The desire for stronger connections between the cultures was among the topics discussed at the first installment the Ethiopian Immersion and Innovation Lab Aug. 26 at Woodbury’s Central Park.

By Maureen McMullen (Woodbury Bulletin) |

For Woodbury resident Ruth Cherinet, a church offers one of the strongest connections she feels to her Ethiopian heritage and community.

Ruth said the unity she feels with the congregation at the Ethiopian Evangelical Church in St. Paul is somewhat rare in Minnesota’s Ethiopian community.

Her parents’ home county is home to at least 10 different ethnic groups, which can sometimes drive a wedge between Ethiopians both in Minnesota and abroad.

Rather than identifying as Ethiopian, Ruth said many Ethiopian Minnesotans identify more with their specific ethnic group.

“At the moment, we’re divided,” she said. “The younger you are, you don’t think about ethnicity. In youth group, you just think, ‘I’m Ethiopian, and there’s a whole bunch of other Ethiopians here.'”

The desire for stronger connections between the cultures was among the topics discussed at the first installment the Ethiopian Immersion and Innovation Lab Aug. 26 at Woodbury’s Central Park.

A joint effort between the YMCA of Woodbury and Twin Cities-based Mission Impact Council, the four-piece series aims to identify the needs and prioritize opportunities for Ethiopian youth in Minnesota.

According to the 2008 U.S. Census American Community Survey, Minnesota is home to nearly 14,000 Ethiopians, many of whom live in the east metro. Leaders within the community estimate that number is much larger today.

Dr. Ramon Pastrano, president of ImpactLives Inc. and architect of the Immersion and Innovation experience, said the goal of the events is to inspire targeted communities to reach solutions to their problems.

“It’s more powerful when the process we facilitate is the process of self-discovery; people realize they can contribute,” Pastrano said. “When people discover that and move collectively to solve the problem, they realize there’s more power in community-based problem solving than one organization. They were learning this process and can learn it again and again and again.”

Continue reading this story at Woodbury Bulletin
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