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Creating Meaningful Change

Ahmed Shiil

– Community Impact Manager, United Way Of Cass-Clay
– Member, City Of Fargo Human Relations Commission

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Which country did you immigrate to America from?


Why did you choose Fargo-Moorhead when coming to America?

Actually, I grew up in the Twin Cities. I relocated to North Dakota when my wife started nursing school in Bismarck. But we eventually wanted to move back to the Twin Cities. While my job was located in Bismarck, I traveled a lot between the NDSU campus in Fargo and the NDSU nursing program in Bismarck. This gave me a lot of exposure in the Fargo- Moorhead community and we really fell in love with the growing diversity we have here in the FM area. Since my wife’s career goal was to work at the VA, it wasn’t hard to convince her to make the move since there’s a VA in Fargo. Then stars were aligned when the United Way posted an opening for a Community Impact Manager position that truly spoke to me. Now my family and I call Fargo- Moorhead home.

What have been some of the biggest challenges in coming to a new country?

The biggest, most challenging thing about coming to a new country, I believe, is not knowing the language. With a language barrier, your access to anything is very limited. When barriers are removed through education, one’s ability is limitless as they can navigate through the community and become a contributing member of a community.

What can the community do to create fewer challenges for New Americans?

One of my favorite things about the FM area is that there are a lot great people who invest their time and money back into the community. I am grateful for the opportunity to work on the United Way team and see first-hand how our work together is empowering local New Americans. When people give to United Way, they help support workforce development programming services that provide hundreds of low-income and New American individuals with the opportunity for living-wage employment. Through collaboration with incredible community partners, we provide education, financial literacy, workforce development opportunities, basic needs like food, access to English Language Learner classes, computer training and alleviate barriers such as transportation, all while providing a connection to the community for many New Americans.

We are excited to continue collaborating with amazing community partners to create meaningful impact for families, and when you give to United Way, you are a part of this work, too. There are many non-profits in the FM area, take time to volunteer and support local organizations. Small or big, take action to make a positive impact, it’s truly rewarding.

What do you think the community needs to understand about New Americans to help them feel more welcome and included?

Many immigrants relocated to new countries to flee war or persecutions and had taken a journey to find peace. Many have to relearn life as is, a new language, new skills to help them find jobs, as well as a new culture. The most universal welcoming gesture is a simple smile. It also lets people know that you care. But I would say take it up a notch, invite your neighbor, take your colleague out for coffee, maybe tea. In the FM area we have many immigrant-owned restaurants and stores, go eat, go shop, get to know your fellow community member.

A community that can learn together, can grow together.

What has been the best and most exciting thing about living in America?

I came here when I was 13, so for me, I would say having lived in my preteens moving around avoiding warzone areas and not attending school; starting school was the best thing. Having the opportunity to grow in peace was the best thing. There is a saying, “You can never put a price on freedom,” I live by those words.

Written by Brady Drake

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