Journeys of Success

Omar Ayyash

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. 


Past Journeys of Success

Krishna Dhakal, ESL Instructor at Jefferson County Public Schools
Krishna Dhakal
Courtesy of Bellarmine University

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


Dr. Felix Gyamfi, owner of Lifewell Rx Pharmacy
June 2021

I was born in Kumasi, Ghana and have lived in different parts of the country during my 20 years in the United States. I always wanted to own a pharmacy since coming to the United States, and I came to Louisville in 2009 to attend Sullivan University’s School of Pharmacy. After completing my studies in 2013, I left my family in Louisville to work for Walgreens in Wichita, Kansas and get more experience in a pharmacy. I was flying back to Louisville every two weeks to see my family; I wanted to come back home.

I found Louisville to be a safe and good place for my family. Louisville had become home. Having raised my five children here, I saw many opportunities and potential to grow in this city. On March 15, 2020, I left my job in Dayton, Ohio where I had worked since 2017, and I moved to Louisville full time and opened Lifewell Rx Pharmacy.

Starting a business during a lockdown was not easy. I have never experienced a pandemic of this nature, and it was hard to approach people to inform them about my services. Many doctors’ offices were closed, and most of my referrals came from other patients. However, I saw this as an opportunity to develop a new concept that met the needs of my patients during a pandemic. I wanted to deliver medicine to the entire city, especially in Latinx, African, and low-income communities. I created customized experiences for patients so that I could develop trust to be able to deliver holistic services, including free pharmacy-patient visits to counsel, educate, recommend, and consult on everything within the boundaries of my profession. I also offer blister packaging for older patients and those in group homes.

Community means that no human being should be isolated. We need each other. My favorite thing to do in Louisville is to take care of people. My main inspiration is my consideration for what I can give to my community rather than what I can get. Nothing is too small to do in the community. I am often reminded of the saying that “A little drop of water makes a mighty ocean.” So, I know that if I can survive establishing a pharmacy during a pandemic, there is nothing I cannot survive.

I would like to inspire other immigrants and young people with my determination to see that they can make change in their community. The international population is growing. Minorities are very educated, hardworking, and focused. They want to start families and businesses here; they are law-abiding citizens and need opportunities to serve the city that has welcomed them. I wish for a friendly, loving, prosperous, and inclusive community.

Nima Kulkarni, State Representative for District 40

Nima Kulkarni, State Representative for District 40
September 2020

My family and I moved to Louisville from India when I was six years old. We moved here primarily because of the DePaul School, so that my brother could receive the special education he needed. My parents chose to leave a comfortable life in India so that my brother and I could have every opportunity, and we learned firsthand that you can be what you want to be, through hard work and belief in yourself. My childhood really did embody the American Dream. I graduated from Atherton High School and got my BA in English Literature from the University of Louisville. I left Louisville for several years to attend law school in Washington, D.C. and then moved to Atlanta and California to gain experience as an immigration attorney. I decided to move back to my hometown in 2010 to start my own law practice and couldn’t be happier to call it home. My family felt like we belonged in the Louisville community from early on and have found ways to give back to it over the years. This influenced my decision to run for elected office, so that I could serve Louisville and Kentucky families in a larger capacity. I was incredibly humbled and honored when I was elected as the State Representative for District 40 in 2018, the first Indian and immigrant to do so in the history of the Kentucky legislature. I am incredibly proud of our city and look forward to many more years of seeing it thrive. My favorite thing to do in Louisville is to take advantage of the many parks and green spaces we have. Especially during the pandemic, I have been taking lots of walks in parks well cared for by our Metro Parks department, as well as the Olmsted Parks Conservatory. We are very lucky to have such amazing outdoor spaces in our city.

I started my law practice in Louisville so that I would have the support of my family and friends. It is a daunting prospect to start your own business. I had seen my father do it, and it seemed incredibly stressful. I found that it is a lot of work and stress, but it is rewarding as well. I can choose how and where I focus my time, and that is a luxury many people do not have. Many people have asked whether there is enough of a market for an immigration law practice in Kentucky, and the answer has always been YES! There are many businesses in Louisville and throughout Kentucky that rely on immigrants to succeed. There are many international students attending our colleges and universities who aspire to live and work here. There are also families that want to sponsor their spouses or parents. We are a very diverse state, and I am happy to be a part of helping it grow and flourish.

The main change that I have seen in our international community is its growth. Since 2000, immigrants have accounted for 20% of the entire population growth in Louisville. And we are more comfortable as a community in appreciating and sharing the multifaceted variety that makes up the international community. We are not able to have Worldfest like we normally would this year, but every day, there is usually a celebration of a particular culture or community happening around Louisville, and I am happy to see everyone—not just our immigrants—learn from and enjoy each other’s traditions, faiths, and cultures.

Community means fellowship to me. Being able to learn about and enjoy so many unique aspects of our city has been wonderful. From our museums to community centers to our restaurants, Louisville is a place that welcomes people to slow down and take a moment to look around at the many contributions that our international community has made to our city. I feel very lucky to live in a place that feels like a small town, but has so much to offer newcomers from all over the world.

Saul Garcia, Owner of Los Aztecas Mexican Grill

Louisville Ky Image
Saul Garcia, Owner of Los Aztecas Mexican Grill

August 2020

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.


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