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Fleeing persecution and finding hope

A selfie of Gabor in his apartment.

Gabor spent two months sleeping on park benches when he first arrived in Canada. A United Way agency helped him and his family find housing and a sense of normalcy

“I moved to Canada with my family from Hungary in 2018. I was 23 at the time. The reason we had to leave is because of the persecution my family experienced as a result of our Roma ethnicity. I left with my partner, my daughter and my mother for Canada in pursuit of a better life.

Things weren’t easy here either.

Not having a place of our own, we ended up staying in a shelter. But our stay was brief. Soon after arriving, we discovered that the place had bed bugs. A friend of mine agreed to let us stay with him for a while. But because his apartment wasn’t big enough to accommodate all of us, my mother and I took turns sleeping on a park bench nearby. It was absolutely horrific for us. I felt a sense of hopelessness as we were struggling to find a stable place to live for two months. Every day was a new challenge.

I was finally able to get in touch with a United Way-funded agency that had a Hungarian-speaking support worker. I don’t know where we would be without their help. Not only do I not speak English, I also don’t know how to navigate the system. Thanks to my support worker, my family and I were able to find stable housing. I even found work as a painter. My five-year-old daughter felt settled in after switching schools four times. Finally, we found a sense of normalcy.

But COVID-19 has brought back uncertainty in our lives. I’m not working as much right now because of social distancing and I don’t know when my work will pick up again. But our expenses haven’t stopped. I’m worried that I’ll lose my job again and have to worry about food. We are trying our best. Anytime I’m not sure about something or need information on different support the government is offering right now, I reach out to my agency to get a better understanding.

I hope everything will work out. I hope I’m able to continue working so I can support my family. I’d like to learn English so I can be part of Canada.

I would tell someone in a similar situation to be strong and to be persistent. Every opportunity that is offered in this situation goes a long way. The kind of support we got during a very difficult time made me feel like there’s hope and that there’s a way.”

United Way program participant

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