In the centre of Malvern in northern Scarborough is a unique gem of a primary care facility named for the Swahili word for “be in good health.” For nine years, the TAIBU Community Health Centre has been dedicated to helping people from primarily black communities locally and across the Greater Toronto Area get care directly suited to their medical and cultural needs. And from the start, the centre has been led by Executive Director and Scarborough resident Liben Gebremikael, an Ethiopian-born professional who took the post just three years after arriving in Canada from the U.K.
He notes that the centre is unique in North America in having an explicit mandate from its funding government – Ontario, in this case – to work with the black communities as its priority population, as well as other racialized groups including the local South Asian community. “Culture is very important when accessing health care services,” he notes, and the centre works hard to build trust with its clients. It also has expertise on such health issues as hypertension and diabetes, as well as sickle cell anemia, which predominantly affects people of African descent.
Gebremikael is proud that the centre makes sure its clients are involved in planning TAIBU’s programs and services, from yoga to community education.
“Community members are able to come together to make change – it is not just our organization,” he says. “To see that happen on a daily basis is really what keeps me going.”