Shegitu Kebede

From: Awasa, Ethiopia  Current City: St. Paul, MN
"You don’t have to be a wealthy person. You don’t have to be a well-known person. An average person like me and you can make a difference in someone else’s life."
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Despite the many trails and hardships during her life, Shegitu Kebede’s spirit remains strong.

Born in Awasa, Ethiopia, Ms. Kebede was surrounded by war during her early life. Orphaned at the age of five, she moved into a missionary-led orphanage with her three brothers. However, the missionaries were forced to flee the country when violence from the civil war escalated; she lost a family for the second time. Like many young men in the region, Shegitu’s oldest brother was abducted to fight. Not wanting her two younger brothers to suffer the same fate, she married at the age of sixteen to provide them with some kind of protection.

Shegitu was separated from family for a third time when she began a grueling, three-month-long journey to Kenya while pregnant. After a brief time in a Kenyan prison, Shegitu gave birth to her son in a refugee camp. Two years later, she was eligible to apply for a refugee resettlement in the United States. While her application was initially rejected, Ms. Kebede appealed the decision and was granted refugee status. She and her three-year-old son flew to Fargo, North Dakota before ultimately relocating to Minneapolis.

After overcoming financial and cultural obstacles, Ms. Kebede found success as an entrepreneur. 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. Shegitu was given the Virginia McKnight Binger Award in Human Services for her work in community services. Additionally, she co-owns Flamingo Restaurant, serving authentic, East African cuisine. She is a published author and a motivational speaker, sharing her story with others. Ms. Kebede lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.

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