Bound to home
On a return to her homeland of Ethiopia, a Las Vegas woman finds an opportunity to serve.
BY KIMBERLY BAILEY-TUREAUD
Ayelnish Taylor returned to Ethiopia to aid children in need.
As President Obama unveils a new policy concerning recent arrivals to the United States, there is growing awareness that the face of immigration is multi-hued, with virtually every American citizen descended from people in every corner of the world.
Ayelnish Taylor, who came to the U.S. from Ethiopia as a child, has long harbored a dream of returning to her native land and providing assistance to children in need. In a very real way, the dream is quite personal: After losing both of her parents, a close friend helped her come to America to escape extreme poverty and the virtual certainty of placement in an orphanage.
“My mother’s friend — who I also call my ‘play aunt’ — wanted me to have a better life, so she brought me to America, where I first went to school in Iowa before coming to Las Vegas in 1994,” Taylor recalls.
Added Taylor, who, along with her husband, Robert, operates seven businesses in Las Vegas: “Going back to Ethiopia was something I have always wanted to do. It just took me such a long time because I had nothing left back home. So I wasn’t in a rush. But I teamed up with a couple of my friends who are both Ethiopian, and we all agreed that we were stable enough now to go back to Ethiopia and help the children in need. We initially started a donation drive at my clothing store, called Brand N Used, where people of the Las Vegas community donated clothes and shoes for us to take to children in Ethiopia. It was a great trip and very rewarding. The children were not expecting anything, because receiving gifts is not commonplace. Ethiopia has a different … calendar than America, and Christmas is celebrated on Jan. 7. Christmas for the children in Ethiopia is one that is celebrated with family. Never is there an exchange of gifts for Christmas or birthdays. It is just a blessing for Ethiopian children to have their families, because extended families are rare. We brought suitcases full of items such as clothes, shoes and accessories that the children were shocked to receive but really gave us an abundance of expressions of appreciation for all the items they received and needed. We also fed the children we met in Ethiopia and their warm smiles of joy were electric.”
Taylor, with one of the many children whose lives she has touched.
Assisting with the distribution was a woman named Aida Tadesse, who lives in Ethiopia. She arranged for the children in need to receive the donated items delivered by Taylor and her friends. “I really want to make this an annual activity,” said Taylor. “When I was there, I was thinking of so many ideas to really help the children of Ethiopia. But at the same time, it is not an easy thing. When I do go back, I will take my family and give myself more time. I need at least a month or so — and God willing, it will happen.”