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Solome Lemma

Solome Lemma ... an Ethiopian ... Co-founder and Executive Director of Africans in the Diaspora (AiD)


Peter Burgess

Solome Lemma, Co-founder and Executive Director of Africans in the Diaspora (AiD)

Why AiD? Why Africa?

I firmly believe that transformational change in Africa requires Africans to take a lead in the process. “Aid” and “development” shouldn’t be exports when there are invaluable skills, resources, and ideas within and from Africa. Africans are the continent’s most important resource and many of us in the Diaspora want to invest in the continent’s future. After years of working in and on Africa, I have realized that we leverage our passions, knowledge, and resources best when we support and amplify the social change innovations and solutions being spearheaded by Africans in Africa. To date, we haven’t had effective platforms to connect the financial, intellectual, and human capital of Africans on the continent and in the Diaspora and channel them into strategic philanthropic and social investment. AiD fills that gap.

What or who do you call home?

Home is found in my childhood memories in Addis Ababa, my adolescent dreams in Los Angeles, my youthful self-discovery in New York, and the grounding experiences in all the African countries I have worked in. It is more importantly found in the people that I love…where they are, I am home.

Where did you dirty your hands and/or mint your knowledge?

In our small, yet loving neighborhood in Addis Ababa where I learned the value of community; from my family which continues to offer inspiring models of philanthropy and community organizing; in the projects in Los Angeles where I saw the America within America; at Stanford and Harvard where I found communities of change seekers that provided more education than the classrooms; and from the hundreds of leaders and activists throughout Africa that I have had the pleasure of working with—what studying “international development” attempted to teach me, they proved and challenged to me in practice.

What are you passionate about?

Africa. I am passionate about the “hows/whys” and the “processes” of social change. I care deeply about agency- people being able to own and actualize their ideas, dreams, resources, voices, stories, and power. I strive for a world where change is of the community.

What keeps you sane?

Family and friends. Imagination. Spirituality. Books. Running. Fresh air. Iced soy Chai. Song.

What quote do you live by?

“Another world is not only possible, she’s on the way and, on a quiet day, if you listen very carefully, you can hear her breathe.” – Arundathi Roy.

Solome Lemma

Solome Lemma is a philanthropist, activist, and organizer. She is currently a grantmaking program advisor at The Global Fund for Children (GFC). For over five years, she served as GFC’s Senior Program Officer for Africa, managing a large portfolio that included work with over 100 grassroots organizations in about 25 countries. Solome is also co-founder and coordinator of HornLight, an online platform that promotes diverse, nuanced, and dignified narratives on the Horn of Africa. She currently spends most of her time working to establish Africans in the Diaspora (AiD), a new organization that aims to unleash the philanthropic and intellectual capital of the Diaspora to advance sustainable development in Africa. In the past, Solome has worked with the UN Development Programme in Ethiopia, Human Rights Watch in New York City, and International Rescue Committee in Liberia. Solome received a master's degree in public policy from the Harvard Kennedy School and an undergraduate degree in international relations from Stanford University.

Solome Lemma in an interview with Nunu Wako

Published on Aug 24, 2012

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