Born in Guatemala City, Guatemala |
After being affected personally by the conflict, Erick left Guatemala, undocumented, during the political turmoil of the 1980′s. While living in Mexico he heard about the ‘Sanctuary Movement’ and it assisted him in planning his journey out of Mexico. Erick entered the USA, spent two years there travelling to 42 states and sharing his firsthand personal experience of survival as a refugee. Following a long circuitous journey Erick arrived in Toronto as a political refugee after being denied refugee status by the Netherlands and the USA. Erick explains how Toronto has always had a special place in his heart.
“It is a city that epitomizes acceptance, tolerance and community. Toronto was the first place I ever felt safe and at home.”
As a refugee, Erick says he has committed himself to assisting those who are now trying to come to Canada. He understands and empathizes with the challenges and barriers newcomers need to overcome to settle here and this is why he works as a Settlement Counsellor for newcomers at JobStart.
“This work is a part of the healing process for me, and a way of paying forward all that Canada has given [him].”
Toronto as Home
Erick stands in Pearson International Airport.
“This is my passage to freedom and gateway to safety.”
Erick recalls his arrival in October 1986:
“My heart was pounding so fast and hard when I got out of the airplane. Perhaps it was the excitement of finally having a safe home, or the fear of the unknown…or both. Pearson has become a caprice (whim) of my heart and this is a place where I start and end many of my trips. I still feel the same excitement every time I return home.”
Connection with the Past
Erick holds this woven bag that he purchased on his first trip back to his birth country after 25 years of absence.
“When I hold this bag it immediately takes me back in time to my childhood. I had a bag just like that one when I was a child; it was a gift from my oldest sister. In it I took my books to school, lunch, love letters…memories and secrets. I jumped from my childhood to my adulthood, and this bag represents the closest material link to that part of my life. When I hold it I am happy…’kid happy’.”