JULIAN B. KIGANDA is an artist, designer, speaker and writer born in Uganda with mixed Rwandese heritage raised in America. In her blog she writes her background has colored the lens through which she lives her life and experiences the world.
She worked also as a community organizer with African Diaspora for Change, I have chaired star-studded events and led critical community dialogues, while developing culturally-relevant programming. Juliane has listed Asmara Sium, Executive Director of the African Immigrant and Refugee Foundation (AIRF) with origins in Eritrea , amongst the 30 Most Notable Africans of 2013 on her blog “Bold and Fearless”.NR 5. ASMARA SIUM
Country of Origin: ERITREA
What: More often than not, some of the most notable people we know are unsung heroes who quietly, but passionately go about their work—rarely seeking publicity unless it will somehow help the people they serve or advance the mission they are committed to.
Asmara Sium is one of those unsung heroes. Don’t let her friendly smile fool you, as the Executive Director of the African Immigrant and Refugee Foundation (AIRF), the fire she has for empowering African youth is what drives her to often work 60-80 hour weeks, while juggling the demands of being a wife and mother of two young children. Based in the Washington, DC area, AIRF was founded in 2000 by Mama Wanjiru Kamau to help African immigrants transition into American society.
Why I’m Inspired: From hosting programs like the Catching Up Program in local area public schools to enable African immigrant youth to embrace their culture while assimilating in an environment that isn’t always welcoming, to hosting an annual conference to engage these same youth in dialogue, education and a celebration of their African heritage, Sium has carried the torch passed on by Mama Kamau with a grace and selflessness that is rare.
In a world that puts shameless self-promotion above service to humanity, her sincerity and focus on the mission of empowering African immigrant youth is refreshing. Having faced many of the cultural challenges herself that these youth are facing, Sium states in this article:
“The kids are trying to figure out how to be American… We see in these kids so much more than I think they do at times and it’s our job to say, ‘here are the tools,’ and they rise to the occasion. With some extra support, these kids can excel beyond any of our expectations.”