• Changing the Ethiopian Narrative

    by Pamela Deutsch

    “I have decided to change my personal narrative.  Most Ethiopians including myself usually start by saying…I was born in a small village, I trekked to Sudan, spent a year in Sudan…what I believe Israelis hear that the Ethiopian community is a deprived community.”

    Michal is 38 years old, married and mother of two children ages 6 and 3.  She has a master’s degree in educational counseling from the Univeristy of Haifa, was born in Ethiopia,  and made aliyah at the age of 9.

    Michal’s family lives in Kfar Saba and Michal attended Ulpanat Tsfira. As a national service volunteer, she worked in the caravan settlement for Ethiopians at Hatzrat Yasaf, where she led parent groups and worked with young children.  Her motivation for doing so, was that she might be able to prevent these parents and children from making the same mistakes she and her family made during the absorption process.

    After completing national service, Michal attended the University of Haifa where she studied education.

    During her master’s degree, Michal continued working with children and youth, but also held another er position simultaneously;  through the Israel Institute for Democracy, she worked as a research assistant for the Knesset immigrant and absorption committee under the direction of MK Naomi Blumenthal.  After completing her master’s degree, Michal was chosen by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the staff of the Disney Corporation to work in the Israeli Pavilion at Disney World Orlando for a year.  “ I really enjoyed the experience and was very proud to represent Israel, as a black Jewish Israel woman.”

    Upon returning to Israel, Michal was looking for an opportunity to work with the Ethiopian community and at the same time to lead change.  She talked with all kinds of Ethiopian organizations.  At Fidel she was challenged to present her ideas and explain how she would implement them. Michal understood that Fidel was an organization that empowered people to grow.

    Fidel has two goals to train Ethiopians to be mediators and to empower them so that they will be able to provide good and professional services to the Ethiopian community.  But, more than that, the training provides the employees with skills and opportunities for life.  And this is what turned Michal on!

    Michal began working at Fidel in 2000 as the Professional Training Director and over the years her job description expanded.  From 2006 to 2011 she served as deputy CEO of Fidel before assuming the position of CEO in 2011.

    Since Michal began working at Fidel, the Ethiopian community has changed – particularly in terms of leadership.  Today, the young people, particularly those in there early thirties, who completed the majority of their education in Israel, and who have made Israeli culture their own, are now the leaders, and they are well able to express themselves on topics such as absorption, education, where resources are needed and where they should be going.  And they are not afraid to ask hard questions. There is no question that the new leadership at times challenges those who became for them.

    Just as Michal has changed her personal narrative, she believes that it is time for the organizations working with Ethiopians to change their narrative as well.  Michal has already begun to take a good hard look with her staff and board, at Fidel’s strategy, whether their programs continue to be effective, whether their resources being used in the most effective manner, and how can they as an organization improve and learn in order to achieve the goals they feel are important for the Ethiopian community.

    “Fidel since its establishment, has created very strong infrastructures in the communities where it works; our next step is to figure out how to mobilize the children and youth of these communities to become leaders within their own localities.”

     

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