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ON THE JOB with Meseret

Growing up in Ethiopia, Meseret Moges never thought she had much of a future. When she was just a year old, Meseret contracted polio.

On the Job - Meseret Moges 2Unfortunately, when Meseret was born in 1965, Ethiopia was far behind other countries when it came to vaccinating for diseases like polio.

While she does not remember the experience of having the disease, she’s had to live with the consequences her entire life.

Meseret, 57, has always required crutches to walk and can’t stand for very long. This has never stopped her from living a full life. But that didn’t really happen until she came to the United States.

Despite having a family that always encouraged and supported her, Ethiopia was not as understanding about people with disabilities.

“In our country, some communities they think that when you have a disability you are worthless and a burden to your family. They don’t give you an opportunity,” Meseret said. “When I was growing up, it was very hard; they think that if your leg is sick your mind is sick, too.”

Meseret’s family never treated her any differently. Her parents both believed she could be whatever she wanted to be and encouraged her to follow her dreams.

When she eventually came to the United States nearly 25 years ago, Meseret did not know any English.

An American family in Marinette, Wis., sponsored her and helped her to start her new life here. She took English classes, and eventually completed an office assistant course at a community college. This was also where she learned to drive.

This kind of life was not something she could have imagined growing up in Ethiopia.

On the Job - Meseret Moges 1“When I came to this country my goal was to improve myself and move forward and earn money and live independently,” Meseret said. Meseret’s first job was working in a Salvation Army kitchen in Marinette. Then she got a job with Walmart, where she worked for nearly 20 years. The one thing that was missing in Marinette was an Ethiopian community. Meseret realized that she was homesick.

Eventually, she moved to Milwaukee where she is now an active member of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church.

Independence has always been important to Meseret and working was the best way she knew to maintain that independence.

Today, Meseret owns her own home, and for the past few years she has worked as a customer service assistant at Walmart Neighborhood Market. It is a job she really enjoys.

Not only has working allowed her to earn her own money, but it has also given her a purpose and a sense of pride.

“I like to go out and work and contribute. Only my legs are weak. My arms work perfectly. My brain works perfectly,” Meseret said. “Even handicap people are productive; we can do productive things for the community.”

 

Featured in our member newsletter Connections (Issue 1, 2023)

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