In Ethiopia, where I grew up, giving is part of the culture. After living in the USA for several years, there was a part of me that missed that feeling of connectedness to communities that result from giving and sharing. It was a void I could not quite fill through monetary donations alone. So I began to search for a different approach. I started by first finding an environment to share my culture with others of similar backgrounds. I joined Lilly AMECA ERG, an employee resource group that represents people from Africa, Middle East, and Central Asia. At AMECA, I served on the executive team where I led the Community Outreach Program. Being part of the internal and external AMECA community presented an avenue to express, share, and empower cultures including mine.
Through AMECA, I had the opportunity to attend a CEE (Civic Engagement for Expatriates) program. With grant support from the Lilly Foundation and through a partnership with the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, the CEE program equipped me with non-profit board leadership skills. My work as a community outreach program leader and the CEE program created an opportunity for me where I was recommended to be a board member in the Immigrant Welcome Center, serving with distinguished philanthropists in Indianapolis.
Being named a board member is exciting and I am looking forward to the challenges of the positon. What is more important for me, though, is that it solidifies my role in the community and enables me to fill the void I had for community service.
I am an immigrant, it is only natural for me to want to take some time to enable other immigrants to reach their potential. Being part of the community gives me a sense of permanence. Home only feels like home if it is connected to others. If one is not part of a community, even the most comfortable home feels like an empty building.
I hope that the CEE program will enable future graduates to meet their needs, whatever they may be.
Be daring, help others achieve their dreams, and be an agent for good in the community. Know that despite current setbacks and disappointments, the US is a country that was built by immigrants for immigrants, and in the long term, this will never fundamentally change.
By Frezewd “Frae” H. Kazmierczak, Associate Senior Consultant, Eli Lilly and Company