10 Oct MEET FATU
In July 2014, Fatu arrived in Canada as a refugee from the Ivory Coast, where her first language was French. Alone except for her six-year-old daughter, who has special needs; and her 14-year-old niece, she moved to Midland. In Africa, she was a shopkeeper. When her first grocery store was destroyed in her country’s civil war, she opened a new store. This second shop was later destroyed as well and her hometown, the country’s capital city of Abidjan, became too dangerous to stay.
Upon arrival in Canada, Fatu was told she would need to go to school or to get a job. Needing to also care for her daughter, she was overwhelmed.
“I didn’t even know where to start,” she recalls.
In Midland, however, she soon learned there was help available.
Sponsored by St. Paul United Church, she found friends (“They’re still like family!”) and the time she needed to start over. Newcomer services at the local YMCA office referred her to Gateway Centre for Learning (a United Way-funded agency) where she used a computer for the very first time and attended the centre’s job-skills program. She accepted the challenge of her situation with enthusiasm.
“I wanted to see how much I could do,” says Fatu, who doesn’t like to be dependent upon others. “They helped me a whole lot.”
After three months, she was volunteering at the YMCA and sending out her new résumés. She soon got a job at a restaurant and continued to upgrade her skills to further her employment prospects. She also stated volunteering at the Midland Cultural Centre.
“My prayers have been answered,” she smiles. “A very big thank you to everyone who helped me – I’m very, very grateful.”
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