For Sintayehu Tekle, Got Green represents one simple thing: Hope.
Sintayehu’s is a classic story of overcoming a negative environment, language barriers, and the influence of gangs to build a future – not only for himself, but for his community. He went from being an unemployed immigrant from a third world country to sitting on the Board of Directors, as a community activist with a budding professional career as an apprentice electrician.
“I didn’t have a license, a job, a career, my own place,” he said of his life prior to becoming involved with Got Green. “I easily could have become a statistic. The system is set up against our communities, and I fell victim to that system. I never thought I’d be in this position – it’s a blessing to be here.”
Sintayehu, who moved to Seattle from Ethiopia 22 years ago, first connected with Got Green as a volunteer installing energy-efficient light bulbs and spreading the word about the green economy. It was then that a light bulb of his own went off. He realized that through Got Green, he could make a real impact reaching Seattle’s communities of color, who, he says, were getting left behind in the Green Movement.
“The leaders at Got Green helped me become one who gives back to the community and makes sure that other leaders are coming forward so they know that the issues they’re dealing with can be solved,” he said.
As chair of Got Green’s Young Workers in the Green Economy Steering Committee, Sintayehu is particularly focused on lifting up his community’s emerging leaders.
“The youth in our communities have to believe in themselves and change will come,” he said. “But if you want something, you have to change it for yourself. Sitting on Boards, protesting, rallying … you need to do the footwork to meet basic needs. You can’t wait for something to change and develop for you. That’s part of the leadership that I gained from Got Green from the beginning; I have to take action. I can’t just sit back and complain. You can make things happen, you can make your life better than the situation you’re presented with.”
Got Green opened a path for Sintayehu to build his own sustainable career – one that makes Seattle a greener place.
“If it’s gangs, drugs, jobs, language barriers, transportation … to actually fix those things, we need to come to the table and talk about it. Got Green talks about healthy living, standing up for your own actions, speaking out for your community. People don’t know that things can be changed. I’m here to tell you that they can.”
(by Ben Henry, from Got Green’s Annual Organizing Report; 2012: The Year of Emerging Leaders)