For the last 14 years, my profession has centered around education and the educational event industry. I’ve worn many, many hats, including sales agent, consultant, and director of operations. Every day was a lesson in leadership, and it’s been an adventure to connect with people across the U.S. and from all walks of life.
My passion, however, is centered elsewhere—a whole different story—and one that has taken its time to unfold.
At 13 years old, I became what’s considered a double orphan.
My sister and I were born and raised in Los Angeles, California. My father—a graduate of Cornell University and professor at Pepperdine— immigrated to the U.S. from Ethiopia in the early 70s on a highly coveted educational scholarship. My mother followed shortly after. She graduated high school in New York and reunited with my father in California—she also became a graduate of UCLA and, together, they launched a successful CPA firm.
Of my parents, I would say they were brilliant and loving and fierce advocates.
Without ever having stepped foot in my family’s home country, my sister and I were raised in the culture. I learned and spoke and read the languages. The stories and history and music were home. My parents would not have had it any other way—and to this day, I am grateful.
The loss of my parents brought my world crashing down around me. The only life I knew had ended, and I was faced with beginning again. All before finishing my eighth grade school year.
The values my parents instilled within me raised me along the way.
My father cared deeply for the Ethiopian community and the church as a whole. I watched him form the first Ethiopian Orthodox church in the City of Angels. I watched him bring people from different sides together and create community where it did not exist. It mattered to him, and it matters to me. After moving to West Michigan, I spearheaded foundational efforts that focused on providing aid to the most vulnerable. Alongside others, we founded the creation of a fistula hospital in rural Ethiopia. I led fundraisers, held events, and raised awareness for the least and the lost—the orphans of the world.
Still, something was amiss. I knew there was more.
My wife and I have been deeply involved in the missional outreach work of our church for quite some time. Our commitment to global development began with Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Multiple trips, year after year, and endless to-do lists eventually became a lesson learned. (When Helping Hurts, anyone?)
Passion meets purpose: the point of intersection
My first introduction to Children’s HopeChest was in 2014. My wife and I were asked to attend a meeting between our church missions board and Children’s HopeChest. The decision was unanimous—this was the way we wanted to serve. The right and just way. The only way, really. I immediately connected with HopeChest’s ideology and holistic approach to community outreach and impact. I was fully on board. It’s been seven years, and my wife and I continue to serve as leads in our Community-to-Community church partnership with the Ukro CarePoint in Ethiopia.
Then, in the fall of 2018, I traveled the proverbial road back home to a country and nation I’ve known all my life yet had never met before. For the first time in my life, I stepped off a plane and into the land of my own ancestry. In its entirety, the experience itself is one I don’t think I will ever be able to fully convey. What I can share are the moments and memories that helped to reshape my innermost core. Asking kids questions in their native tongue, “With God on your side, what do you want to be when you grow up?”
From their responses, I can say with certainty that I met future lawyers and doctors and leaders—determined game-changers—that will help change the world. I saw parents, empowered, and thriving, in fact. Business plans and proposals, endeavors and dreams. I witnessed, firsthand, the power of partnership.
I’d finally found my passion with purpose.
That’s why, when the opportunity came to join the team at Children’s HopeChest, I did so without hesitation. Because this is it—this is the good stuff—the stuff that still matters. Equipping people, right where they are, because they are worthy and wholly loved.
To elevate and amplify the voice of the vulnerable, this I consider my mission and privilege.
This is my story. I want to know how your story is leading you to team up against poverty.