Hi, I'm Laetitia!

Where I Come From

I was born in Burundi, a small landlocked country located in what is known as the Great Lakes region of (Eastern) Africa. As the oldest daughter with five siblings, responsibility was a skill I had to learn fairly young. My father was a college educated artist and art professor who later became a politician. My mother was a trailblazer as a successful businesswoman In a male dominated society. Growing up in a collectivistic culture, I learned to embrace the blurred lines between nuclear, extended families and the community at large. Being in tune with community needs and the role I could play to make things better for the most comes almost naturally to me.

 

From my father, I inherited a passion for creativity, learning, reading and writing. My mother exemplified hard word and forward-thinking. Both parents modeled SERVICE and COMMUNITY BUILDING. I carried those values with me when I came to the USA in 1998.

I had lived in FRANCE, RWANDA and BURKINA FASO at different stages of my life as a refugee before resettling to Fargo. Regardless of my atypical life path, I can't think of a time when I was not considered a LEADER of some sort. As a young GIRL SCOUT, I worked on projects collecting donations to help people in need in Burundi. As a single mother, I took my kids as I volunteered at church or in our new community of Fargo. Today I am involved in several local and regional boards outside my consulting practice. 

 

The question has always been:" WHAT ELSE CAN I DO TO IMPACT POSITIVE CHANGE?"

Like 90 per cent of the population in my native country of Burundi, my grandparents and most of my extended family depend on agriculture for living. Most of it consisting of subsistence farming and only 15 per cent being marketed. Although my family lived in cities, almost all my summers were spent in the countryside and that’s where my best memories of life in Burundi were formed. I learned about the IMPORTANCE OF FARMERS and agriculture, as well as why we ought to care about the land that nourishes us. I also learned about the joys of a simple farm life and the emotional pressures of working under unpredictable conditions.

My values of HARD WORK, RESILIENCE and COMMUNITY were formed early, perhaps from this rural life immersion. They were, undoubtedly, strengthened by the bumpy trajectory my life has taken. I also learned to lean on my FAITH in good and bad times. 

When Drive Meets Opportunity

My employment in US started humbly with an entry-level position at CARDINAL I.G, a window factory where I worked night shift. 

 

I was later hired by Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota (LSSND) New Americans Services, the same agency that resettled me (only 3 months after my arrival) as a Case Manager and supported fellow refugees in their integration journeys, by connecting them with community resources. 

 

While working at LSSND, I enjoyed teaching French at the Academy for Children, a private Montessori school downtown Fargo.

 

Later, I worked with the Lakes & Prairies Community Action Agency in Moorhead, Minnesota coordinating a new Transitional Housing Program for homeless individuals who were ready to get help with their multiple barriers towards self-sufficiency. From Moorhead, I moved to Fargo and worked with families of lower socioeconomics through the South Eastern North Dakota Community Action Agency (SENDCAA) for ten years.

 

My life came full circle when I was hired as the New Americans Services Program Director at LSSND. I fulfilled this role while serving as the North Dakota State Refugee Coordinator. I stayed in this position for almost three years, bringing my combined time at LSSND to ten years. 

Following my mother’s footsteps as an entrepreneur, I started UBUNTU Consulting in 2015, specializing in creating better-integrated, more equitable workplaces and communities, where everyone feels valued, respected and empowered to contribute. My wide array of clients and collaborators includes schools from pre-kindergarten to universities, workforce development government entities, social services agencies, the City of Fargo, grassroot organizations as well as private corporations and foundations. Working for myself allowed me to also prioritize my longtime dream of writing more. 

In addition to a couple of published reports on research studies UBUNTU Consulting conducted on workforce development in the Fargo-Moorhead region (September 2017 and December 2019), I have authored two books: (2017) BEING AT HOME IN THE WORLD: Cross-Cultural Leadership Lessons to Guide Your Journey (Aloha Publishing) and (2018) TURNING POINTS: True Stories of Thriving Through Adversity (UBUNTU Consulting).

 

Both books highlight, in different ways, the interconnectedness of people and cultures and compliment my consulting work around inclusion, equity and bridging divides. To learn more about my story and my work, visit my personal website here.

Looking ahead, I am excited about newly formed collaboration opportunities with faith-based communities, as a consultant. I am also looking forward to embarking on this political journey towards the North Dakota Legislature. CONNECTING with my fellow district 22 residents will give me a BETTER INSIGHT ON ISSUES that are important to them and for which I can advocate on their behalf.

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Friends of Laetitia Hellerud

624 Main Ave, Suite 2B
Fargo, ND 58103

 

Email: hellerud4d22@gmail.com