Culture Corner: Meet Maija Augenbergs

Culture Corner: Meet Maija Augenbergs

New Hope’s associates represent many different experiences and backgrounds. Whether they grew up in a small town or big city, another state or another country, their experiences contribute to who they are today. We want to use this space for associates to answer the question ‘What is it like to be me?” so we can all learn more about the unique perspectives that make up #TeamNewHope.

Hi, I’m Maija Augenbergs! I was born and raised here in Indianapolis, IN. Several generations ago, my mother’s family immigrated from Sweden and Denmark and ended up living in Lincoln, Nebraska. My maternal grandmother and grandfather moved to Indianapolis when my mom was a child. My grandfather passed away when I was young (10 or 11), so I did not know him very well. He was an FBI Agent, and as a child, I thought he was intimidating. But my grandmother was an amazing woman, who I adored and admired deeply. She was a teacher and went back to school to get her master’s degree. She then taught children with disabilities at Indian Creek Elementary in Lawrence until she retired.

My grandmother instilled a great love of life, adventure, people, learning and empathy in me. She was a thoughtful person who relished the world around her. She welcomed people she encountered and approached people with a sense of respectful curiosity. She was always concerned about the environment, animals and being a good steward of the natural world. I look to my grandmother’s life when I think about what is important to me. I could go on and on, but suffice it to say, she was one of the most influential people in my life.

My maternal grandmother.

My Latvian family – I’m the girl on the bottom left!

My father’s family has a more complex history. My father is Latvian and was born in 1946 in a Displaced Person’s (DP) camp in Germany. Latvia is a small country that is situated directly west of Russia and northwest across the Baltic Sea from Sweden and Denmark. My grandparents fled Latvia during the turmoil at the end of WWII when the Nazi occupation was ending, and Stalin and the Russian army was advancing. My grandmother, my grandfather, and my aunt, who was a newborn baby, were trying to leave Latvia because the country was in chaos. Somehow, they got separated and my grandfather was captured by the Germans to try to forcibly conscript him into the German army. He managed to get away by bribing a guard with his watch. My grandparents and my aunt made it to a DP camp where they remained for five years. My father was born in this camp. Eventually my grandparents, my aunt, my dad and my uncle, who was also born in the camp, were able to immigrate from Germany in exchange for providing farm labor in Bedford, Indiana. The expectation was

that everyone worked on the farm- including the children. My dad was operating a manual corn picker that removes the kernels from the ears and an ear of corn got jammed. My dad had a horrific hand injury and nearly had to have it amputated. Thankfully, he recovered. Suffice it to say, life was not easy…

I know that many people who work at New Hope are immigrants who have left their countries of origin for many reasons. My father and his family’s experiences have been exceedingly impactful. Even though my father and his family survived, and in many ways, “overcame adversity”, this cascading series of events shaped everyone involved, including me. Anyone who embarks on a journey to leave their country will be fundamentally changed. This takes significant courage, and I feel a kinship with anyone who is compelled to leave their country regardless of the reasons or circumstances.

I currently serve as the Manager of Quality Assurance here at New Hope. I have loved being part of a community comprised of people served by New Hope, their families and New Hope coworkers. I have learned so much from these relationships. Anyone who knows me well knows that I particularly love people who have a good sense of humor, especially if it’s a little bit quirky. Play and laughter are universal. I have enjoyed so many great belly laughs at New Hope- these are the best moments and memories.

In my free time, I love reading, walking my dogs, spending time with my family, swimming/water activities and traveling. I am just like anyone else – just trying to find my way in this tragicomedic, epic, joyful, hot-mess delight that is my own little life!

Share This Story!

Leave a Comment!