Navigating Cultural Barriers in Non-Profit Work

Non-profit work itself requires a certain attitude and understanding that the work being done is for a higher purpose. Through my personal experience with other non-profits, including the Ethiopian Community Development Council, everyone takes on this mentality that there are no set hours and we continue to work until the tasks are accomplished. The Ethiopian Community Development Council values the voice of those we are serving, and the motto of this organization is to empower refugees every day. Every day we are actively working so that all the refugees that come through ECDC along with other immigrants are confident that they can achieve all they desire beyond the language and cultural barriers. With these values being near and dear to everyone in ECDC, it translates directly in the way we communicate with refugees along with each other. In order to even speak and be active with refugees, we all must go through extensive training. In these training, we learn about possible trauma and risks that these refuges came from and how are supposed to report anything that could be a red flag. Most importantly we learn about how to navigate that cultural barrier so that everyone is comfortable. When interacting within the organization for the most part it is informal emails and zoom calls, but when speaking across the department and to the board of directors it is strictly formal. In addition to emails and phone calls because of the frequency of zoom calls, there is a business casual dress code. Even though everyone may be at home when interacting across departments and to the board of directors there is a certain level of professionalism that must be maintained. Because ECDC is a relatively small non-profit by region it is not difficult to get in contact with the higher-ups and this structure allows for the board and others in higher positions to pay keen attention to the needs of the organization. Communication and openness are some of ECDC’s strengths because this creates a comfortable work environment and provides a place where you are constantly learning. The only weakness that I have seen is delayed responses when reaching out and this is largely in part of the pandemic because people are not as available for very understandable reasons.