Sharing her story as a refugee

Immigrant from Ethiopia to speak at Republican dinner

Submitted photo Shegitu Kebede, who immigrated from Ethiopia 27 years ago, will be the featured speaker at the Lyon County Republican annual dinner Thursday.

When Shegitu Kebede immigrated to the United States 27 years ago, she was guided every step of the way.

“There was someone to meet you at the airport and I had a fully furnished apartment,” Kebede said. “I took classes for English.”

The immigration process has changed, but it didn’t change with the current Trump administration — “it was the previous one,” she said.

Kebede will talk about her story, how the immigration process worked for her and the current immigration climate at the Lyon County Republican annual dinner Thursday at the AmericInn, 1406 E. Lyon St., Marshall. The reception is at 6 p.m. and dinner is at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 for an individual, $40 per couple and $15 for students. For tickets, call Debbie Clark at 507-401-1059.

Clark, the Lyon Republican co-chair, heard her speak at the Seventh Congressional District of Minnesota convention in Thief River Falls in April.

“Her story is amazing,” Clark said. “She is an eloquent speaker and easy to understand. She is very personable and charismatic.”

Kebede said she has met people from Marshall before, but has never visited Marshall.

“I’m excited,” Kebede said. “I’m looking forward to coming to Marshall.”

Clark said Kebede went through the legal process to immigration.

“She jumped through all the hoops to become a citizen,” Clark said.

Kebede, a war refugee from Ethiopia, is a community activist and author. She is founder and president of Women at the Well International.

Women at the Well helps refugees before they come to their new country. Kebede observed that many children are thrust into school, say the sixth grade, before even having attended kindergarten in their native land. This results in frustration and acting out on the child’s part.

Women at the Well is a nonprofit she founded seven years ago where she returns to Ethiopia to refugee camps to teach refugees to read and write before they are placed in their new homes.

Kebede has walked in their shoes. Born in Awasa, Ethiopia, Kebede was surrounded by war during her early life. Orphaned at the age of 5, she moved into a missionary-led orphanage with her three brothers.

The missionaries were forced to flee the country when violence from the civil war escalated. Kebede then spent years in a refugee camp until she was eligible to apply for a refugee resettlement in the United States. She and her 3-year-old son originally settled in Fargo, North Dakota, before relocating to Minneapolis.

After overcoming financial and cultural obstacles, Kebede started to look at how she could help others. She founded Going Home, Inc. — a program that provided job training for immigrant women — and Homework Center, which offered homework assistance and afterschool activities for immigrant children.

Kebede was given the Virginia McKnight Binger Award in Human Services for her work in community services. She is a published author and a motivational speaker.

“I want to share my story, my perspective of what a refugee looks like,” she said.


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