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A Heart of Gold

December 22, 2018

He came to Canada as a student to learn English. He stayed in Canada as an LGBTQ refugee to live a life free of discrimination.

Luis couldn’t speak a single word of English when he left Mexico City and arrived in Toronto as a student in 2016. It was terrifying for him to not be able to communicate his thoughts.

Struggling in his studies, he decided to take action and find a space where he could practise speaking the new language. An online search for newcomer services took him to The 519’s website.

“I had no idea what The 519 was until I arrived here. I realized right away that it was for me. It was me. ”

He didn’t have a clear plan for his future. But he had his instincts to guide him. He joined Among Friends, The 519’s program for LGBTQ refugee claimants, to find out about his options. He also started volunteering at The 519.

An accounting wizard, Luis knew he wanted more freedom and opportunities in life. But he didn’t want to risk never seeing his family again. He had to make a choice – to go back and live a life of invisibility, harassment and bullying or to stay and lose his loved ones.

He decided to come out to his family and express his fears of never being able to see them if he filed his refugee claim. It was a big day for Luis when his family gave him love and courage. He finally filed his claim.

Now Luis is focused on actively improving his English language skills as he waits for his hearing. He continues to volunteer at The 519 and participates in various programs, including Sew What? and yoga.

Now he has a plan – to be a social worker in Toronto and give back to the community that embraced him.

Luis sitting at the top of a table. He is using the shirt made at Sew-what that is cream colored, with a floral print on the inside of the neck area.