Sara Hindi is the Community Engagement Coordinator at Exodus Refugee Immigration, a local nonprofit dedicated to the protection of human rights by serving the resettlement needs of refugees and other displaced people fleeing persecution, injustice, and war by welcoming them to Indiana and providing them with direct services like case management, employment, English classes and more. Sara has served the refugee community in Indianapolis for 6 years with Exodus. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Media and Public Affairs and is currently pursuing a Masters in Public Affairs with a concentration in Innovation and Social Change at IUPUI.
The 1828 Leadership Project, presented by Citizens Energy Group, is a civic leadership tract for Indy’s young leaders with the goal of fostering intentional relationships with a cross sector of Indianapolis’ thought leaders and decision makers. Sara is a part of 1828’s Class X– learn more about her below!
How do you spend your days? For example, you can tell us about your career, side hustle or exercise routine whatever you want to share here we’re ready to listen.
I am the Community Engagement Coordinator at Exodus Refugee Immigration, a local nonprofit dedicated to the protection of human rights by serving the resettlement needs of refugees and other displaced people fleeing persecution, injustice, and war by welcoming them to Indiana and providing a wide variety of services, including case management, employment, English classes and more.
I spend my days developing and supporting outreach and education that inspire and motivate community members to engage in the mission of Exodus through volunteerism, financial and in-kind donations, and advocacy. I also manage our internship program and create and share communications content for Exodus’ social media and website.
In the evenings, I am a part-time grad student at IUPUI O’Neill pursuing my Masters of Public Affairs with a concentration in Innovation and Social Change. Go Jaguars!
What brought you to Indiaanpolis?
I have lived most of my life in central Indiana, but I was born in Amman, Jordan. My family and I immigrated to Indianapolis in 1997, so that my dad can start his own business.
Where in Indianapolis did you grow up?
I lived on the northwest side of Indianapolis (Pike Township) for several years of my life before moving to Carmel with my family about 10 years ago.
You’re off the clock, there are no expectations. What are you doing?
Walking with my friends on the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, reading a good book, or dressing up and going out.
When thinking about the future of Indianapolis, what are you most looking forward to in the next 5 years and why?
I love this city, which is why I am so passionate about making it a better city for all of us. I see all the good potential that it can become.
I look forward to seeing the Indianapolis community embrace and celebrate the immigrant and refugee populations that live in the city, but we shouldn’t stop there – we must also continue to address the barriers that they might face in the city including language and transportation barriers. Everyone is a Hoosier regardless of where they were born or what language they speak, so we need to stop seeing people who don’t look like us as “the other.” This city is for all of us, not some of us.
I also look forward to living in a city and state that doesn’t accept racism, bigotry, Islamapbohia, or homophobia in its neighborhoods or in the Indiana Statehouse.I know we have a long way to go.
Are there any local causes that you support? What are they and how might others learn more or get involved?
My personal identity and my work with refugees has taught me how to show up and be an ally and advocate for all people. We cannot advocate for one group of people without advocating for everyone. We must also work to address the policies that dehumanize and criminalize folks for their pure existence and identity, which inspired me to join the Board of Directors for the ACLU of Indiana this year, and I volunteer with Women4Change. They are both amazing organizations that fight all the good fights. There are different ways to get involved: volunteer, attend an event that they host, follow them on social media or make a financial donation.
Do you have a favorite local place in town (restaurant, bar, park, etc.) that you love going to? Where is it and why should other people try it out?
I love eating at one of the local restaurants in the International Marketplace for global cuisines like Abyssinia for Ethiopian cuisine or Chapati for Pakistani/Indian cuisine. There are so many beautiful cultures represented in Indianapolis, so the International Marketplace is a great place to try delicious food.
I also love shopping at Silver in the City and Global Gifts.
Indianapolis is a sprawling county, what’s your favorite part about our city?
Through my role at Exodus, I have met amazing volunteers, interns and faith communities who are dedicated to making our city a more welcoming city for everyone. I am truly privileged to work with such compassionate people who have made me love our city even more. Their compassion is inspiring!
I also love having the opportunity to personally know and connect with our local and state elected officials whether it’s on Twitter or in person. The best part is running into them when you least expect it, and they always stop and say hello. Last year, I was at the Indianapolis Airport picking up a refugee family that is originally from Burma, but they fled to Malaysia, and I saw Congressman André Carson (IN07) eating a meal at the airport before his flight. He gave me a fistbump, and we took a selfie.
If you were a superhero what would be your special trait? Why?
I would love to be able to speak every language in the world because I love languages. Each language has so much history and culture behind it. I am fluent in reading, writing and speaking both English and Arabic, and I am always fascinated by how quickly my brain can switch from one language to another.
You’re hosting your own music festival with three artists – Who’s performing?
Alicia Keys, Beyonce, and J. Cole.
If you had to listen to one song for the rest of your life, what would it be? Why?
Like A Girl by Lizzo because it’s my jam, especially on a bad day or on a day that I need some motivation.
Mornings or evenings? And Why?
I am not a morning person at all. So evenings because that’s when I usually have more energy. It’s also a time for me to hangout with my family or friends or do something fun.
How do you define success?
Success is a personal journey with yourself. It is about achieving your own personal goals that you set for yourself and not the ones that other people set for you. It is also based on how one overcomes the struggles that they have faced to get to where they are today.
What would you name the autobiography of your life? Feel free to give us context here.
Taking Control of Your Own Narrative: A Memoir of Self-Love and Purpose
Growing up, I always felt like I didn’t belong. I didn’t feel American enough, and at times, I didn’t feel Arab enough. I was stuck between two different narratives: who I actually was and how people perceived me as.
Being a Muslim woman in the United States who wears a hijab (headscarf) means that I am constantly stereotyped, and I have to deal with Islamaphobia and microagressions more often than I would like to. It was something I could not get away from or escape and because of it I hated who I was. I not only faced external battles about my own identity, but internal battles too. Until one day, I realized I needed to change my own mindset and take control of my own personal narrative. I knew I couldn’t fight Islamaphboia on my own or change everyone’s perceptions of Muslims, but what I did know was that the only person’s mind and perception that I needed to change was mine. I started to worry less about how others perceived me and focused more about how I perceived myself. Once I started seeing myself as enough, it did not matter what others thought of me. I didn’t wait for other people to create a sense of belonging for me – I created it for myself. That has really taught me that there is always room for everyone so I should always create space for myself everywhere I go.
Once I started to take control of my own narrative, I also realized that I did not need to pick one identity for myself. I can be proud of everything that I am – a Palestinian, Jordanian, American, immigrant, Muslim woman who proudly wears a hijab. Once I knew who I was and was rooted in my identity, my purpose in life became more clear.