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Born in Bujumbura, Burundi |

Graciella came here alone, two and half years ago, as a refugee – leaving her family behind. Burundi was, and still is, suffering from a civil war, one with both ethnicity and religion as focal points. Graciella appreciates that as a woman in Canada she can pursue a career in international relations, a pursuit she will begin this September at York University. After achieving her university degree, she aims to work with the government of Canada, and in the future maybe even the United Nations. The fact that her culture and religion are respected here in Toronto is also very important to her.

Toronto as Home

Graciella sings at her church choir and also plays the guitar. She started singing at the age of fifteen in Burundi, as a member of a group called Heavenly Melodies. When she migrated to Canada and was waiting for her papers, she decided to learn guitar, as it was her dream to play at church and be a youth pastor. Her favourite inspiring artists are mostly Christian groups such as Hillsong United and Planet Shakers. Worship Jesus is her daily way of life – and doing it through song writing is her way. Being in her backyard here in Toronto is the perfect place for Graciella to practice.

Connection with the Past

Graciella describes this wooden item as a representation of Burundian culture – symbolic of love and generosity. You can see here a man carrying a basket full of food that could be for a wedding, or the birth of a child – connecting to what Graciella calls “the culture of honour and servanthood.” Her brother gave this to her as a reminder to never forget where she comes from. She says it makes her think of her mother, who passed away in 2005. Her generosity, love for others and contagious joy of living shaped Graciella into the woman she is today.

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