by Abebe Engdasaw
St. Tekle Haimanot Ethiopian Orthodox church in Ottawa had a humble beginning. Some 20 years ago very few dedicated but determined individuals started a bible study group in a private residential home. Year by year this religious and spiritual gathering built momentum, slowly but surely, by providing spiritual and social support for its growing memberships.
During the early years of establishment finding meeting space was the most challenging. From 1993 to 2003 we moved from one church basement to another, we called ourselves a roaming church; with a determination of raising enough money to purchase a place we call our own. During the ten years we were able to raise $350,000.00 from membership contribution, various fund raising schemes that included cultural events, sales of goods and services. In 2003 the current church building located at 915 Merivale Road was purchased from Anglican Diocese of Ottawa. The remarkable thing about these many years of hard work is the tenacity of members who are determined to own a place of worship and community space that serves the community in a language and culture appropriate to them.
The building was built in the 1950s and many repair work awaits us. The roof was in bad shape, the community hall in the basement needs repair and upgrading work. The monthly expense to run services and paying utilities and insurance is not cheap. We constantly bring these issues to members and plan of actions are discussed and agreed upon. In 2003 we embarked upon a long term ambitious plan to improve and repair the building by raising $400,000.00 through fund raising, mortgage and exploring possibility for grant. By 2012/2013 we were able to raise $200,000, took mortgage and built a new roof with durable metallic materials.
The basement has a multipurpose community hall with a capacity of 200 people, a small meeting room and a library. We are very thankful for the Ontario government’s Trillium Community Funding for the $70,000.00 grant towards the $140,000.00 community hall project cost to purchase energy efficient heating system, upgrading the kitchen and accessible wash room facilities. Ontario is helping cultural communities in Ottawa by supporting non-profit infrastructure projects.
The church as an organization supports the Ethiopian communities in a variety of ways. Activities are held regularly to help members enhance awareness; understand the Canadian system, settlement counselling, language and cultural promotions. Language classes are held for young children. Various women and children activities, family counselling, dispute resolutions, birth day, and marriage ceremonies are held regularly. The church is a place of our worship as well as a community center. It serves the community as a hub in time of joy and sorrow. As capacity growth in funds and resources, it would be a center that increasingly attends to the social concerns of members through support programs which are culturally competent and tailored to the unique values and cultural needs of the community. The community hall and its facilities are open to any community members and are available on daily or hourly rental base.
You can reach us by calling 613 722 6702.
About the writer
Ethiopian-born Abebe Engdasaw was awarded the Black History Ottawa Community Builder award in 2012 for his extensive volunteer work with the city’s multicultural populations and his tireless work through the Christian Children’s Fund of Canada to fight child poverty in seven developing countries. Abebe’s accomplishments include: Team Leader of the Diversity and Community Access Project of the Ottawa Transition Board; Chair of the Ethiopian Orthodox St Tekle Haimanot Church; Founder and Co-Chair Multicultural Health Coalition; and President of the Ethiopian Community Association. He is also a recipient of the Swedish Red Cross Society’s Silver Medal Award for outstanding humanitarian work in Ethiopia and the Pan African Conference Gold Mercury International Award for outstanding contribution to Regional Development Planning