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Gloria: Among New Friends

December 7, 2022

Gloria sitting on a bench painted in pride flag colours

Gloria is a familiar and friendly face at The 519. Be it volunteering in a program or at Green Space Festival, her vibrant spirit and willingness to give back to community always shine through.

That’s something we also noticed when we spoke to Gloria back in 2019. She had just come to Canada from Nigeria, fleeing persecution for being a queer woman. And though starting afresh as a refugee claimant wasn’t easy, she was determined to find her footing while preparing for her hearing with the Immigration and Refugee Board.

Gloria at Volunteer appreciation night 2022

A hearing at the Immigration and Refugee Board can be a stressful, traumatic event. Through The 519’s Mock Hearing Program, we work with claimants to prepare for the process by attending a mock hearing, supported by law students and a lawyer. For Gloria, and for so many others, this support was essential to feeling ready for their hearing.

In June 2021, Gloria had a successful hearing. She will never forget when the judge told her that she had a positive hearing and that she could continue living in Canada as a convention refugee.

“I didn’t sleep that night. I was filled with joy. The 519’s Mock Hearing Program truly helped me prepare for my hearing. That was the beginning of my turnaround here in Canada. It was the end of all the stress and struggle.”

Now able to live life freely and on her terms, Gloria has so many hopes and dreams to chase. She went back to Humber College to upgrade her educational credentials. She took a course in healthcare from a private college and is now employed externally at St. Michael’s Hospital as a clinical assistant. Come January, Gloria will be returning to school to study nursing. She is also on her way to applying for permanent residency.

Gloria seated on a park bench coloured in pride flag coloured.

Looking back on the past two years, Gloria tells us that the pandemic was very hard on her. As is the case with many, she lost access to community in a space that affirmed and made her feel safe and welcome. She longed for when she would be able to return to The 519 in person and be among friends, among community. She missed volunteering her time at various programs and events and giving back.

With the return of Green Space Festival in 2022, Gloria was offered the position of Lead Volunteer. She immediately said yes. Ably managing a team of volunteers, she welcomed our communities back into our space. In recognition of her leadership as Team Lead, she received an award at the 2022 Volunteer Appreciation Night.

“Volunteering is not just a great way to stay connected, but to also learn, grow, and give back. When you give to community, you get back. By volunteering, I give my community the chance to get to know me. And when I need support, my community is always there to help me.”

Life has come full circle for Gloria, and like her, we’d love for that to happen for all the LGBTQ+ refugees and newcomers that walk through our doors. Gloria affirms that it is important to support LGBTQ+ newcomers and refugees, now more than ever.

“Personally for me, the life I loved and enjoyed changed overnight. I had to start all over again. I was broken and depressed. The 519 gave me community and ways to cope. Programs supporting LGBTQ+ newcomers and refugees are important. I will advocate for it over and over again.

A huge milestone now behind her, Gloria is looking forward to becoming a permanent resident, going back to school to study nursing, meeting her mum, and hopefully finding someone to share her life with.

Gloria, you are loved and seen. Shine bright like a diamond!

For over 46 years, The 519 has been that space, where our communities have gathered, celebrated, grieved, led, organized, and just been!

Help us continue growing together, creating invaluable 2SLGBTQ+ full-circle moments. Support The 519.