Rebuilding Our Community – Moving Forward with You

Rebuilding Our Community – Moving Forward with You

 By Peter Mathewos

Eritrean communities in Canada are one of the fastest growing communities and they have been present in this nation for more than 30 years. The vast majority of Eritrean immigrants have chosen to settle in the major cities such as Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, Winnipeg and of course Edmonton. With the continued replenishing of new immigrants, Eritrean communities have been growing steadily over the years. It appears that recent immigrants to Canada (those that have come in the past ten to fifteen years) make the bulk of these growing Eritrean communities. That noted, the true make up these Eritrean communities can only be determined through a community census – a task that is long overdue.

Recent Eritrean immigrants have come to settle here in Edmonton, partially due to the economic growth fueled by our robust oil industry as well due to the strong friend and family connections they may have in this city.  These new comers often experience  many cultural, social as well as economic challenges. Therefore to overcome these challenges, a strong support structure is necessary to assist them as they adjust to their new surroundings. Such assistance is often provided by their extended family and/or friends. Thus put, having a strong community structure goes a long way in providing the necessary support – as an African Proverb goes, “it takes a village to raise a child.”

In early 1990ies, the Eritrean Community Association of Edmonton (ECAE) was created to provide the necessary community support to Eritrean immigrants. The ECAE is a not-for-profit community organization, it is inclusive of all Eritreans regardless of their political affiliation, faith, and cultural backgrounds.

The community association at the moment is rebuilding and readjusting itself to accommodate the needs of the various demographic groups of Eritrean immigrants residing in Edmonton. To that end, the ECAE has created some programs and projects to support the community. Information on these can be found on our Projects, Programs as well as Resources pages located on our page.

One of the programs that has gotten a lot of traction and is successful is our heritage language program. At the moment, ECAE offers a Tigrinya program for kids. Although the desire at the moment by those involved is to have a Tigrinya language program, the community organization is open to teach the languages for all nine Eritrean heritage groups. ECAE hopes to expand the language program it has by teaching the other languages spoken in Eritrea.

Another language program that the community organization offers is English language assistance for new comer adults. The program is being thought by young Eritreans, who understand the culture and background of the new comers and who can communicate easily with them. This is not a certified ESL or LINC program but rather a bridging class provided by ECAE.

One of the current goals of the Eritrean Community Association is to build a community center where it can easily provide the above noted services (among others). This space will potentially have many uses. This place will be our resource center, a space to hold our community meetings, a place to hold birthdays, baptisms, weddings, and holidays among others. Most importantly however it will be our home away from home, a reminder of the Eritrea we love and yet left for the many different reasons we all have.

Thus put, for all these services as well as the attainment of a community center to be successful, our involvement in the community building initiative is required. We need to be engaged in our community so that we help its members where we can and in turn get the support that we need from it. That is why we implore on you to get active. We are all part of the complex machinery the need to work in tandem for the community organization to move forward. Therefore get involved and get active.

“A single bracelet does not jingle.” – A Congolese proverb.

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