Thanking Belay Embaye for the Inspiration and Guidance

by Yanki Tshering

In October of 2018, I spoke at the UNCTAD World Investment Forum in Geneva about best practices in supporting refugees as they set up small businesses in the United States. Many of the European organizations attending were surprised – and impressed – because they had not realized the level of maturity that had been achieved by the Microenterprise Development (MED) Program for Refugees, which is funded by ORR, the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

While many people have contributed to the success of the MED Program, one person who has always stood out for us at BCNA is Belay Embaye.

Belay, who just retired in June, was a Senior Program Analyst and Manager of the Refugee Microenterprise Development Program, overseeing twenty one organizations across the country that receive funding and advice on implementing services to support refugees starting businesses.

Belay was himself an immigrant, who had to start over from scratch in the US after having held high level positions in the Ethiopian government, managing Ethiopia’s sugar plantations.

When Belay joined ORR in 2005, one of the first things he did was to challenge the organizations providing services to refugee entrepreneurs to set higher goals. He also encouraged grantees to build capacity to serve refugees by leveraging additional resources and advice from the Small Business Administration (SBA), the CDFI Fund, Credit Builders Alliance (CBA), Association for Enterprise Opportunities (AEO) and the Aspen Institute’s Business Ownership Institute.

Before joining ORR he had managed an organization based in Arlington, Virginia, raising over 10 million dollars in his tenure to implement programs that supported refugee and immigrant owned businesses, so he was able to provide excellent advice and feedback about how to set and achieve those goals.

Belay Embaye with BCNA client Mamadou Karamako

During his annual visits to BCNA, he was always excited and curious to learn details about the different services we were providing to businesses, as well as how we were meeting the challenge of working with refugees from different cultural backgrounds and with different levels of skills.

We enjoyed these discussions as well as the site visits with Belay to see our client’s businesses.

What we also loved about Belay is that, while he challenged us to do more, he was also advocating for additional support for us from ORR. He wanted to make sure that each organization he oversaw had the means to support every refugee that came in through their doors – whether it was through loans, advice, or training to help them become self-sufficient and thrive in their new country.

To date, BCNA has provided over 1529 loans for a total of $6,609,649 to refugee businesses which has resulted in creating 229 new jobs and 49 part time jobs for members in their community as well as retaining 1066 refugee jobs.

So as Belay first takes a much deserved vacation and then plans the next phase of his career, we want to thank him and recognize him for his dedication and for the kind and thoughtful manner in which he guided us.

Congratulations on a wonderful career, Belay, and best wishes for the next phase. It has been our pleasure to know you and to work with you!

“Thank you, Belay, for your exceptional service to the refugee community over the years. I would also like to thank you personally for all the help you’ve given BCNA to ensure we thrive as an organization. Because of you, we are better equipped to assist refugees in their efforts to make a better life for themselves in the USA.”

-Calvin Fletcher, Manager of BCNA’s Microenterprise Development Program for Refugees

Belay Embaye with the ORR Grantees Group