Home · Blog · Feature : Maya Haile Samuelsson: 2013 Women Helping Women honoree

Maya at ThreeGoats Launch

Modeling her Karen Egren for Voss Foundation bracelets

It is with great pleasure that Voss Foundation announces our 2013  Women Helping Women Honoree, Gate “Maya” Haile Samuelsson.  Maya is an international fashion model and co-founder and President of Three Goats, a non-profit organization committed to improving the health and well-being of families and children living in Ethiopia by providing sustainable access to vital and renewable resources.

“I am very excited to work with Voss Foundation to help bring clean water to communities in Africa,” Maya says. “I love that, as a woman, I can do this especially to help women and girls, who I know will appreciate it because they suffer the most from not having clean water. That’s why I am so flattered to be recognized by Voss Foundation as their Women Helping Women honoree this year.”

“Maya’s devotion to her homeland of Ethiopia, and the obvious joy she gets from helping people, make her a perfect Voss Foundation Women Helping Women honoree,” explains Voss Foundation Executive Director, Kara Gerson. “From the moment I met her, it was clear that her kindness knows no boundaries. Her delight in philanthropy is contagious. I am so impressed with her focused dedication to bringing access to clean water to communities in Ethiopia, as part of a multifaceted approach to changing lives in line with Voss Foundation’s Ripple Effect. We are thrilled to honor her this year and help her fulfill her mission.”


Maya and Marcus

Born in Ethiopia and educated in Holland, Maya originally studied to be a nurse. However, she moved to New York in 2006 to pursue modeling full-time. As a model, she goes by the name Gate Haile. Her first runway show in Paris was for Yves Saint Laurent; since then, she has graced the pages of magazines such as Vogue, and modeled for Valentino and Armani among other major labels. In 2009, Maya married fellow-Ethiopian and James Beard award-winning chef Marcus Samuelsson; they live now in Harlem.

For many years, Maya and Marcus have served as ambassadors and supporters of international NGOs UNICEF and ONE. Maya carefully studied the methods of such illustrious aid groups to learn how to best give back to her native country, a long-held dream. In 2012, Maya and Marcus founded Three Goats as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization to provide people in Ethiopia with the fundamental human requirements for continued growth, health, and development.

 “Modeling brought me an opportunity to give back to other people,” says Maya. “I am so fortunate to be able to help provide people in my country with the clean water, schools, health care, and other conditions that we benefit from in Europe and America. This will change so many people’s lives – to even think about helping Ethiopia in this way makes me so happy.”

As Voss Foundation’s 2013 Women Helping Women Honoree, Maya will speak at Women Helping Women events in San Francisco, on October 17th, and New York on November 14th. In previous years, Voss Foundation has honored Selita Ebanks for her work in Sierra Leone; Saran Kaba Jones, founder of FACE Africa, for her efforts in Liberia; and Noella Coursaris Masters, founder of Georges Malaika Foundation (GMF) for her work in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Voss Foundation went on to partner with FACE Africa and GMF to implement water projects at schools in Paynesville, Liberia, and Kalebuka, DRC, funded by the Voss Foundation’s 2011 and 2010 Women Helping Women campaigns. We have continued to work with these organizations to build additional clean water projects in Liberia and DR Congo, in long-term partnerships.

Water is disproportionately a women’s burden in Africa. Rural women and girls are responsible for fetching water for their families daily, often sacrificing their own health, education, and futures to do so. Providing women with facilitated access to clean water is an important part of Voss Foundation’s ripple effect of clean water, creating an engine for growth that spurs change in a family, community, region, and country.

Women Helping Women (or “Kvinner hjelper Kvinner,” in Norwegian) is a Voss Foundation campaign that has brought together more than 400 champions of clean water in 8 countries to raise over $350,000 for water projects. In the past 5 years, our WHW groups have built 16 clean water access points and 109 latrines in Kenya, DR Congo, Liberia, and Swaziland, and we have brought several groups of donors to Africa to see their water projects in action!

Maya learning about how access to clean water impacts women in Ethiopia

Voss Foundation © 2014