Employee of the Month Zecarias Gebregziabher

April 2023

1. Where are you from?

I am from Eritrea, a country in north-east Africa, on the western coast of the Red Sea. 

3. Could you tell us a bit of your work and educational background?

I graduated from university in 2003 and began working as an entertainment producer for the only TV channel in the country. Soon, I was producing documentary programs and covering events for reportages. In addition to producing my programs, I trained new journalists in the basics of journalism and translation for media. During my time in Uganda, I co-authored two collaborative book projects on migration and worked as an advisor on a third book project. I also co-founded and co-directed two human rights focused non-profit organizations. Since 2015, I have organized and presented at least two dozen human rights, activist media, and refugee advocacy workshops on location and online. 

2. When did you come to Canada and under what circumstance?

I arrived in Canada in 2018. Prior to leaving my country in 2014, I had worked as a documentary producer and reporter for national TV for 11 years. Eritrea is one of the least safe countries in the world for journalists. A harsh dictatorship that has been going on since 2001 makes life impossible inside the country. Speaking out against injustice always costs people their freedom and life. As the human rights situation became increasingly worse, I had to leave home to seek safety elsewhere. 

After leaving Eritrea, I headed to Uganda where I worked for a pro-democracy radio station that aired programs into Eritrea. In 2015, with a group of like-minded friends, I co-founded Africa Monitors, a human rights monitoring organization which, among other things, advocated for the better treatment of Eritrean refugees in East Africa and Europe. In 2018, I co-founded and directed the first ever independent TV channel to air programs into Eritrea. I also co-published various migration and human rights articles and books. All my media and activism work focused on exposing human rights abuses in Eritrea, creating awareness to enable my society to move towards democratic change and to show international migration stakeholders the conditions which push Eritreans to leave their country. 

In the eyes of the dictatorship back home, my human rights activism makes me an enemy of the state and a traitor. This meant that I would be targeted for attacks even while living in exile. At one time, my home in Uganda’s capital Uganda was attacked by robbers five times within a period of three months even though I was a new arrival and there wasn’t much of value to steal. Coming to Canada as a permanent refugee provides me with the safety and freedom to continue my human rights work. 

4.  How did you know the Immigrant Centre?

The most significant part of work in Uganda was studying migration, advocating for refugees, and helping refugees communicate better with local immigration and asylum agencies.  When I arrived in Canada, I looked for organizations that work with refugees and immigrants. I contacted the Immigrant Centre in late 2020 to volunteer as an interpreter and translator. I also applied for open positions whenever they appeared and was finally hired in 2022. 

5. How do you feel about working at the IC?

The work at the Immigrant Centre is fulfilling as I get to help newcomers transition to life in Canada. The job allows my contribution to be practical and determined. 

The Immigrant Centre is the friendliest place where I have worked. Everyone was so warm and welcoming on my first day, they made me feel at home. As I settled into my position, every member of the team always readily offered their assistance and advice. They are patient and empathetic. I have met here some of the kindest and most caring people in a work environment. I am not sure too many places like the Immigrant Centre exist. I feel fortunate to be here and work with this amazing group of people.