Said Bangura was born in Sierra Leone. He was working at his job of Station Manager at Radio Romankneth when rebels (many of them children) stormed the station. He and other staff members hid the station’s transmitter and were able to resume operations when the rebels left. Bangura hid in the bush during this time, surviving on wild plants for 18 days. Unfortunately a year later, in 1998, the station was attacked again and this time it was demolished.
Bangura fled his country and in January 2001 he arrived in Toronto. He was alone and penniless, relying on donated clothes while he stayed in a men’s shelter. Determined to succeed, he learned new skills and two years later he was hired as the settlement co-ordinator at Matthew House where he helps refugees as they struggle to begin their new lives.
Mattfhew House opened in 1998 and to date has helped more than 1000 people from 84 nations get settled. They operate three homes in Toronto – their main centre houses about 12 refugees each night. They provide accommodation and meals and assist refugees with immigration procedures and orientation to Canada. They publish “Getting Started”, a guide to living in Toronto. It covers information on topics such as legal aid, medical assistance, educational advice, job search information and emergency telephone numbers. The guide also provides advice on everyday situations such as using public transportation, banking, health advice and other counseling.
Bangura, who became a Canadian citizen in 2007 now lives in a comfortable home and owns a car. He is a good example and mentor for others, many of whom he says, had no other options but to “flee for their lives for safety”. He hopes to help as many people as he can to avoid the experience and struggles he had when he arrived.