How one Toronto NGO is Giving Back to its Roots

06/19/2015 12:34 EDT | Updated 06/19/2016 05:59 EDT
In this photo made Saturday, Aug. 6, 2011, showing a boy in his father's cornfield who subsists on a diet of grain, but reliance on one food crop leaves the family vulnerable to crop failure and malnourishment, in Shebedino in the south of Ethiopia. The seemingly fertile landscape of the southern regions of Ethiopia paints a deceptive picture of growth and abundance, with forests and cornfields, but there is an increasing number of malnourished children. The horn of Africa is suffering from a drought which has brought famine to the region and forcing hundreds of thousands of people to migrate to population centres to seek aid.(AP Photo/ Luc van Kemenade )

Margaret Mead said it best: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

In a world that still struggles to accommodate an estimated population of 17.8 million HIV/AIDS youth orphans, the United Nations estimates the number to go up this year. In Ethiopia, there are close to 1 million children under the age of 18 that have been orphaned by the disease.

The Ethiopian-Canadian diaspora in Toronto, through a made in Toronto initiative, People To People Canada, is slowly but surely making an impact on the ground in helping change that reality. The organization, founded in 1999, has become a passionate advocate for Ethiopia's vulnerable HIV/AIDS orphan children. To date, it has helped many orphans live a fulfilled life despite their circumstances.

The founders, Haregua Getu, Hezekiel Tasse and Gezahegn Gonete, envisioned potential in a multicultural Toronto that has one of the largest Ethiopian populations in North America. In such a population, they envisioned a noble dream of helping the most unfortunate in their homeland by contributing much needed resources.

According to its founding principles, the organization envisioned a citizenship based on "educational activities to prevent, curb and ultimately reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS" and mobilizing the Ethiopian "diaspora to contribute resources in the fight against HIV/AIDS."

In meeting its goal, the organization has held an annual must-attend fundraiser at Daniel's Spectrum, with noted speakers such as CBC's Brian Stewart and Richard Elliot, the Executive Director of the Canadian HIV / AIDS Legal Network. It has also been championed by public servants such as Pat Deutscher, who served as Ontario's chief economist and Peter Wallace, the new city manager with the City of Toronto.

This is an addition to the well-attended annual event held at the Bell Lightbox, inside the Toronto International Film Festival headquarters named People4kids, with a slew of public servants from Queens Park in attendance. They also continue to run a decade-old annual walkathon in Christie Pits Park -- this year held on June 28. The organization also participates in the Scotia Bank Toronto Waterfront Marathon October 18.

There are countless orphans who have benefited from the generosity of the group. This year, it reached a new milestone, by increasing the number of orphans under its support to 200. According to Teferi Negussie, the newly elected president of the organization, an exceptional mentor and friend to myself and many others, this is a milestone.

That is why the work of P2P is needed more than ever.

In its daring fight to change and reconstruct a tragic human reality, I hope more Canadians will be involved in helping it reach new heights. For Canadians, new and old, it is one organization worth supporting and a better avenue to exercise and fulfill the promise of our international Canadian citizenship.


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