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Think Global, Act Local: Helping Others Thrive

Happy Holidays!

During this eventful period of the year when people are celebrating with their family and friends, I wanted to visit with someone who needs to be celebrated for their servant leadership.

Mrs. Ruth Emmanuel Tesfaye was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. After graduating from high school, she moved to the United States to attend Concordia College in Moorhead, MN. She received her undergraduate bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Concordia in 2017 and earned her master’s degree in Accounting from NDSU in 2018.

She currently works as a Corporate Accountant at American Crystal Sugar Company in Moorhead, MN. She lives in Fargo, with her husband, Million Tesfaye.

Her drive, love for others, and stellar attitude makes her an asset to our community: the FM area is fortunate Lady Ruth calls here her “home away from her ancestral home,” Ethiopia!

Until our enchanting paths cross again:

Umwaka Mushya Muhire! (Happy New Year in KinyaRwanda)


Where do you call home?

Addis Ababa and Fargo-Moorhead are the places I call home as I feel a sense of belongingness in both places. Three years after I moved to the United States, I felt at home for the first time when I started living with my American family, the Schaefer family. Steve and Terese Schaefer are the reason I called Fargo-Moorhead home for the first time. In Ethiopian tradition, when a girl gets married, the groom comes to her parents’ home to pick her up. That’s where my husband picked me up on the morning of our wedding day, from the Schaefer household, from home.

My husband was also born in Ethiopia but grew up in Fargo. We currently live in Fargo and I am glad I have two places I call home, Addis Ababa and Fargo Moorhead.

What is your journey of growth and what
lessons did you learn before coming to

My parents believed in instilling important values in their children at a young age. When I look at my values, it’s evident that they are tremendously influenced by how my family raised me, which I’m very thankful for. However, there is always room to inculcate yourself and those around you with additional positive values. It is good to practice self betterment on a daily basis in order to give yourself a chance to have stronger values and portray them through your actions. If you think you are a kind person, find another person kinder than you and strive to be as kind as them. When you achieve that, move to the next kinder person, and strive to be like them. I learned setting an example helps with this process.

What’s the story of your passion for GCA Thrive and how did you land in Fargo?

When I was a senior in high school, I started searching for colleges in the United States. Of the colleges I applied and got accepted to, my heart and my family’s heart (especially my mom’s) settled on Concordia College. If you asked me the specific reasons behind my decision, I would not be able to state the exact reasons, but when I look back now, eight years after of making that decision, all I can say is it was God’s guidance. I am a firm believer that where He guides, He provides.

After graduating from Concordia in 2017, I decided to continue with my master’s degree in Accounting mainly because I wanted to achieve the 150 credits requirement to sit for the CPA (Certified Public Accountant) exam. That’s when I met Alicia Helion Belay, the co-founder and President of GCA Thrive. Alicia and the Schafer’s met at a Rotary meeting in winter of 2017. After they introduced me to Alicia, we met in person at Atomic Coffee on a snowy day. We talked for several hours, and she shared with me her passion about building a path to independence for individuals in Africa. Since Alicia lived in Ethiopia while pursuing her Doctorate degree in health and social psychology, she has an insight into some of the issues the country faces and what she can do to help improve some of these conditions. My involvement in GCA Thrive commenced as a result of our meeting. We are primarily focused on microloan projects, which provide startup capital, training, and support to new entrepreneurs. We target women with disabilities, who have the least access to jobs in Africa. It brings joy to me that I can be part of this great organization. As a treasurer at the organization, I utilize my accounting skills to prepare budgets, financial statements, and file taxes for the organization. It’s an absolute pleasure that I get to be use my skills to help.

What’s your story about giving back to your country of birth, Ethiopia?

Our projects are focused on the continent of Africa as a whole, but mainly target Ethiopia and Kenya. Ethiopia is an East African country mostly known for its misfortunes rather than its tangible and intangible heritages, welcoming climate and tremendous natural resources. Ethiopia is one of the birth places of ancient civilization in addition to being bestowed with numerous wildlife. Like mentioned above, our organization’s focus revolves around microloan projects–we support new entrepreneurs so that they can thrive without needing constant support. There is nothing more rewarding than giving back and making a difference in people’s lives. Giving always seems to be tied up to monetary or material contribution. But you can give so many other things (such as your time, energy, knowledge, experience, etc.) and make a huge impact on others.

Why should and how can people learn about
outside the Midwest?

Letting the media be the only source of information to build our perception of places outside the Midwest is not a wise choice, in my opinion. I don’t think anyone would argue that the media can be biased and that it can distort reality to an extent and portray an inaccurate image. Getting out of your comfort zone and connecting with individuals from different cultural backgrounds is the first step. This will enhance our cultural awareness and help us see past the stereotypes.

What is your vision for 2030? Where will you be and why?

Professionally, I hope I can finally add the three letters behind my name (CPA) after finishing my last exam in April of the coming year. Overall, I hope I find myself kinder, more generous and more loving than I am now. Like I said earlier, I believe it’s important to practice self betterment on a daily basis in order to give yourself a chance to have stronger values and portray them through your actions. To achieve this, setting an example is imperative. For me, that example is Christ.

Written by Alexandre Cyusa

Alexandre Cyusa came to the FM area in the fall of 2010 to attend Concordia College. Originally from Kigali, Rwanda, Cyusa has lived in Switzerland, Ethiopia, Guinea and France. His traveling experiences have helped him in making this world a smaller and simpler place to live in. He currently works for Folkways and is interested in community development and nurturing global citizenship.

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