OPINION | Help save Flamingo Restaurant


Help is needed for Shegitu Kebede and Fresoini Hailei, two amazing refugee women, whose restaurant was hit by an electrical power surge that insurance refuses to cover. You can help—by enjoying a good meal.

I want to introduce you to two amazing women.

Shegitu Kebede (winner of the McKnight Humanitarian Award) and Frewoini Hailei are co-owners of the East African restaurant Flamingo in St. Paul. You may or may not know them – if not, then I hope you will meet them soon. Their stories are powerful.  Shegi is an author and wrote about her experiences in a book called “Hidden Scars, Visible Strengths”, a moving account of her journey to safety as a refugee women that I encourage you all to read. Both women are powerful examples of beauty, faith, strength and courage.

I’m writing today on their behalf – to ask for your help.

Due to a unforeseen circumstances, they may have to close the doors of the restaurant by the end of this week – which would be a great loss to all of us. Not only because we would lose a wonderful restaurant but because the restaurant has a much greater purpose.

Flamingo Restaurant, 490 Syndicate Street North (Syndicate and University) St. Paul, MN 55104, Phone: (651) 917-9332

Shegi and Fre opened the Flamingo with a powerful vision in mind – to help refugee women transform their stories of suffering and loss into stories of triumph and healing. As refugee women themselves, they know first hand, the challenges of having left behind all they knew and loved to start a new life in an unfamiliar country.They understand the journey of healing that is needed to move from a place of unimaginable pain, loss and abuse to one of contentment, peace and strength. The restaurant is simply a vehicle to reach that goal.

Why are Shegi and Fre in need of your help today?

Back in June, the restaurant experienced an electrical surge in the system that originated from somewhere else in the city. The result was that they lost all of the restaurants major appliances (fridge, ice maker, oven fans, air conditioner, etc).  Unable to keep the restaurant open, they closed for three days – spending their reserves to replace all the food that was lost and fix or purchase new equipment. 

With insurance in place they were confident that they would be back on track in no time. Unfortunately, this was not the case. Excel Energy said they were unable to compensate them for their loses – surges happen and they’re out of their control. Their insurance company said they were not responsible – it was “an act of God”.  They did everything right . . . getting insurance, working hard, contributing to and reenergizing the community in which they are located, creating a beautiful vision for improving the lives of refugee women and more – and yet, the system failed them.

With their reserves gone and the insurance company turning down their claim – they are up against the wall. And to top things off, many of the patrons that frequent the restaurant, who would love to help, are fasting with the month of Ramadan and are not eating during daylight hours.

What can we do this week?
1.   Visit the restaurant this week and bring a friend(s) to enjoy a wonderful East African meal.
2.   Pass this e-mail on to friends who can share this with more friends or get the word out on Facebook.
3.   Have a meeting at the restaurant this week.
4.   Buy Gift Certificates for those you appreciate.
5.   Have a party!
6.   Visit the restaurant and let them know you support their vision.
7.   Order take-out for the office!!   Flamingo can deliver.
8.   Make a donation.
9.   Celebrate your unBirthday!
10. Keep Shegi and Fre in your thoughts and prayers.

Any other thoughts or ideas are welcome. Once they meet this goal they will be back on track and able to continue building their vision. Together we can create the bridge they need to continue with the amazing work they are committed to doing,  call me, Mona, with any questions: 612-860-5658