January 2016 MAHEBER Newsletter
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A Message from our Executive Director

It is with great honor that I step into the role of Executive Director. Following in the footsteps of Dr. Erku Yimer is no easy task, yet I am utterly thankful for the firm foundation on which the Association now stands because of his leadership. 

My first priority is to ensure the stability of the organization, maintaining our existing programs and services and continuing to serve our community seamlessly during this transition. Also high in my priorities is to conduct community outreach - meeting with various segments of the community, building relationships and listening to all issues of concern. Additionally, increasing capacity through fundraising and program development will be of immediate and continued importance. Over the coming months, four goals stand out: 

1) Improve ECAC's overall financial and organizational stability and wellbeing 
2) Promote operational efficiency and enhance technical improvements 
3) Enhance inclusiveness and community participation 
4) Enhance transparency and accountability 

During the past three months, the second quarter of our fiscal year (Oct.- Dec.), ECAC's services have remained strong. We have welcomed 38 new refugees from 5 different countries to the United States through our Refugee Reception and Placement Program. We have served 59 individuals through our Employment Services, 23 of whom were placed on jobs. We have taught English as a Second Language to 27 refugee and immigrant clients, we saw 35 children attend our holiday celebration, and we were supported by 24 volunteers who gave over 750 hours of service to the community. December also marked the end of our 7 month long cultural exhibition, Rites of Passage, an incredible project which saw ECAC in partnership with the Chicago Cultural Alliance, the Chinese-American Museum of Chicago, and UIC's African American Cultural Center. 

As we continue forward on our mission to serve the core needs of immigrants and refugees and promote the rich culture of Ethiopians in Chicago, I ask for your help and continued support. The work of the Association will not be the result of a single person's efforts; it will be accomplished by an entire community of supporters - by all of us, working as a family together. 

Aklilu Adeye 
Executive Director 

Farewell to Dr. Erku Yimer as Executive Director

How does one honor such an incredible man and leader as Dr. Erku Yimer, Executive Director of ECAC for 31 years? This is the question that many faced on December 5, 2015 on the day of his retirement celebration. Many said they "had no words", were "lost for words." As hard as it was to find the right words, it was easy for all who spoke to praise and distinguish Dr. Erku for his accomplishments and more importantly his exceptional character. Here's what some of them had to say:

"This man has provided the greatest leadership, not only to the Ethiopian community - and I say this as a fact - he has provided one of the most dynamic leaderships in the African community." - Dr. Ewa Ewa, Chief Financial Officer, Illinois Human Rights Commission and founding president of the Nigerian Alliance

"When I grow old - become an adult - I want to be like you." - Dr. Aberra Zewdie, Founding Member

"I have known Erku for the last 35 years. He's a very modest, very patient, very classy guy with a great deal of integrity that is really what made this community successful." - Yittayih Zelalem, Founding Member

"We have seen so many Ethiopian organizations and other MAA's, they come today and are gone tomorrow.... Erku is different, he gave us his trust, we trusted him, he managed our organization professionally with integrity - I don't have any words to explain.- Abera Sisay, Founding Member

"I had a similar job that Erku held for 30 years but I could only do it for 8 years and then I had to quit because the job was so hard, so demanding - and look at that, he stayed on for 30 years! So my hat is totally off out of respect to Erku." - Ngoan Le, Illinois State Refugee Coordinator

"So I say today, whatever has happened that is good in the African community here in Chicago, it happened because Dr. Erku Yimer was a shining light for the African community!" - Alie Kabba, Executive Director, United African Organization and presidential hopeful of Sierra Leone

Highlights from Dr. Erku Yimer's Retirement Celebration
Video: Highlights from Dr. Erku Yimer's Retirement Celebration
Thank you Dr. Erku for all you have done for the Ethiopian community in Chicago and across the nation. Thank you for the long hard years you served as our leader and guide. The Ethiopian Community Association of Chicago would not be the success it is today had it not been for your leadership. Best wishes as you enjoy retirement and continue to lead the community in other ways. We expect to seek your sage wisdom for many years to come. Thank you!

What's New at ECAC?

Giving Tuesday:

We would like to thank all of you who donated and showed support to us on the "global day of giving", Giving Tuesday, the day after Thanksgiving. On December 1, 2015 we received 7 donations totaling $330 and we also connected with many new people interested in our mission.

Children's Christmas Party:

ECAC held it's annual Christmas party on December 12, 2015. Over a dozen families participated and enjoyed a time of being together, a potluck dinner, gifts, and arts and crafts. Thank you to Toy's for Tots for providing gifts, our volunteers who helped with crafts, and all the families who joined us!

Thank you to our many donors this winter:

We have received many donations of winter clothing and school supplies in the past few months! A big thank you to:
Loyola University of Chicago's student lead club - the Loyola Refugee Outreach for organizing a winter clothing drive which saw over 400 clothing items donated.
Exodus World Service and their supporters for donating dozens of new winter jackets, hats, gloves, and backpacks.
The American Islamic Center and their community for two van loads of clothing and over 50 backpacks, hundreds of school supply items, and toys.
The Lincoln Park Zoo for selecting ECAC, once again, as a beneficiary of its One Warm Coat Drive, receiving 5 large bags of winter clothing.
Brendan and Carol Deely and friends for organizing a winter clothing drive for the second year in a row and donating dozens of new and like new winter clothes.
And many others who donated clothing, bedding, kitchen supplies, and school supplies over the last two months to support newly arrived refugees!

Special Community Announcements:

The passing of Abebe Aychelouhem:

We regret to inform the community of the passing of our dear community member:

Abebe Aychelouhem 63, of Elgin, passed away at Sherman Hospital peacefully on Sunday, Jan 16, 2016. He was born on Sept 14, 1952 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Ato Aychelouhem   Weldetensai, and w/o Yewebsefer Adefrese.

He came to the United States in 1973 and attended Judson University graduating with Bachelors Degree in political science. He worked at Roger Vending for 10 years and worked in other companies including his last held job at American NTN Bearing Manufacturing in in Elgin.

Abebe is survived by his sisters Semegnesh, Mesrake,Tsion and  brothers Daniel, Abel(deceased) and Fasil, nieces, nephews, aunts, cousins and friends.

A message from Be The Match:

It only takes one and Nate is hoping that you are his “one.”

Nate was born in Ethiopia and two years after being adopted and moving to the U.S., Nate was diagnosed with Leukemia—specifically PH+ ALL, a rare form of childhood leukemia.  Nate endured 18 months of chemotherapy but it was not enough and his cancer came back in the summer of 2014.  Nate had several rounds of chemo and radiation to prepare for a cord blood transplant in February 2015.  The transplant did not work and his cancer came back.

Now, at 14 years old, Nate’s life depends on finding a perfect match for him so he can beat his cancer. Nate needs a bone marrow transplant from an adult donor but there are no donors on the Be The Match registry nor any international registries.  Because of his Ethiopian heritage, Nate is most likely to match with a donor who is of Ethiopian heritage.

Please help Nate by registering on the Be The Match bone marrow registry.  It’s simple to join, just a cheek swab to see if you are a match for Nate or anyone who needs a lifesaving match.  Visit http://Join.BeTheMatch.Org/ElevateNate and enter “ElevateNate” in the Promo Code when you sign up.  You could be the one to save a life like Nate’s.

Museum Artifact of the Month
Konso Wagas

ECAC is lucky to have five waga figures from the Konso People in its collection. There is a large male figure (23” tall) carved out of a heavy wood covered with red pigment which Tesfaye Lemma acquired for his museum; a male and female couple carved from a light wood, dyed burgundy red with features painted in black, came to ECAC from Prof. Donald Levine’s Estate; and LaDena Schnapper located a thin couple in a gray wood for ECAC’s collection a year ago.  All of these waga figures have teeth and characteristically penetrating, pearlized eyes made of shell and bone which have been embedded in the wood.

Wagas are carved and decorated effigy figures or funeral stele used as memorials in the home of a deceased (often they are dedicated to beloved warriors or chiefs), at a funeral or at a gravesite.  Anthropologists, archaeologists, historians and art historians use various names for similar memorial carvings, including “ancestor figures,” “funerary posts,” “reliquary guardians,” and “grave figures.”  Here in the United States, from the colonial period to the present, families of a dead person have used grave markers and carved gravestones in cemeteries in a manner similar to how wagas are used in Ethiopia, but the spread of photography is replacing ancestor figures, and wagas, throughout the world.  Continue →
Konso Wagas Continued...

ECAC’s wagas are made by the Konso ethnic group who are one of the Southern Nations and Peoples residing near the Omo River in southwestern Ethiopia. The best-known Konso wagas are large totems which stand in Ethiopia’s jungles and woods. Travelers into the Ethiopian countryside describe how dramatic it is to happen upon a group of wagas in nature. Adding to the excitement, it is thought not all wagas have been discovered!  

The smaller figures are easier for a family to use at home as a memorial to a deceased member or as a memorial to an ancestor but, again, a photograph in a frame is taking their place.    

Upcoming Events
February 20 - ECAC Business Forum

March 5 - Battle of Adwa Victory Celebration

April 16 - ECAC Board Meeting

ECAC is a tax-exempt 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to serving the cultural, psychological and socio-economic needs of refugees and immigrants in metropolitan Chicago. Please consider supporting our work by making a donation.
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