Dacious' Story: “It easily could’ve been me”
“I was born in the middle of a civil war.”
“Liberia is the most beautiful country in the world,” Dacious says emphatically. “It was founded in 1822 and got independence in 1847 -- it’s one of the oldest nations in Africa.”
Bordered by the Atlantic ocean on its southern edge and just slightly north of the equator, sunny Liberia is indeed beautiful with its mangrove forests and its white sand beaches.
But there are two sides to every story.
Liberia is also one of the poorest countries in the world having endured back-to-back civil wars from 1989 - 1996 and again from 1999 - 2003.
For 21-year-old Dacious -- born in 1997 -- he was literally born in the middle of these civil wars that raged on and claimed thousands of lives in this tiny West African country.
“I saw bad things during the war -- things children should not see,” he says. “I remember one day being at the American Embassy with my grandmother. There was a family with small children standing about 10 feet away from me. A bomb exploded and they all died instantly. For some reason, we survived.”
As a young boy -- he also faced unique dangers at the hands of local rebel forces.
“The rebels kidnapped young boys to join their forces. They would go house to house looking for young boys. They came to my house one night and took my cousin. But I didn’t get taken because my mom hid me under the bed. I was only seven years old at the time.”
All the while, Dacious’ father was trying to bring him and his sisters to Canada.
“My father moved to Canada as a refugee before I was born. In the years following, he tried to get us to come join him but because of the war we couldn’t leave the country.”
Finally, when Dacious was 12, he got the news that he and his sisters were moving around the world to Surrey, Canada.
“We arrived on March 22, 2011 -- it’s a day I will never forget.”
The transition was difficult.
At just 13-years-old, Dacious had no friends, didn’t speak Canadian English (he spoke Creole - an English-based pidgin that is unintelligible to Canadian English speakers), and didn’t know where he was.
“If immigrant and refugee youth don’t get connected to the community quickly, they find themselves meeting bad friends and following people they shouldn’t,” he explains. “They become involved with gangs, get into trouble and end up walking down the total wrong life path.”
“It easily could’ve been me.”
But Dacious’ teachers kept a close eye on him and got him involved in soccer and wrestling. It was through wrestling that he met Joe Calendino - Yo Bro | Yo Girl Youth Initiative’s Founder - six years ago. Joe coached Dacious in martial arts, provided him with gift cards for groceries and food. Perhaps more importantly, Joe gave him a safe place to truly belong.
Today, Dacious is actively involved in the City of Surrey’s youth programs for refugees, sits on a Committee for Canadian Council for Refugees, and is a Yo Bro | Yo Girl Mentor.
“I volunteer as a Mentor because of the life I have had before I came to Canada -- it was full of challenges and traumas. I want to give back to the young ones coming up behind me. When they listen to my story and see me succeeding and making good choices, I want them to know that they can follow my lead. I want them to know that they can overcome.”
What are Yo Bro | Yo Girl Mentors?
Yo Bro | Yo Girl is built on the principle that equipping people with lived-experience to connect with at-risk youth is be the best way to effect change. Whether it’s an ex-Hells Angel or a teenager that was reached just as she started heading down the wrong track, we know that kids listen to those who truly understand what they’re going through.
Yo Bro | Yo Girl Mentors are senior members of our organization who have personally been impacted by our programs as participants. Today, these YBYG Alumni co-present workshops, lead after-school programs, and connect with at-risk youth to ensure that there’s always someone around who knows exactly how they feel.
Read more about Yo Bro | Yo Girl Mentors here.