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Genesis and Growth of AEFM

The humble beginning of the Association of Eritreans and their Friends in Michigan (AEFM) starts with Saturday June 6, 1998 when many of the founding members, who are ardent supporters of the Association, were in East Lansing attending an open house to congratulate a high school graduate. People were happy for the graduate but at the same time they were also shocked to learn that both on June 5th and 6th, the Ethiopian airforce has bombed Asmara. To those who heard the news in disbelief, it was the subject of reluctant but sad discussion. Particularly, for the Eritreans, they were not only distressed about the bombing, but they were also pre-occupied with thoughts of what they can do on their part. They decided to do something about it and so it was that a group of about ten Eritreans decided to meet and see what that something would be.

The first meeting was held a week later on June 14th in Lansing. For the next four months, the group held five meetings almost all of them in Lansing to discuss the conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia and to talk what can be done about it. However, there was also an underlying feeling, though less urgent, that the association, if and when organized, should go beyond issues surrounding the war. Thus, during those meetings, a number of steps were taken: Collection of contributions for Eritrea, organization of a picnic to know better other families and individuals in the surrounding areas, discussions on whether there should be a formal organization, and an investigation of and consultation with other Eritrean organizations, if and where they existed, with the aim of joining them if there is a compatibility of goals and sentiments.

It soon became clear that both through discussion over the telephone and/or meetings, with the relevant officials, those organizations that existed were not meant to reflect state-wide membership. Once this was known, it was decided that a state-wide organization that would embrace all Eritreans and friends of Eritrea was necessary to create a vital support mechanism among the members consisting of Eritreans, their families, as well as their friends. The role of such an organization in helping new arrivals from Eritrea and the second generation of Eritreans was clearly seen as very important; in the case of the former, to help them settle down with little cultural and economic shock in a new society, and in the case of the latter to help them understand and adopt to a bi-cultural social exposure and upbringing. Furthermore, it was clear that such an organization could be very useful to marshal both material and moral assistance to Eritrean victims during a time of adversity, such as the conflict with Ethiopia.

An extensive bylaws was drafted and discussed at length over a number of meetings and finally on October 18, 1998, the bylaws was approved and thus, AEFM was born as non-political, non-religious, and non-sectarian independent entity open to Eritreans and non-Eritreans. After the formal launching of the Association, the first priority of the Executive Body was to share the goals and aspirations of the Association with potential members in Michigan. To do so, a number of meetings were held with individuals and groups. This was done during the last months of 1998 and the first few months of 1999.

For the rest of 1999, while continued publicity of AEFM and what it stands for took place, attention was also paid to make sure it has the legal standing both at the state and federal level. Thus, after making the necessary sacrifice in time and expenses, AEFM was formally recognized as a 501(c)3 tax-exempt non-governmental organization in March 2000 with all the responsibilities and opportunities of a tax-exempt entity.

Association Goals and Functions

Thus, the Association of Eritreans and their Friends in Michigan (AEFM), under a 501(c)(3) tax exempt status, doubled its efforts to promote people-to-people interactions, enhance educational opportunities, and to appreciate cultural understanding between Eritrean-Americans and the general public in Michigan as well as between the peoples of Eritrea and those of the United States in general. The governing body of AEFM is a board elected by the general membership to serve two years at a time.

The goals of the association include the following:

  • To promote targeted social, cultural and educational interactions among Eritreans, Eritrean-Americans and the general American public at large for mutual understanding and awareness;
  • To share understanding concerning Eritrea's culture, society, history, resources, and economic opportunities and to help pass on these understandings to the younger generation and to the general American public;
  • To engage in modest educational or developmental and humanitarian activities both here in Michigan and in Eritrea; and
  • To organize public forums and social functions to promote the general and specific goals and interests of the organization

Specific Activities of AEFM

Specific Activities of the Association include the following:

  1. Teaching of language for those who need help, such as new arrivals from Eritrea;;
  2. Holding Eritrean cultural shows in schools, colleges, and civic centers as well as participating in state festivals;
  3. Hosting public gatherings and festivities on Eritrean national celebrations to introduce the American public to the Eritrean culture;
  4. Providing humanitarian assistance, where needed and possible, both here in Michigan and in Eritrea in collaboration with other agencies or organizations of similar interests and goals; and
  5. Collecting of books and other needed educational materials for Eritrean children who, otherwise, would not have the opportunity to access them.

Program Beneficiaries

Benefits accrue to a number of groups both here and in Eritrea: Eritrean-Americans who may be facing economic and social or cultural adjustment problems: the children of such Americans whose experience will be enriched through multi-cultural learning about both their background and the United States; local schools and civic centers through outreach activities of the Association; and the general public of both Michigan and Eritrea through people-to-people participation in education, cultural exchange, and humanitarian activities.

Modest Initial Accomplishments

After spending much of its time to build the membership base, the Association soon started to be involved in other mission-oriented activities. Thus, as of the end of 2011, a number of projects had been completed including the collection and sending of books to colleges, research center, hospitals, and the Chamber of Commerce, inviting Eritrean visiting Scholars to speak to the community, holding public awareness information desks and cultural demonstrations at colleges and schools, providing workshop on strategic planning with the goal of improving the working of the Association, performing humanitarian work, starting Eritrean language classes both in Lansing and Detroit, holding college days in urban areas to help graduating high school seniors how to apply to and take entrance exams, cosponsoring educational seminars, and organizing an independence anniversary social and intellectual gathering which has become now an annual celebration

No less important is the impact or influence the Association created among members and non-members to come together (outside AEFM) to participating in concrete ways in congratulating Eritrean high school graduates and in providing a modest assistance to Eritrean families (and individuals) both in their hour of joy and their hour of sadness- according to the Eritrean tradition as well as holding picnics in Grand Rapids and Lansing for the general public.

How One Can Be Involved

AEFM is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental, tax-exempt local organization established to promote educational, social, cultural, humanitarian, and development goals. The Association being run by volunteers and private contributions, there are a number of ways an individual can participate to help achieve the above goals of the Association:

  • Being a member of the Association
  • Giving financial support to its activities (see below);
  • Participating in its public activities as volunteers;
  • Sharing information with others to help promote the activities of the Association; and
  • Contacting the Association for programmatic collaborations

The Board of Directors of AEFM would greatly appreciate any contributions made by individuals and organizations in order to achieve its goals of helping people help themselves. To send your tax-deductible contributions or membership fee please print and fill out the following form and mail it to the address below:

Contributions

Eritrean Saying: "The true worth of a gift is not the size given but the proportion shared"

Mailing Address:

Association of Eritreans and their

Friends in Michigan (AEFM)

P.O.Box 293

East Lansing, MI 48826-0293

Contributions to AEFM

The Board of Directors of AEFM would greatly appreciates any contributions by individuals and organizations in order to achieve its goals of helping people help themselves. Please fill out our contribution form and send the form to the address indicated on the form.

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