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Refugees’ story illustrates campaign’s mission

Stephanie Lipnicki tells the story of Jericho Road clients Indra and Purushottam Ghimire at the Employees Campaign for the Community kickoff luncheon held in Crossroad Culinary Center. Photo: Nancy J. Parisi


Published October 3, 2013

“The stories of working together, the stories of hope, the stories of redemption—they’re really powerful and they are why we’re here.”
Austin Booth, 2013 chair
UB Employees Campaign for the Community

Stephanie Lipnicki first got to know Indra and Purushottam Ghimire when the Nepalese couple came to Jericho Road Ministries seeking medical services. Indra was pregnant with the couple’s first child, and through Jericho Road’s Priscilla Project, was paired with a mentor and a doula to provide her with physical, emotional and cultural support during her pregnancy.

Lipnicki, director of communications and development for Jericho Road Community Health Center, an agency providing medical and other supplemental services to refugee and low-income community members, said that Jericho Road staff got to know Purushottam through his wife’s involvement with the Priscilla Project, and hired him to be a teacher in the agency’s Financially Fit financial education program.

Shortly after giving birth, Indra came back to volunteer with the Priscilla Project as a mentor, then trained as a doula so she could offer immigrant mothers the same kind of care and support she had received when she gave birth.

Indra now is also working as a home visitor in Jericho Road’s Parent-Child Home Program, an early childhood learning program serving children growing up in poverty.

Lipnicki told the Ghimires’ story at last week’s kickoff luncheon for UB’s 2013 Employees Campaign for the Community to illustrate the work of Jericho Road, one of the United Way agencies served by the UB campaign.

Lipnicki said that the Ghimires themselves were not only able to benefit from Jericho Road’s services, “but they immediately took that, were empowered by it and turned around to give back with us to their community—to not only invest in their Nepalese neighbors, but the broader Buffalo community.”

“They really point to…how we are helping people on their journey to wellness and self-sufficiency,” she said, describing the mission of the agency, which recently became the Jericho Road Community Health Center with the merger of Jericho Road Ministries Inc. and Jericho Road Family Practice, a medical practice founded and operated by UB medical school alumnus Myron Glick.

Lipnicki said she enjoys being part of Jericho Road “because it reminds me of who we are as a nation; America was built on the stories of immigration and new hope.” That story continues, she said, noting that more than 14,000 refugees now live in Buffalo, making up 5 percent of the city’s population.

“We’re the City of Good Neighbors, and we have this opportunity to welcome people, to embrace them, to be a part of their journey in restoring their lives, restoring dignity and hope, and paving the way for future generations and for their children,” she said.

Stories like that of Indra and Purushottam Ghimire are one reason Austin Booth, UB’s campaign chair, says she enjoys working on the annual campaign.

“The stories of working together, the stories of hope, the stories of redemption—they’re really powerful and they are why we’re here,” she told luncheon attendees including unit liaisons, steering committee members and UB and United Way leadership. The United Way campaign theme, Booth noted, is to retell someone’s story “I’m really looking forward to the stories we’re going to tell.”

Booth opened the luncheon program by announcing the campaign’s 2013 goal of $850,000—a substantial increase over last year’s goal of $815,000. The 2012 campaign far exceeded that goal, raising more than $834,000.

She expressed optimism that UB will achieve that goal, pointing out that university employees have raised more than $17 million for the community since the campaign started 36 years ago as part of the State Employees Federated Appeal (SEFA). UB’s campaign is the most successful one of its kind in New York State, and one of the most successful in the country, she said.

“I really believe in this campaign,” she said. “I really do believe that to be a successful university you need to be successful in the community.”

President Satish K. Tripathi echoed Booth’s comments, noting that UB’s campaign “has long been a leading example of the university’s service and impact in the community.”

Tripathi said that in addition to being a local, state and national leader in giving, UB also has been a leader in community service, with hundreds of faculty, staff and students taking part each year in the United Way’s annual Day of Caring, ranking the university among the top local companies in employee involvement in the annual day of service.

Michael Weiner, president and CEO of the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County, also noted UB’s involvement in Day of Caring as an example of ways that members of the UB community support the United Way in addition to their monetary contributions. He singled out the work of A. Scott Weber, senior vice provost for academic affairs, who is entering his second year of service as a member of the United Way board, and called Dennis Black, vice president for university life and services, “a community master” and “consummate professional” in his work as chair of the community-wide United Way campaign. Black, he said, is “very passionate and committed about the work the United Way is doing in the community” and has been a “great asset” as a community partner and in helping connect UB to the work of the United Way in the community.