January 2018 Honoree
Deputy Director - PUSH Buffalo
Rahwa Ghirmatzion was born in Asmera, Eritrea in the middle of a civil war. She came to Western New York as a refugee at the age of eight with her family, after living in Sudan. She was educated in Buffalo Public Schools and SUNY Buffalo State.
In 2016, she became deputy director of People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH Buffalo), a community organization that works at the grassroots to create and implement a comprehensive revitalization plan for Buffalo’s West Side, with more than $25 million invested in affordable housing rehabilitation, weatherization and green infrastructure.
In this role, Ghirmatzion oversees the organization’s programs and day-to-day operations, which have grown to include housing construction, weatherization, solar installation, job training, and a youth center on Grant Street, as well as outreach and advocacy on public policy issues facing urban communities. PUSH employs 40 people and has renovated more than seventy-five high quality homes over the past seven years.
Ghirmatzion had served as PUSH’s director of programs, overseeing the growth of PUSH’s social enterprises and community development efforts.
“I’m proud of what PUSH has done to prove that everyday residents can lead the way in building a better Buffalo, with quality affordable housing and pathways to good jobs in emerging sectors like solar installation, weatherization and green construction. But there’s so much work ahead to move Buffalo beyond the legacies of racism and economic injustice that are so visible in our communities,” Ghirmatzion said.
For more than 13 years, Rahwa worked with community-based organizations in Western New York that promote community development. She was executive director of Ujima Theatre Company, a multi-ethnic professional theatre company whose primary purpose is the preservation, perpetuation and performance of African American theatre. Ghirmatzion was the recipient of the 2013 Community Leaders Arts Award from the National Federation for Just Communities.