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Talking with #MakeItHappen Micro Grant Recipient... Melaku!

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Melaku has been living in a primarily Ethiopian neighborhood in Israel since he immigrated from Ethiopia in 1991. After serving in the Israeli army he returned home to Gedera where he now works on developing youth leadership programs in the Ethiopian community.

Melaku’s idea to empower young leaders through the Tel Aviv marathon was recently chosen to receive a $1,000 #MakeItHappen micro grant! To read more about his project and to volunteer to help him #MakeItHappen visit Melaku's idea page.

What three hashtags would you use to describe yourself?

#alwayshappy #driventowardsuccess #helpingothersalways

What inspired you to apply for a #MakeItHappen micro grant and what do you hope it will achieve?  

The marathon is a really good opportunity for the youth in my neighborhood to see how all of the Israeli people can come together for something. Running is an active way for us to show that our community can work together and be strong together.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

I want to help make the teenagers in my neighborhood happy and motivated to work together to improve their lives.

What is one change you want to see in the world?  

I want to see all of the teenagers in my community successfully enter and finish their army service.

What is the biggest risk you have taken and how did it pay off?  

The biggest risk I have taken is leaving my home and my friends to go to the army. I didn't know anything about the army before I went and I was very nervous. Now, I feel more connected to my country and know why we have to go into the army. I became a stronger person and more independent which helps me work harder to help the people in my neighborhood.

Have you ever failed before and what lessons did you learn?  

I did not do very well on my college entrance exam and need to take it over again because it is now my dream to go to University. I wasted a lot of time and money taking the prep course and exam but did not care too much at the time. Now I realize how important it is for me to get into University in order to succeed. I learned that going through the motions of something is not enough, instead I need to follow my dreams and make things happen.

Who are your heroes?  

I have many brothers but my one brother Shachar is my biggest hero. He cares for everyone he knows even if he is busy and everyone loves him. He is smart and successful and he has the best soul and heart of anyone I know.

Where do you find solitude?  

As a kid, I went to the youth center than I currently work at. I would stay after everyone else left when it got quiet and have time to think and write. I felt most comfortable in this place and am happy to be able to work there now.

Where do you find community?  

In the streets of my neighborhood my friends and I walk around in the evenings. We talk and laugh and just have fun. This is my favorite place to find community. I also know everyone in my neighborhood and feel very loved because I can say hi to people.

If you had to give up one modern convenience what would it be and why?  

I would give up the television. If I didn't have this in my house I would spend more time talking to my family and out in my neighborhood with my friends. It would give me more chances to learn about my Ethiopian and Jewish heritage.

What is your favorite Jewish memory?  

My favorite Jewish memories have been my brother's and sister's weddings. Since coming to Israel, many of my Ethiopian-Jewish traditions have disappeared but at weddings we do our traditional dances, dress and prayers. At these weddings I felt the most connected to my Jewish roots and my Jewish family.

The Schusterman Philanthropic Network is proud to empower emerging leaders to explore their values, identity and new ways to strengthen their communities. We believe that as we work together to repair the world, it is important to share our diverse experiences and perspectives along the way. We encourage the expression of personal thoughts and reflections here on the Schusterman blog. Each post reflects solely the opinion of its author and does not necessarily represent the views of the Foundation, its partner organizations or all program participants.