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Born in Kenema, Sierra Leone |

Memories of her birth country are hazy for Mbalia. A civil war had erupted when she was just five and under very harsh conditions her father escaped to The Gambia and few months later the rest of the family joined him there. They always held on to the hope of being able to live in a safer place, and in 2002 her family was accepted into Canada as protected persons under a UN resettlement program. Mbalia explains how Toronto is where her family has found safety, comfort and stability as they rebuilt their lives.

“It is home because the city’s multicultural fabric allowed me to seamlessly fit into the culture while still retaining and appreciating my own history.”

Mbalia is a recent graduate of the honours Gerontology Program at McMaster University and now works with seniors in long term care homes and within the community as a recreation assistant. She explains how basically she tries to create a safe, active and independence-promoting environment for seniors (predominantly those living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia).

Toronto as Home

Mbalia likes to be physically active. She loves cycling and the freedom of movement that it allows. Taylor Creek Park is part of the Don Valley Trail Network and her connection to it goes back to high school when she used to run on the trails during cross country meets. Whenever she’s out cycling in this area it brings back memories of those times. This particular path is connected to a whole network of trails and, on her last outing; she rode all the way to Hamilton!  When she is not at work, or buried in a book, she is probably out exercising.

Connection with the Past 

Her grandfather, affectionately called Baba, recently passed away and this is one of the only pictures she has with him when she was a child. For this reason, this picture has been cherished by the family. Mbalia explains how her grandfather had always been her role model, and still remains close to her heart. Even though she can’t remember much about Sierra Leone, photographs such as this provide her with a vital physical connection to her past, and a deep feeling of belonging.

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