Journeys of Success
Omar N. Ayyash, A Citizen of the World
Omar N. Ayyash brings an extensive international background with him. Born in Amman, Jordan, and raised in Vienna, Austria, Omar is fluent in Arabic and proficient in German. Omar holds a B.A. in Business Administration from the University of Kentucky, an MBA from the University of Louisville and a PhD in Business Administration focused on how technology entrepreneurs successfully manage working capital.
Ayyash is a seasoned executive at the Nexus of Research Excellence and Innovation Management. He has worked at the local, national and internationally level. Most recently he oversaw many of the innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives for a United Arab Emirates (UAE) based educational institution. Ayyash was the Program Ambassador for the Ministry of Education/Stanford University Innovation and Entrepreneurship initiative, focused on entrepreneurship curriculum and ecosystem development. During his tenure, he was charged with setting up and leading a system-wide entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem across all 16 campuses in the UAE.
He is the former Director of the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs for Louisville Metro Government. He was appointed by Mayor Jerry Abramson in February 2003 to be part of a historic team to help merge city and county government. During his tenure, Worldfest, the largest international festival in the region was created, a community report was released in partnership with the Urban Institute in Washington, DC; and Louisville, KY. Ayyash was also the first-place recipient of the City Cultural Diversity Award presented by the National League of Cities. On September 18, 2008, The Wall Street Journal reported on the successes of Louisville’s immigrant integration program under Ayyash’s leadership with an article titled “Bourbon, Baseball, and Now the Bantu.” Before joining the Mayor’s office, he worked at the Kentucky World Trade Center (KWTC) for over five years in several positions.
Ayyash enjoys meeting people and considers himself a "Citizen of the World". He was named to Business First of Louisville “40 Under 40” future community leaders in 2001, served as president of World Communities of Louisville in 2002, recipient of 2004 Southern Growth Policies Board Innovators Award, and recipient of 2006 Multicultural Opportunities for Success and Achievement In our Community Award.
- Krishna Dhakal, ESL Instructor at Jefferson County Public Schools
Krishna Dhakal, ESL Instructor at Jefferson County Public Schools
I was born in Bhutan. In 1992, I was forced to leave the country with my family at the age of 12 and fled to a refugee camp in Nepal. I did not know that I would eventually spend two decades there. However, I knew that I wanted to pursue the highest education attainable. I had completed my elementary education in Bhutan. So, I continued with Middle School in the refugee camp until I was given the opportunity to continue my high school and college education in India. After earning my bachelor’s degree in Biology, I returned to the refugee camp to help teach. Afterwards, I was privileged to continue and earn a Master of Arts degree in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal.
After completing my master’s, my family was offered the opportunity to be resettled in a third country. I arrived in Louisville through Catholic Charities in 2010. In 2011, I began working at Walmart as a cart pusher, but I wished that I could continue teaching. Although I could not transfer my credentials from Nepal, I was determined to follow my passion. After one and a half years working at Walmart, I completed 40 hours of interpretation training to become a medical interpreter. While still interpreting, I was hired as a Bilingual instructor at Iroquois High School in 2012 and was finally able to leave my job at Walmart and pursue my passion.
Although my family was struggling financially, I decided to pursue a Master of Education degree at the University of Louisville and started full-time teaching at the ESL Newcomer Academy in 2015. I am happy to be serving so many students from all over the world. It brings me joy to teach students who have similar life experiences because I have a strong feeling that I understand the families’ needs, as well as the children’s educational needs.
Being able to do what I love has given me a broader perspective of Louisville’s international community. I am serving as a board member for the Bhutanese Society of Kentucky and hope to advance diversity in our city. In my free time, I enjoy gardening and visiting community members to check on them. I have noticed that a lot of people lack spaces where they can be empowered. Therefore, I went back to school to earn a Master of Business Administration at Bellarmine University so that I could eventually transition into Human Resources work and actively empower the international community.
When I think of community, I think of a place without discrimination, a place where there is a feeling of brotherhood and everyone is welcomed regardless of their racial, religious, language, or ethnic backgrounds. The city has a lot of potential to become that community, and I want to contribute to the progress that Louisville is making. The international community is growing. When I arrived in Louisville in 2010, I did not see a lot of diversity. However, I have observed a gradual change. As a result, I foresee the need for support in terms of integration. It took me five years to be able to continue my passion in teaching although I came with a master’s degree, and I hope for a time when it would take much less for internationally trained professionals to be able to use their skills.
- Dr. Felix Gyamfi, owner of Lifewell Rx Pharmacy
Dr. Felix Gyamfi, owner of Lifewell Rx Pharmacy
I was a very young man when I first arrived in the United States. In fact, I started out my career as a field worker in Fresno, California. After a couple of years, I moved to Atlanta, Georgia, with my brother where I worked in a Mexican restaurant as a bus boy, and soon after as a waiter. I was fortunate because in about 2 years, I was given an opportunity to be a manager for a Mexican restaurant in North Carolina. So, I moved there and worked as a manager for another 2 years before being presented with another great opportunity to help the owner of the El Nopal restaurants grow. At the time, when I moved to Louisville in 1992, there was only one El Nopal but he was looking to grow and expand. When I arrived, I fell in love with the city and I thought it was a perfect place to raise a family and run a business.
It didn’t take me long to open my own restaurant – I was convinced Louisville was a friendly city, and that it was a welcoming city that accepted diversity. Also, I really liked downtown when I first arrived here, but I knew it was missing something. So, it just felt perfect to open Los Aztecas.
Giving back to the community
I love helping the community and being part of the growth of the city. The community is very important to me not only because I am part of it but because it shows how united we can be. It is what makes Louisville such a great diverse city. Whenever there is someone in need, we all come together to help the cause, because we care about each other.
The journey continue
When I moved to Louisville in 1992, there were no Hispanic stores, just a few Mexican restaurants. As years passed, I saw people from many countries come to Louisville and make this their home as well. Many people from all over the world have come here and started businesses too. I believe that Louisville is now one of the most diverse cities. In particular, the Hispanic community has grown a lot to how it was just 18 years ago. I am proud to have been part of the growth of the Hispanic community in Louisville. I have been part of the Hispanic Business Association, Latino Soccer League, Latino Citizens Police Academy, FBI Latino Academy, Greater Louisville Chamber Commerce, Downtown Development Business Committee, and I am still on the board of Better Business Bureau. It makes me happy to have been a part of these things because they unite the community and are all for the growth of our beautiful city.