FREDERICTON – Saa Andrew Gbongbor’s story of fleeing civil war in Sierra Leone has haunted him since he was 11 years old.
“I see where kids are sitting in the street and their mother left them because of gun sounds,” he remembered. “You don’t want to have no luggage with you, you don’t want to hold nobody. Boom, boom, you just leave the kids and keep running.”
After living in a refugee camp, Saa Andrew and his father fled to Fredericton ten years ago.
On Monday night he shared his dramatic story at a national storytelling seminar through Historica Canada, called Passages Canada .
Jill Paterson is leading the project.
“We’re collecting stories for our online story archive which is a digital collection of people telling their immigration stories and stories about Canadian identity and sharing artifacts of that story,” she said.
The first story telling seminar was held in Fredericton where newcomers brought mementos to help tell their stories.
Ronald Moreno and his wife Gina immigrated to N.B. from the Philippines 20 years ago. They’re hoping others who are considering the move to Canada will see their story online.
“You are helping the future immigrants that the province are really needing so that when they come here it will be easier for them to belong,” he said.
“We feel that the more we all know about each other and the struggles that we might have been through we can have a bit more empathy for what people might be going through,” Paterson said.
She hopes the project will allow Canadians and newcomers to connect as people.
Andrew Gbongbor still thinks of those kids left abandoned in the streets back in Sierra Leone. His mother wasn’t able to come to Canada, so he hasn’t seen her in more 10 years. It’s one of the many hardships he’s endured since making Canada his home.
“It’s tough, it’s challenging, all of these things. But on a positive note I am happy because it gives me a chance to share my story like this.”