For much of his life, Michael Matthews had little to smile about.
He suffered physical, sexual and emotional abuse in the Alberta foster system from ages of three to 18.
Watch part 1 of Fostering Change below: Nancy Hixt reports on one man’s story of abuse in the Alberta foster care system
In one foster home, Matthews said he was beaten and subjected to various forms of torture. In another, he was sexually abused by his foster father — who was later convicted of abusing four teenage boys.
“They always come into my mind, on and off. It’s mostly hatred. I can’t help it,” Matthews said. “I wish I could be forgiving but there’s just something I can’t forgive, at least not yet.”
Watch part 2 of Fostering Change below: Recognizing the signs of child abuse
Matthews said one of the biggest physical reminders of his disturbing childhood is what has happened to his teeth. Many have rotted and fallen out. His mouth has been filled with infection for years.
Every time Matthews looks in the mirror and sees his teeth, he’s taken back to the abuse.
Watch part 3 of Fostering Change below: Shifting the focus from ‘What’s wrong with you?’ to ‘What happened to you?’
So when a local dentist saw his story on Global News and offered to restore health to his mouth and fix his teeth — free of charge — Matthews was elated.
“I know there’s a big strong mental and emotional connection for Michael between his mouth and his past, so it was nice to be able to change that and put those teeth in the past,” Dr. Thayne Blunston said.
Watch part 4 of Fostering Change below: Generous act of kindness gives victim of abuse a new reason to smile
But nothing could prepare Matthews for the final reveal.
He got tears in his eyes as he held up a mirror and saw his new teeth for the first time.
“I just can’t help but smile,” he said.
Matthews said it feels like a whole new beginning, one that’s long overdue.
Click here for Fostering Change Part 1
Click here for Part 2
Click here for Part 3
Click here for Part 4