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DES MOINES, Iowa  —  They once had challenging childhoods in other countries but later managed to find a way to start a life in Iowa. Now, they are sharing their successes and reaching out to help others.

On Tuesday, Meredith Corporation hosted the four immigrants at a luncheon in Des Moines to promote inclusion. Each laid out how they began in their native countries under difficult lives and found success in Iowa.

On the panel:

Alex Duong  —  He didn’t speak English when his family left Vietnam to find better opportunities in Clinton. Now, he speaks six languages and manages marketing and internal communications for Mediacom.

Serkan Usta  —  His mother, after his father abandoned the family, dropped him off at an orphanage in Turkey. Now, he is Artistic Director of Ballet Des Moines and co-owns School of Classical Ballet and Dance.

Li Zhao Mandelbaum  —  Her grandmother left the hospital disappointedly because Li wasn’t born a boy. China had a one-child policy then, and her grandmother hoped for a grandson to help the family name survive. Zhao is now the founder of the China Iowa Group, a consulting firm.

Kenia Calderon  —  Her family fled gang violence in El Salvador. She is now a Latina activist and a DACA recipient, but her work permit is only valid until October, 2018. Because President Trump has called for the end of DACA, she is concerned she could get deported.

During the luncheon, the immigrants talked about the importance of giving back to others, since they have benefited so much during their time in the United States.

All of the individuals are previous honorees of the Iowa International Center’s Passport to Prosperity.  

Meredith periodically hosts events like this to promote understanding of diversity and inclusion.