How did you feel about hearing your name called as the recipient of “Civic Leader of the Year?”
Quite honestly, I felt very emotional. I was not expecting to win. Not because I don’t have confidence in my work, but that there were two other great candidates doing great work in their communities. My dad was a doctor and a civic leader in our community. He passed away a few years ago and I think if he was able to attend, he would have been proud to see me receive this award.
Your nominator said you have a “servant’s heart and a strategist’s mind.” Describe what this means to you.
I am very appreciative of the opportunities and the help I was given and try to give back. When you do work in the community, you don’t expect anything in return. It’s not about what’s in it for you, it’s about the people you are helping. Given my background in marketing, I use the skills that I’ve learned both in business and to serve those in the community. I believe that in order to be a great leader, you have to learn to be a great servant. I want to see the lives of those that I’m working with get better by teaching them skills and offering training on how to become self-sufficient.
What is the most rewarding part of the work you do in the Manchester community?
Being able to see the smile on someone’s face because they are able to do things on their own. It is so rewarding to see people that are happy and satisfied with how far they’ve come or knowing that there is much more opportunity available to them. It’s difficult for a New American to get settled in a new area – they are limited in what they can do, especially without proper identification. Some work with temporary agencies that provide job opportunities. Since it’s considered temporary work, the work is not guaranteed. The individual could be working long hours in difficult working conditions with little to no benefits. In partnering with Easter Seals, I was able to assist with performing interviews and getting individuals proper identification. Those that went through this process were provided with a better wage in addition to health benefits; knowing that if they were to become ill, they would be able to get assistance. Not only is it satisfaction that comes with having a good job, benefits, even a retirement plan – these people are grateful. To see that person you’ve been working with smile because they’ve hit a milestone in their life is incredible.
What do you believe that New Americans love most about coming to New Hampshire?
Let me relay my story. When I first came to the United States, I arrived at JFK airport and lived and worked in New York City for a year. It was such a fast-paced city – people were everywhere, it was difficult to get around, and being on the subway made for very long days. I was given the opportunity to move around and came to New Hampshire. It was a completely different place and environment. The people are much more laid-back and friendly and things move at a slower pace. New people appreciate that they can adapt more easily in New Hampshire. Those that live here are warm and welcoming. Natives are especially open to learning more about the new residents – a genuine curiosity about who they are and the experiences they have faced. This speaks volumes as a new person to the state. I’ve now been in New Hampshire for five years. It’s a beautiful state with four seasons (the fall foliage is breathtaking), it’s safe and a nice place to raise a family.
Who do you consider to be your mentor and why?
I’m very appreciative of the help I’ve received along the way; being helped by strangers that extended their arms and took me in. It’s one of the reasons I want to give back. There are people with very big hearts that helped guide me, lift me up, and gave me the tools I needed to help me. I’m grateful to those people. And especially, Peter Cooke. He’s an inspiration and like no other person I’ve ever met before. He’s very unselfish and gives more than he likes to receive – it’s never about him, it’s always about helping others. I consider him a father figure, role model, partner, friend, co-worker. He’s sees the good in everybody.
He’s a trained facilitator and has taught me many skills that have helped me in the long run. I used to be nervous speaking in front of people at meetings, and now I’m able to facilitate those meetings. A few lessons he taught me:
- Look at the wisdom in the room – don’t tell people what to do, offer them insight to the information that is already there.
- Don’t win an argument – win the relationship.
- Take three steps back before you jump five steps forward – if you’re not making progress, take the time to reflect on a situation so you can continue to work through to the end goal.
Peter tells me things that sometimes I don’t want to hear. But I know he has my best interests at heart and will be honest with me. I can talk about him all day – if I can be half as good of a person as he is, I would be happy.
What do you hope will be your long-term impact on the Granite State?
I would like to be part of creating a system that will have long-term success in providing refugees the skills for self-sufficiency. There are many organizations that continue to help people for a long time and people come to rely on these programs. I’d like to move in the direction of teaching trades and the skills that will help long-term, instead of providing services where they rely on the government or other social services. The feeling of being able to provide for oneself without additional outside assistance – that’s all part of the American dream.
We know you love the Granite State, so tell us:
What’s your favorite “hidden gem?”
I’m still exploring the state, but the place I go in the summer is kayaking on Massabesic Lake. It’s a great place to have some personal time to go and reflect.
What’s your favorite restaurant and item on the menu?
Honestly, I don’t go out to eat very often. I prefer to cook food at home and invite people over. I find recipes on YouTube or read a cookbook. It’s a great way to try new things and cook them myself.
Where’s your favorite place to getaway for the weekend?
I like to try different things. When I first arrived in New Hampshire, I would frequent the Seacoast. Now I’m really into hiking, especially Mount Uncanoonuc.
Ice cream or pizza? Where do you go to get your favorite?
Ice Cream. Mango sorbet at the Puritan Backroom. They have the best ice cream in town.
Which city/town in NH have you yet to visit but look forward to when time presents itself? What do you want to do once you get there?
Plymouth. I’d like to check out Plymouth State University and enjoy visiting college cities in general.
Do you prefer the sunrise or the sunset? And where in NH do you catch the best?
Sunset. I love the colors when the sun is going down. Uncanoonuc is a great place to see the sunset – go with friends and the view from the mountains is incredible.