Olu's Story: "A day that changed my life"

Olu describes walking through the door at New Circles as “life changing.”  She was, she says, overwhelmed “with joy; with happiness.” It had been a long road to the front door of New Circles.

Olu arrived in Canada from Nigeria, a refugee from domestic violence. She feared for her life, and for her son Olusegun, a toddler beset by cerebral palsy. His condition, she says, isolated her from the community around her.

There were no services to offer her help, and Olu fled to Canada, leaving her 19 month-old daughter Favour with her sister. She arrived in Toronto with Olusegun (now six years old) and pregnant with her son Joseph (now two, born in a shelter upon arrival). Her husband remained in Nigeria.

Finally, Olu was granted refugee status and set about beginning a new life. Was she homesick? She was not. The cold meant nothing to her, given that, finally, she and her little boy were safe. But she had very little. She had brought with them only a few pieces of clothing, insufficient for our climate.

But chance intervened. On an errand to buy clothing at Value Village, Olu struck up a conversation with a woman who knew of New Circles. New Circles, she told Olu, gave clothing to refugees for free.

On her first visit, Olu took home her allotted 20 items per family member – and this was a day that changed her life.  Her children were warm at last and able to dress in keeping with the new culture around them. The clothing helped them fit in – so crucial, especially for children.

The new clothes were, for Olu, transformative as well. Suddenly she found she was regaining her confidence.  Leaving her tattered clothing behind, she began to find the person that she used to be. “This is you?” she would ask herself.  “Still a woman?”

GLOW was the first step, but New Circles had more to offer. Olu signed up for the Retail Foundations program, learning the skills needed for entry-level employment. After graduating from the program, Olu attended a job fair and was hired by Lowes, for whom she now works as a cashier.

Olu has a message to all of those who fund New Circles and volunteer: you might not see first-hand the difference you make, but you are changing lives.  New Circles was Olu’s stepping stone to a new life. It remains, she says, her “backbone.” She now volunteers at New Circles, and says she always will.

And recently, Olu, Olusegun and Joseph were joined by Favour, now four years old – where Olu is confident they will all be safe.

Story by Barbara Nichol

Photo by Donna Griffith Photography

New Circles' GLOW clothing service is the largest clothing bank in Toronto. We help 12,000 people of all ages annually.