Las Vegas Sun

September 2, 2015

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PHILANTHROPY:

Joe Downtown: Local entrepreneur raising funds in hopes of easing struggles of Ethiopian people

Amy Jo Martin’s trip to Ethiopia in April opened her eyes to a world few Americans have seen.

Many know generally the African country is poor; reports say some 35 million of the country’s 80 million people live under the poverty line.

The daughter of a road builder, Martin spent childhood in a trailer traveling wherever her dad’s work took them. But she’d never experienced or seen the kind of poverty found in Ethiopia, where obtaining the most basic commodity — water — was a daily struggle. She returned to Las Vegas altered by the images of people competing with animals for dirty water. If the humans "won," they had to haul the water in carriers on their backs 4 miles to their homes.

Martin is founder of Digital Royalty, a company that develops social media strategies (Martin, herself, has 1.2 million Twitter followers). Her headquarters are now in Las Vegas in the Ogden high-rise downtown, and she is one of the first beneficiaries of investment from VegasTechFund.

The business is doing well, she said — so much so that she has 12 employees and is hiring. Even in the 110 degrees of a blistering summer heat wave, even as it crawls its way out of the recession, Las Vegas is a lush paradise compared to Ethiopia.

So Martin, 33, is doing something to help.

Working with Commonwealth, a Fremont East tavern, Martin is raising money for the group Charity: Water to drill for water in Ethiopia.

Beginning Sunday and lasting through August, Commonwealth and Digital Royalty followers can donate to Charity: Water by using the hashtag #CommonWell when using Twitter or Instagram. The $1 donation will come from a group of people dubbed “Well Diggers,” who have given $500 or more. The first donor was Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh.

For more information about how to donate or become a Well Digger, click here.

Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover downtown, he lives and works there. Schoenmann is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded downtown journalist, working from an office in the Emergency Arts building.

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