“Changing Lives, Changing Futures,” is the Ethiopian Community Development Council ‘s (ECDC) slogan for African refugees and immigrants living in America, as it hosts its 14th National Conference celebrating 25 years of accomplishments and contributions of Africans. “This conference is to bring awareness to the larger community in the United States about African refugee and immigrant issues,” said Tsehaye Teferra, president of the Ethiopian Community Development Council This year’s ECDC conference theme will be “African Refugees and Immigrants: The Optimism of Generations.” According to the council, this year’s conference will explore many pressing African refugee and immigrant issues.
Panels, discussions, and workshops are being offered to participants as they address ways to improve services in the United States, to newcomers from Africa. The conference will also discuss and reflect on an assortment of African refugee issues. “Policy makers, representatives from Homeland Security , the Department of State will be in attendance to discuss policies affecting Africans. The conference will also discuss HIV/AIDS , housing issues, education, and economic issues affecting Africans,” said Teferra. The ECDC seeks to empower African newcomers; giving hope for their future and helping them quickly become self-sufficient, productive members of their communities in their new homeland. Established in 1983, ECDC is a community-based organization set up to take action for the Ethiopian community in Washington, D.C. and the United States at large. According to the organization’s website, since its founding, it has served newcomers from diverse cultural backgrounds, from many parts of the world. “We have been in existence for 25 years, sponsoring the needs of refugees and immigrants,” Teferra said. “We are here to provide humanitarian assistance, empower other African community-based organizations to advocate on the behalf of refugees and immigrants,” he continued.
Helping refugees resettle is another task the ECDC carries out, according to its website. The council also helps to promote cultural, educational, and socioeconomic development in the refugee and immigrant community in the United States. In addition, the ECDC conducts humanitarian and development programs in the Horn of Africa, which consists of six countries: Kenya , Ethiopia , Djibouti , Eritrea , Somalia and Sudan .
“ECDC realized that other African refugee problems were the same, so we decided to expand our services. We serve all because we are an international agency,” Teferra explained.
The council manages the resettlement and placement of refugees from Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Near East, and Southeast Asia, through a network of independent community-based organizations around the country.
According to ECDC, its participation in the Matching Grant Program , a public/private partnership, the council provides financial incentives to refugees to become self-sufficient during their first 120 days in the United States.
“These immigrants and refugees are coming out of difficult situations. They come here to better themselves and for their children,” Teferra said, “When they come to the United States, they need support, relief, and protection.”
Each of the organization’s branch offices offers a variety of educational, social, and support services to help newcomers acculturate and become self-sufficient in their respective locations around the country.
ECDC also provides a proactive health services program, which combines health promotion and health education with health care services, focusing on community outreach, cross-cultural training, and disease prevention and control.
The 14th annual National Conference will take place May 5 to 7, 2008 at the Sheraton National Hotel in Arlington, Va.
Teferra said, “Anyone can come, whoever wants to learn about the refugees, anyone who wants to share their experience.”