Arab American Heritage Month Feature: Meet Sirene Abou-Chakra of Detroit, Michigan

Posted by Elly Rostoum on April 08, 2020 in Blog

April is Arab American Heritage Month, and this year, we’re recognizing it by sharing a story each week of an Arab American hero on the frontline of community service in the fight against COVID-19.

Meet Sirene Abou-Chakra of Detroit, Michigan.

Sirene Abou-Chakra headshot

What do you think when you hear #DetroitStrong? People. People whose commitment to lifting up others is legendary and whose grit is defined by never, ever giving up in the face of great adversity. That spirit is what so many find inspiring about Detroit and its people, and it is what makes proud Arab American Sirene Abou-Chakra the right person to be selling the city she loves.

As Detroit’s Director of Development, Sirene utilizes her contagious energy to help attract investment from foundations, corporations and government agencies to revitalize her beloved city. By any measure, it is working.

Now, in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak, her focus has had to shift and for good reason as the number of cases surged in Michigan. In response, the state has had to convert the TCF Center in downtown Detroit into a 1,000-bed field hospital. Detroit also became the first city in the US to roll out a 15-minute COVID-19 test, making it possible to provide much-needed testing to first responders and essential workers. Sirene is doing her part too by helping to coordinate the effort to turn the Michigan State Fair Grounds into a testing center and worked to make sure transportation was available for all Detroiters who needed it to get there. And to make sure those first responders are well cared for, Sirene helped launch the Feed the Frontlines Program making sure Detroit’s frontline workers have access to meals from local restaurants as a way to support both the city’s first responders and the small business community. These extraordinary times have called for extraordinary responses from the millions of public servants in our country, Sirene among them.

Sirene’s love of public service started at a young age. Inspired from her own experience applying to college, she started Doors of Opportunity, a nonprofit organization that works to increase enrollment of underrepresented youth in top colleges across the country. “I wanted to eradicate fear and still work every day to make sure people believe all opportunities are available to them.” Sirene continues to do that today, and Detroit — and all of us — are greater for it.