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Top 50: Weldetinsae Yemane

Age: 29
Volunteers in: Saskatoon, SK
Category: Canada - Housing and Infrastructure
Organization: Habitat for Humanity Canada

A former refugee helps build homes for those who need them.

Weldetinsae Yemane is no stranger to hardship. Or hunger. Or homelessness. He's had more than his share of all. Born in Eritrea, "Welde" (as his Canadian friends call him) escaped Ethiopia for Sudan during a period of violent conflict. He then paid smugglers to bring him to Egypt so he could speak with an official at a UN office in Cairo but was arrested and detained in prison for illegal immigration before he had the chance.

Watch a profile of Weldetinsae Yemane
aired on CBC's Connect, December 6, 2010:

Download Flash Player to view this content.

Life, you could say, didn't deal him a fair hand. But in prison, it came to the attention of the powers that be that Yemane had construction experience. This set him apart from hundreds of other illegal immigrants that the Red Cross was trying desperately to get out of Egypt--to Canada.

It's no accident that after settling in Canada--first Calgary and then later Saskatoon--the 25-year old Yemane sought out volunteer work at Habitat for Humanity. It's no little irony that an impoverished African immigrant, only recently homeless himself, now builds homes for those "less fortunate."

Listen to a profile of Weldetinsae Yemane
by CBC Radio reporter Dan Kerslake:

Download Flash Player to view this content.

"He could have been on the receiving end of our programs," says Kathleen Crowther, a Habitat for Humanity resource development coordinator, and Yemane's sometimes translator (Yemane is still learning English). Instead, Yemane allocates time that could be spent at one of his paying jobs (he has two--one at a plumbing company and another at a large retailer) building Habitat homes. And learning a thing or two about Canadian construction.

You see, Yemane understands intuitively something central to volunteerism--you get what you give. By donating his time, Yemane is gaining knowledge, experience and a much-needed network of Canadian contacts. He will, in turn, be in a better position to continue contributing to his community. Says Yemane: "We didn't have power tools in Eritrea. So when I was first starting [at Habitat for Humanity], I couldn't even operate a simple drill. The construction supervisor with Habitat would joke with me and say, 'You're killing my drill!' Then he showed me how. He showed me how to work safely, too. I gained lots of experience in construction and this allowed me to find a job in construction."

Mentors like that construction supervisor are just some of the people Yemane hopes to "repay" with his volunteer work. "Many people were very good to me when I first arrived in Canada," says Yemane. "Now it's my turn."
--Liza Finlay


Click to learn more about Habitat for Humanity


NOM : Weldetinsae Yemane

ÂGE : 29 ans

LIEU DE BÉNÉVOLAT : Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

CATÉGORIE : Canada - Logement et infrastructures

ORGANISATION(S) : Habitat pour l'humanité Canada inc.


Après avoir fui son pays d'origine, l'Érythrée, Weldetinsae Yemane a cherché asile dans un camp de réfugiés soudanais avant d'aboutir dans une prison égyptienne. Après un an de détention, Weldetinsae a lancé un appel au gouvernement canadien, à la Croix-Rouge canadienne et au Haut-commissariat des Nations Unies pour les réfugiés qui ensemble, ont travaillé pour l'amener lui et 15 autres Érythréens au Canada.

Aujourd'hui, Weldetinsae Yemane souhaite redonner autant qu'il peut au Canada, pour « rembourser » l'aide qu'il a jadis obtenue. Le bénévolat fera toujours partie de sa vie. Son engagement auprès de l'Open Door Society de Saskatoon lui a démontré à quel point le bénévolat pouvait aider à la fois la collectivité et l'aider lui-même à s'orienter dans son pays d'adoption et à s'y faire des contacts. Ayant connu de première main le fait d'être sans-abri, il apprécie beaucoup le temps qu'il consacre à travailler avec l'organisme Habitat pour l'humanité Canada inc. qui réunit des bénévoles et des partenaires communautaires pour construire des logements abordables et promouvoir l'accès à la propriété.

Weldetinsae Yemane termine actuellement un cours collégial, il apprend l'anglais et travaille pour une société de plomberie et dans un magasin Wal-Mart à temps partiel. Sa candidature a été proposée par Kathleen Crowther, d'Habitat pour l'humanité de Saskatoon, qui nous a dit ce qui suit : « En tant que nouvel arrivant au Canada, Welde voit toutes les possibilités qui s'offrent à lui et considère son travail bénévole comme un moyen de redonner quelque chose au pays qui l'a accueilli. »


Pour en apprendre davantage sur l'organisme Habitat pour l'humanité, nous vous invitons à visiter le site Web de l'organisation à l'adresse

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