Samantha’s childhood story plays like an episode from a dramatic TV series, but there is no fiction to this tale. When Samantha was 12, her mother was killed for standing up for the rights of indigenous people in the Philippines. Her parents were driving her sister to school when they were ambushed by three gunmen.
Her father and sister managed to flee the scene unharmed. Wanted by the government for being a human rights activist as well, Samantha’s father made the decision to move his remaining family to Canada and Victoria, BC in March 2007. Once they arrived, they claimed political refugee status because they feared for their lives back home.
Just 13 and entering Grade 8, Samantha was insecure about her language skills. She found it hard to fit in. She was looking for a group to call her own – a community of youth that could understand the challenges she faced as a newcomer and help her transition into her new hometown.
Samantha found such a place at the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society (VIRCS) and the Enable Program, funded by United Way. Her first introduction in Grade 10 was through the Youth Strides summer camp. Samantha was instantly hooked. Next, she joined a theatre project for newcomer youth to explore issues of transition. She also participated in life skills training workshops.
Now 19 and a biology student at the University of Victoria, Samantha hopes to become a doctor, like her father. She is also well on her way to becoming a Canadian citizen.