Announcing the launch of the Tesfa Program’s Ethiopian Outreach Guide!

Photo by: Alex Montalvo

Written by: Selam Misgano, Tesfa Program founder

The Tesfa Program is an immigrant-led group whose mission is to reduce the disproportionate negative health impacts of COVID-19 on the Ethiopian immigrant community in King County. Tesfa means “Hope” in Amharic because we want to give people hope during these difficult times, through providing scientifically accurate, culturally relevant and timely public health and healthcare information related to COVID-19 in Amharic, one of the top 5 languages spoken in King County. The Ethiopian Outreach Guide is an introduction for health system and public health providers to the needs of the Amharic-speaking Ethiopian community in King County.

The Tesfa Program, developed this web-based toolkit to increase the capacity of providers, organizations, and decision-makers to better connect and serve local Ethiopian communities. 

The Problem:

COVID-19 exposed the underlying inequities in how our social and health systems serve the Ethiopian and other East African immigrant communities. In a time of great need, accessing basic needs, such as food, health care, childcare, etc., became even more difficult. Additional issues impacting these communities included  alack of consistent and timely information about COVID-19 and related resources and impacts in Amharic and other Ethiopian languages. Applications and communications about benefits became digital and didn’t consider how immigrant communities best access resources. Public health guidelines and policies didn’t adequately consider the lives of immigrant communities, multi-generational households, essential workers, and other vulnerable communities. The outreach guide is a community-led and driven response to these issues, and documentation of the promising practices that emerged during the pandemic to serve these communities better. 

The Project:

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic the Tesfa Program was supporting and responding to  community members in real-time to understand COVID-19 health guidelines and navigate unemployment and other public benefits. Community leaders realized a more systematic approach was needed as the pandemic wore on. Around the same time, Communities of Opportunity (COO) announced a COVID-19 Community Stories & Data grant opportunity, and the chance to create the web-based toolkit was born. 

Photo by: Alex Montalvo

The Stories/Data

We started by analyzing the more than 50 hours of recorded community discussions we hosted in our weekly conference calls and Facebook live. We built on the analysis of these conversations to design a community survey that collected insights about how the Ethiopian community in King County receives information, their preference in using social media, which they consider trusted messengers, and demographics. We also developed in-depth interview questions and conducted interviews with religious leaders, business owners, and key community members, which we turned into a podcast series. And, we conducted interviews with established Ethiopian-led organizations, such as Ethiopian Community in Seattle, to understand the existing support systems; and interviewed social and public health organizations to understand existing systems/structures as well as the challenge organizations face when serving our community. Our program volunteers, interns, and staff were also part of crafting promising practices.

We compiled data with the support of the University of Washington, Strengthening Care Opportunities through Partnership in Ethiopia (SCOPE). Tesfa program leaders then used the data to create this outreach guide that celebrates the community’s resilience and identity while providing concrete practices and policy recommendations that support the community. 

Major Themes: 

  1. Language Access: Incorporate language access from the very beginning to improve the quality of the translation and interpreptation.
  2. Technology: Supplement technology applications and processes with a personal touch by adding phone lines and in person office hours. Improve user design and administrative processes for everyone AND still prepare to provide individual support through in-person, phone, email/text for communities who rely on those forms of communication or need more one-on-one assistance
  3. Engagement: Broaden your engagement by incorporating groups such as churches, mosques, art organizations, businesses etc. 

The Outreach Guide includes recommendations and tangible action steps specific to community organizations, direct services providers, and decision-makers. Explore the toolkit here and invite us to speak with your organization to engage on this guidance! 

Critical Components of the outreach guide: 

Photo of the interview of Imam Abdi by Tesfa Program Executive Director Selam Misgano.
Photo by: Shannon Perry
  1. An 8-part podcast series: 13 Months of Sunshine. Hear directly from Imam Abdi and a dozen Ethiopian immigrants on how the pandemic impacted their personal and professional lives. We interviewed faith leaders, business owners, essential workers, etc.
  2. Research summaries of findings from a year-long research partnership with the University of Washington SCOPE to produce surveys, conduct interviews, and analyze program data.
  3. A list of policy and practice recommendations that enhance community health and wellbeing.

How you can support: 

  1. Share the guide with your colleagues, friends, and community!
  2. Share your feedback — we want to continue to build on this resource! Please email Selam Misgano at to tell us what you think. Do you know of similar projects? Who should we reach out to get this toolkit more widely utilized?
  3. Invite us to present! To further spread the word of the resources and knowledge within the Outreach Guide, and our experiences serving community during the pandemic we are giving presentations to interested  community members, public health and policy students, and health focused organizations, and coalitions, in and around Washington State. Email Selam Misgano at to begin the conversation!

Special thanks to our funder, Communities of Opportunity, and our fiscal sponsor, Southeast Seattle Education Coalition

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