Dr. Migwe Kimemia
Program Director, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) –Dayton Office
It’s a long journey from Kenya, East Africa to Southwest Ohio, especially with stops along the way in Wisconsin, Texas, and Georgia, but Migwe Kimemia is now proud to call Dayton his home. After leaving Kenya to attend the University of Wisconsin, he was well on his way to a lucrative career in international trade. But In 1998, married with a wife and four children, he made a dramatic move that would not just change his life, but the lives of countless others. He moved to Dayton, entered United Theological Seminary to study globalization and spirituality, and set forth on a new calling to serve some of the area’s most underserved. Migwe shares a unique perspective on Welcome Dayton. As an immigrant, he has faced the challenges that many of our foreign-born residents face today. As Program Director for AFSC, he has worked closely with our immigrant community to foster social justice, peace, and humanitarian service in Dayton. And through his unique life journey, he has emerged as a unifying and inspiring force in Dayton’s diverse cultural landscape.
“I’ve been working here since 2002 and it was kind of a miracle to find this global organization with a branch in Dayton. Dayton has a long history of entrepreneurship and innovation. I thought this city has a potential but something is holding it back, and that’s why I felt I should stay on to be part of that change. AFSC is a global organization that was founded by Quakers way back almost a hundred years now. And we have been known for community and peace building. We foster Quaker values that are unique to the organization, and of course upholding human dignity is key. That’s how the whole immigration issue ties in. I was on the city’s Human Relations Council for a year and we connected with other like-minded advocacy groups trying to create change because you can’t do it alone. You need synergy and collaboration.”
The New Face of Immigration
“Cities are changing. And our demographics have changed. Today we have so many people from different countries. Many have been driven out of their land because of armed conflicts. So here, we try to build peace and to show them they have a role to play and through civic engagements in the city, we empower them so that they are not just here to get stuff, but actually contribute to society. The Welcome Dayton plan is attractive in that sense. It has actually broadened the conversation about immigration, which had been limited to the border and to Mexicans. The average American thinks – oh these are Mexicans, but we broadened the discussion to include the fact that we have Asians in this city. We also have so many African immigrants and refugees driven largely by armed conflicts in Africa. These are the refugees I am dealing with that come through the U.S. State Department and they arrive here directly from the refugee camps in Africa. Others come here through the U.S. Diversity Visa, and others as college students. These immigrants are here for a better life and they are here to contribute to society. Today, Africa has most of the natural resources, especially minerals in the world. Since we have so many African immigrants here, we are trying to organize them to create opportunities for fair trade and travel between Dayton and African countries.”
A Sense of Community
“Many immigrants come here from a cohesive community where everybody knows their neighbors and they have cultural rituals and values that they nurture. So when they come here, they are displaced and they feel so isolated. Even these refugees coming from refugee camps had a community at the camp. But when they come here they are spread all over in different cities. So they lose their sense of community. They’re in unfamiliar territory. They have language barriers, cultural barriers and they don’t have the skill level for this kind of work here, so they have to start all over. They are starting from square one. That’s how AFSC got involved. I see Welcome Dayton as a vision for a global city where people can live in peace and harmony and also thrive economically together for the common good. That’s what I do.”
Everybody Has a Role
“For Dayton I believe everybody has a role to play, whether they’re immigrants or not. Everybody has a gift you bring to this world. Let us share those gifts. Together we can make a difference. You alone can have all the gifts you have but you cannot do everything alone. There is a value to coming together for the common good.”
To contact Migwe Kimemia or for more information about the Dayton Chapter of American Friends Service Committee, visit www.afsc.org/office/dayton-oh or call (937) 278-4225.