Aster Bekele has been shaping outdoor spaces in the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood since 2004 when she created the Felege Hiywot Center. She emigrated to Indianapolis from Ethiopia and brought with her a sense of community and love of service. A retired chemist, Aster started the Youth Farm Initiative, established a food production space to give to the community, and continues to engage partners from across the city. Her focus is on youth farming, care of orphans and cultural expression.
Through her partnership with Keep Indianapolis Beautiful (KIB), Aster developed the community garden at the center, developed Unity Park for community gathering and planting an orchard, supported the planting of hundreds of native trees throughout her neighborhood, and was among the first to adopt her block.
Aster focuses on food as a way to connect people from different cultures. She connects immigrant children with other youth in the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood to educate them about food production, giving back to their community and handling everyday responsibilities. As a KIB Adopt-A-Block captain since 2008, she has led cleanups to remove litter and illegal dumping across the neighborhood, improving quality of life and cleaning storm drains of litter that would otherwise pollute Indianapolis waterways. She has inspired generations of youth in the neighborhood to use their energies toward the community good.