“One of the values of Eritrean culture is that we don’t really speak a lot about ourselves, but about our collective effort. We don’t really believe that anyone has achieved anything based on his own efforts; it is all about the collective effort. Eritreans are very resilient and hard working. We strive to do the best in life. That is what I am trying to teach our youth.
“Our main goal in the Youth Center at the Eritrean Cultural and Civic Center is to make sure that the newer generation maintains the culture, history and values of their ancestors. Young people need to feel comfortable in their new home, the United States, but they also need to know their forefathers history.These are tomorrow’s leaders and they need to be ambassadors between Eritrea and the United States. We have several programs: language and history courses and leadership development. We want to empower Eritrean youth to be responsible citizens.
“There is a substantial Eritrean population in DC. One thing that we can see that happens here is that those who come and stay within their community and stay true to their values, tend to be very successful in their personal life. They are more positive citizens to both Eritrea and the United States. This is because kids need to know where they come from and who they are. It teaches them to respect their elders and respect humanity.
“The majority of the Eritrean youth are doing well in life and in their studies. But, some of the youth have drifted away from the core values of our culture and pick up the negative aspects of the youth culture. You don’t see Eritrean youth engaged in destructive behavior, at least that I know. Eritreans look out for each other and take responsibility for our own kids and our community’s kids. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, but some of the challenges you see mostly arise from cross-generational, cross-cultural differences between parents and children. These are the things that we try and address."
Dawit, right, is seated with friends at the Eritrean Cultural and Civic Center at 600 L St. NW.