The Power of Connection: Creating a Home and Building Community
Posted on: September 22, 2016, by : Alicia Cordes-Mayo
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Fekri Ibrahim
Fekri Ibrahim

Fekri has known his wife, Sara, since they were small children. After they were married, however, Sara moved to Minnesota alone because of political unrest in Ethiopia. At the time of the move, she was seven months pregnant with their daughter Tiyyaa, now thirteen.

Fekri describes that decision in simple terms: “We felt it would be better to have at least one person live a better life.” Alone in a new country, his wife found a safe and stable home at CommonBond’s Seward Tower East in Minneapolis. They were reunited as a family more than three years later.

Upon his arrival at Seward Tower East, Fekri spent his first week working with CommonBond Advantage Services staff members to ensure he had proper refugee documentation.

Next, his CommonBond employment/financial coach connected him to maintenance training and a job which he held for five years. They also encouraged him to pursue his GED. Fekri added, “Anytime I had a question, I went downstairs to the Advantage Center.”

Upon his arrival at Seward Tower East, Fekri spent his first week working with CommonBond Advantage Services staff members to ensure he had proper refugee documentation. Next, his CommonBond employment/financial coach connected him to maintenance training and a job which he held for five years. They also encouraged him to pursue his GED. Fekri added, “Anytime I had a question, I went downstairs to the Advantage Center.”

Once he settled into his new life, he felt inspired to give back. Fekri began to volunteer in the onsite Advantage Center five or more hours a week, helping others navigate some of the same challenges he had faced. His ability to speak four languages enabled him to offer his neighbors the kind of support he received when he first arrived. Fekri and Sara’s family expanded with the addition of son Mubin, age eight, and little sister Hilya, age four. One by one, his children benefited from CommonBond’s programs, including Study Buddies and the homework center. Fekri knows firsthand that “having services onsite is very, very important.”

While taking classes at St. Paul College for an accounting degree, Fekri worked with his coach to apply for CommonBond’s compliance intern program as it offered a new career opportunity. The internship offers Certified Occupancy Specialist training and certification to prepare interns for compliance positions – roles that help CommonBond and other organizations navigate the complicated regulatory affordable housing landscape. He participated in the program while continuing to finish his degree, and recently began working at Seward Towers.

He loves living and working at Seward and says one of the most powerful aspects for him and his family is the sense of community. It’s more than just a building – it’s a true home. As Fekri noted, “Even if people are from different backgrounds, people care about one another. Neighbors look out for each other and we all help our children learn and grow.”