Raivo and Anne-Mari Remmel are proud of what Estonians have accomplished in Canada and excited about the possibilities for even more growth with the development of the new International Estonian Centre (IEC).
“It’s very important to have a facility that instills pride in the coming generations – if we don’t do this, then we won’t have a future for our community,” Raivo said.
This is why Raivo and Anne-Mari have stepped forward as “Viru Vanemad” donors to the new centre’s Capital Campaign.
The couple have been involved in Estonian communities since they were both children growing up in Toronto: Estonian school, folk dancing, summer camps, guides/scouts and gymnastics. They are delighted that the tradition lives on, as their four year-old granddaughter Kalli (daughter of son Tarmo and daughter-in-law Tiiu) has just started going to her first folk-dancing classes.
“She loves it!”
Their son Esko and daughter-in-law Lisa have two children: Aelwen, 8, and Rowan, 6. They’ve attended Estonian summer camps, which were established over 50 years ago by the generation that first settled here.
Raivo, a chemical engineer and owner of specialty chemical companies Nortek Inc. and Aqua-Tek Inc., jokingly says he has spent half his life in the Estonian House on Broadview Avenue in Toronto, and stepped inside the building for the first time as a rookie scout. Raivo is the former president of the board of the Estonian House and served in that role for over two decades - he has seen first-hand how the community has evolved.
The way the new IEC is shaping up reflects the strong vision of the board, he says.
“We created objectives for our new home over ten years ago. We wanted a dynamic centre that would meet community needs, that would make us proud and attract all ages and generations, have flexible space, reflect our culture and heritage and have a modern and striking design that incorporates energy efficient features.”
“This is exactly how the IEC is coming together, and the go-ahead was supported by a majority Estonian House shareholder vote.”
Anne-Mari, a business graduate from Ryerson University, says the family is very much looking forward to becoming frequent users of the new centre.
“We envision holding family celebrations there, and attending the many Estonian events that go on in the community,” she said. “It will also be a place where we can invite our non-Estonian friends to share our culture and heritage.”
The couple say that Estonia has accomplished a great deal in the last two decades and that it’s time we think beyond just our community in Toronto and reflect, connect with and be a vital part of what it means to be a “global Estonian”.
“It will be wonderful for all of us to say that ‘it’s part of me, I belong here.’”
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