I have been living at Beverley Lodge for close to a year. It’s been good. I am going to school, we have chores to do and in the summer there were some trips. They have helped me find my way around the community, and they’ve helped me to find a job.
I am going through the immigration process, which is a headache. But I can go and talk to the staff and they have good suggestions. The thing they do here is, in some sense, they try to help you branch out on your own. They just want you to do the best you can. So when they make a suggestion, you can take it or you can leave it. You can make your own mistakes and that’s a way to learn.
The people who are living at Beverley Lodge, in some ways, we all miss our parents. At this age you want your parents and you don’t want them at the same time. You want them to guide you in some way, but not always to be in your business. Everybody makes mistakes and everybody is trying to improve and do their best. That’s the way it works here with the staff. They want you to get a picture of a good idea but they don’t try to tell you what to do. They respect that everybody is an individual.
I am in Grade 11 and I want to go university and study Political Science. I love history and the historical aspect of things. You need to know where you come from to know where you are going. Also you want to help change your community, and education is the key.
I came here from the northern region of Ghana in West Africa. I was born in Ghana on the 13th of April, 1995. My mom passed away when I was eight, so I had to go and live with my dad. The situation in the northern region is not the best. Fighting, almost like a civil war, has been going on for a long time. While I was living there I was home schooled in a sense, because it was too dangerous to go out much, so my father paid a tutor to come into the house to teach me.
My father was killed in 2010 and I was taken in by a friend of his. My father is from the Mumprusi tribe and even though they had been friends for a long time, the man who took me in was from the Kusasi tribe. Most people knew what had happened to my dad and who I was. And it was a danger to this friend and his family to have me in their house. I lived with him for 2 months, then he helped me, and in a sense also helped himself, by hiring an immigration agent to take me to Canada.
Actually I had no clue where I was going. The friend and the agent discussed it, but I guess because I was only 16 they did not feel I needed to have any part in the decision. I didn’t know it at the time, but I actually came here on false papers. I don’t know why that was.
When we arrived in Toronto, we stayed for one night with friends of the agent, then the next day he gave me my identification papers – my birth certificate and so on – and put me in a taxi to Covenant House, a youth shelter in downtown Toronto. I didn’t see him again.
I stayed at Covenant House for two months and they helped me start school and start the immigration process. Then they sent me to Beverley Lodge. I have been able to go through the refugee process and I now have immigrant status in Canada and I will be able to apply for citizenship in three years.
When people hear about my story they usually say, “Wow, that’s amazing. How did you do it?” Well, at the time you have no other option but to go through it. When I first came here, I had trouble sleeping and I still don’t sleep very well. You wish you still had parents. I see kids on the street with their parents, and I don’t have any. You wouldn’t chose to do it and every day you’d like to change it, but you have no options.
The shelter was quite restricted, but at Beverley Lodge there are rules and you are expected to follow them, but they really want you to branch out on your own. But they also know every person is an individual. So if you have a particular interest you can follow that. You have freedom to express yourself. They’ll take your suggestions about food for example. I told them that I would really like to have some plantain, so they got some next time there was shopping.
I am very interested in soccer. I played on a team this summer. There’s a soccer academy that I would like to go to, and they told me that if I pay for half, Beverley Lodge would pay for the other half. That’s really good. I am hoping I can get a sport scholarship for University.
Sometimes I like to do stuff on my own. So here they let you do that and, in a sense, give you the skills you need. They teach you how to cook, and when I came here really I had no idea! Every week you learn new stuff that is really excellent toward getting your own place. I would say this is a very good place to come if you need to learn life skills.
Living with other people in one house is challenging. Everybody is a character. Even me, I am a character too. But we can learn from each other. Everybody has their own thing going on. You have to learn to respect him, to respect his privacy and his culture, or whatever makes him unique. You have to think that you wouldn’t want people to behave a certain way to you, so you don’t behave that way to them.
Life in Beverley Lodge has been an excellent journey for me and I would not change anything about it. I remember coming to the Lodge was really scary and thinking about all group homes as hostile places. Settling in has been very easy thanks to the staff and the student volunteers. Not being in Beverley Lodge would have meant being in shelters and I would never want to go back to that living environment. I would never change anything in my life that would change coming to Beverley Lodge.
Right now I’m in school and just got a part time job. Once I accomplish all my goals I hope to move to greater independence. As it is, I think I am doing well, and I look forward to having a good life.