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    Bringing cultures together, celebrating community

    Day 274

    Proud to Be From Here

    Since the early 1990s, Minnesota has welcomed members of the Oromo community after having been displaced from their homes in Ethiopia. Telile, who arrived when she was a young woman, told us that her time in Minnesota was hard at first. She had difficulty adjusting to the cold and a new culture. But, she also said that Minnesotans helped ease these struggles of starting over. “Everyone was very nice and welcoming.”

    She also found a local church that helped her find comfort and connections here. Many in the Oromo community have had similar experiences, and they hope to continue to build connections and deeper relationships.

    Today, the Twin Cities is home to 40,000 members of the Oromo community, making it the largest population of Oromo outside of Ethiopia. This community has so much gratitude for Minnesotans, pride in their culture, and belief in the future we will all have together. To honor this, we decided to support them in coordinating a celebration of Oromo cultural event – and it was an amazing experience!

    We partnered with the Oromo Community Center in St. Paul to invite neighbors, family and friends to join for a day full of food, art and dancing!

    The Oromo community demonstrated their immense generosity – donating time, items and their talents – to provide an authentic and genuine experience for all. At the center, there were stations for people to participate in hands-on learning activities – a spot to learn basic words in Oromo language or try on traditional Oromo clothing and jewelry, demonstrating the beauty and intricacy of the styles and techniques based down for generations.

    Then you could taste the spices and herbs so common in this culture – watching and partaking in the making of traditional coffee and filling up on delicious traditional food. And of course, you couldn’t miss the music and dancing! High energy and upbeat, the room was constantly filled with smiles and movement as members of the community taught others traditional dance moves. There was something for everyone.

    “Today, people came together from all different backgrounds, this is how we celebrate humanity,” said Maggie, the President of Oya, an organization working to empower Oromo youth. We learned that celebrating humanity isn’t difficult – it’s so doable.

    A Twin Cities neighbor, Teresa Devick explained why having an accessible event like this is important, saying “It’s sometimes hard to help refugees internationally, but doing something here is easy.” Events like this bring cultures together.

    “This was a wonderful opportunity for us as an Oromo community that lives here in Minnesota,”
    said Eticha, an advocate for the Oromo currently displaced in Ethiopia. “I’ve lived here for 3 years and I haven’t seen anything like this before. Because of things like this, we learn how to love and respect each other’s culture.”

    Throughout the day we were reminded of the abundance, kindness and openness in the Twin Cities. Our colleague and friend, Aanne Atomsa, said it best at the end of the event, “I am proud to be from this community and from the Alight family.”

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    Changemakers 365

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    Changemakers 365 members give either $30 per month or a one-time gift of $365 (it’s free for anyone who has ever lived in a refugee camp). Join us!

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