Ethiopians were among the first African immigrants to voluntarily come to the United States following the passage of the 1980 Refugee Act. Prior to 1980, the Ethiopian community in the United States was primarily comprised of very few individuals who came through student visa or as diplomatic missions. The demographic characteristics and size of the community began to change and expand with admission of Ethiopian refugee in large numbers from Sudan, Djibouti, Kenya and through other legal channels including asylum, family reunion and diversity visa lottery program.
Coping to blend to the new environment and navigating through complex and advanced urban system were major challenges and concerns shared by most of the new refugee and immigrants. Some even suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and adjustment problems resulting from social and cultural shocks, homesickness and inability to find gainful employment in their areas of expertise.
Lack of established social support system to help them address the social and cultural challenges necessitated and encouraged formation of small community centers and faith based institutions with a primary goal of providing spiritual guidance, counseling, cultural adjustment support and referral services to facilitate transitional needs of new immigrants.
The transitional assistance provided by mainstream service providers complimented by community groups and faith based institutions helped many immigrants to adjust successfully and become self-sufficient and contributing members of their new communities. Despite resource limitations and other challenges, the community organizations also played major roles as advocates for refugee admissions and protections, a voice for fair representation of African immigrants in city and state government based programs and as leading organizers of civic groups and grassroots associations in their respective communities.
A recent study published by Migration & Policy Institute estimated the first and second generation Ethiopian refugee and migrants currently residing in the US at 255,0001. A great number of these immigrants believed to live in Washington DC, Virginia, Maryland, Minnesota and California.
Despite the relative registered success in educational achievements, professional employment and business ownership by some members of the community, the dynamics and service needs of Ethiopian immigrants progressively expanded as they become familiar to the system and aspire to achieve higher and better social and economic goals, which includes accessing financial resources to start-up businesses, mentoring and entrepreneurial skills training, home ownership opportunities and facilities to serve their children and the aging community members. These resources and services are important and useful tools in order to establish competitiveness and succeed in advancing economic and social adjustments in the American economic and social system.
The Ethiopian Diaspora consortium is conceived out of the need to address these new service needs and challenges Ethiopian immigrants through organizing an umbrella structure to mobilize and channel resources that supports horizontally integrated provision of services for promotion of economic and social advancement of Ethiopian Americans in the DMV area. The consortium aims to promote cooperative spirit to enhance resource mobilization, improve program planning, encourage specialization, increase management efficiency and bargaining power of member organizations that are engaged and committed to serving the Ethiopian diaspora communities.
The consortium aspires to play vital role in the development of vibrant, self-sufficient, productive and empowered Ethiopian American communities in the DMV area by streamlining service provisions through nurturing the spirit of cooperation in mobilization of resources and delivery of services for fulfillment of shared visions and goals.
The Diaspora Resources for Ethiopian American's Metropolises (DREAM) founding conference was held on September 28th, 2014 at Montgomery College in Silver Spring, Maryland. It was attended by sizable number of representatives of civic societies, professionals and interested parties from the DMV area. The conference was followed by a series of steering committee meetings lasting over four months in reviewing, refining and adapting the working document presented herewith by the organizing committee.