When Michelle Obi began her first day of work at Keiro as development associate in December of 2019, she walked into the office with a basic understanding that in her position she would assist with fund development efforts for Keiro’s programs and services. Michelle, in addition to that, shares a personal connection to Keiro, as her grandfather, Dr. Robert Obi, served as the medical director of Keiro’s City View Hospital from 1960 until its closure in 1985 and her grandmother was a frequent volunteer at the hospital’s gift shop. With the basic knowledge of her role and her family ties to Keiro, Michelle soon discovered the importance of community and the legacy her grandparents left for her to follow.
Learning Along the Way
Michelle shared that her grandfather was a man of few words, and she didn’t have much opportunity to hear his stories because he passed away when she was young. One of the memories she fondly looks back on is when she would make a mess with her doll house. Every time she returned to it, her grandfather had already put the pieces back in place. When thinking about this memory, Michelle realized the abundance of compassion and care her grandfather provided for her family and others through the smallest of acts.
Similarly, it wasn’t until she began interacting with community members through her work at Keiro that she learned more about the compassion and care her grandfather gave the community. She said that often she would run into community members who knew Dr. Obi, and they would share stories of him and tell her how respected he was in his profession. She learned a lot from these encounters about her grandfather and finds great joy that this connection brought her closer to community members.
Caring for the Community
Prior to working at Keiro, Michelle didn’t fully understand the significance the organization has to the community, but since then, she has been able to use her talents to help create, maintain, and build relationships with Keiro’s supporters. “It is important to make sure that those who support and believe in us know their impact. Not necessarily the impact that Keiro has but the impact our supporters have on Keiro,” she shared. Her time at Keiro has helped Michelle realize that if a group of people truly believe in what they are doing, the work is much more impactful.
One of the most common sayings around the Obi household has been Okagesamade, a Japanese term loosely translated to, “It is because of you that I was able to do this.” Michelle found that this phrase holds a great amount of meaning to her and the work that she does at Keiro. She finds great joy in supporting the older adult and caregiver communities, because she recognized that without those who came before us, we would not be here today. Additionally, Michelle is able to express her appreciation towards her grandparents and all they have provided for her family by carrying on the work that they did. “I am working for and believing in the same goals that [they] believed in, and that is a really cool connection that we now have.”
Michelle would have never thought that she would be working at the same organization that her grandparents were heavily involved in, but it has brought a new light to the concept of “Okagesamade” for her. Michelle’s work at Keiro is not only carrying on the legacy that her grandfather left, but her story reminds us to reflect back on the strong roots that were planted for Keiro in the past in order to carry on the mission that was established 60 years ago.