here, we decided to use that money to buy shoes and give to the girls at school. This year I contacted couple of my close friends and social media fans, and we were able to collect some money. For the future, after I graduate, I am planning to raise money by creating different events and by being partners with other nonprofit organizations.”
This year was also the first since the program’s inception in which Tareke traveled to Adwa City, Ethiopia to distribute items. There, she also spoke to girls with certain disabilities, and some boys, too. “We helped over 50 girls who are ranked first, second, and third in their classes and over 15 students with certain disabilities.”
“She is a fine example of a woman who uplifts other women, and who truly believes in the power of education to bring us all together,” said Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Ranjani Varadarajan, Ph.D.
Aside from being a pharmacy student, Tareke has also been a fashion model for five-and-a-half years, which allows her to do more humanitarian work, especially in relation to developing countries.
“My modeling career helped me to see different organizations and be a part of them as a volunteer,” she said. “Sometimes it is a challenge to balance a modeling career, pharmacy school, and a job as a pharmacy technician. But, I optimize my time, and by following my schedule I am able to have time to get everything done, even if it can be stressful at times.”
“Mearg is a perfect example of women who have beauty and brains; who walk this fine line of balancing their interests with their career,” said Dr. Varadarajan. “She has always come across as a strong woman, someone who is very dedicated to her pharmacy profession as well as her worthy causes.”
The ability to volunteer also drew her to Shenandoah, which she learned about through an alumnus, who was a pharmacist with whom she worked.
“He used to tell me about all the volunteering opportunities and the community service the school provides,” said Tareke. The most impressive thing to me about Shenandoah University was the community service and the influence of the teachers on making the students the best they can be.”
Her goals as a pharmacist fall perfectly in line with her her humanitarian interests.
“When I get my degree, I am planning on being part of an international organization such as WHO (World Health Organization) and educating women about different medications such as birth control, and teaching about easily preventable diseases such as malaria and HIV,” she said.
However, she’s not set on any particular path. “I am also keeping my options open, I would also enjoy working in a retail setting. That is where I have most of my pharmacy experience. Also, helping with an organization that would inform people about and distribute medications to developing countries would be very fulfilling to me.”
As for Walk With Me, Tareke said she wants to see that effort continue to grow. “I would like to see Walk With Me not only provide shoes and school supplies but also provide medications and education about medications, to different parts of the world.”