Far from home

Marco_thumbMarco’s dad was never a father to him. His dad lived in Toronto, while Marco grew up in Ecuador, immersed in the love of a large, close knit family–his mother, grandmother and three siblings. But at 18, he reluctantly left them to join his father in Canada in pursuit of a better life.

Marco’s father, a Canadian citizen, sponsored his immigration. After a nerve-wracking first-ever, airplane trip, Marco and his father were reunited in Toronto with the chance to finally get to know one another as father and son. But when he discovered that Marco was gay, he gave him $60 and told him that the next time he saw him, he would kill him. He was rejected and left on his own in a strange country, a world away from the family that adored him.

Marco found manual work and landed an apartment, but when he was laid off, he lost his place shortly afterwards. A friend told him about Covenant House.

Marco spoke little English, so at first communication was challenging. But he was soon paired with one of our Spanish-speaking youth workers, Natacha. She helped him to learn English. He was also connected with ESL classes in the community.

A couple of months after he arrived, Marco’s beloved grandmother passed away. He was overcome with grief and homesickness for his family back in Ecuador. He could not stop his tears and spent a few long days crying. During that period, Natacha and other youth workers checked on him every hour to see how he was doing. They nurtured him through his mourning with care and compassion.

“Covenant House basically brought me back to life,” Marco shared. “Coming from another country, I never would have expected this much support.”

With a dishwashing job and the desire to make it on his own, Marco set out again and secured a new place to stay. His roommate told Marco that he hated gays and asked him whether he indeed was gay. Marco ignored him and kept to himself. A couple of days later, when he was sleeping soundly, his roommate made sure a blanket was tucked around him so he could not easily move, took a lighter and set his bedding and curtains on fire. His two other roommates witnessed everything, roused Marco from sleep and shock, and helped him escape from the blaze with no serious physical injuries.

After a trip to the hospital, Marco, was loaded into the back of a squad car and taken by a police station. “Because of police in my country, I was very scared.” At the station, a Spanish-speaking officer gently explained that they only wanted information about the crime committed against him and that they would help Marco in any way they could. The two men spoke for over an hour. Marco was relieved and touched by the kindness of the officer.

Marco returned to the safety of Covenant House. Our youth worker Fred later joined Marco through his emotionally draining court proceedings to testify against the other youth. He was found guilty.

This time, Marco was determined to gain all he could from our programs to build a future. He stayed at our longer-term residence, Rights of Passage, and got accepted into our culinary arts training program, Cooking for Life. He excelled in the program and was inspired to pursue the Culinary Management Diploma at Humber College.

Today, Marco is settled into his own apartment that our housing workers helped him find and he will graduate from college in a couple of weeks.

“Thank God I found Covenant House. They gave me a roof, three meals a day, doctors, but also people who will help you,” says Marco. He speaks fondly of numerous staff who have been mentors to him. “Covenant House is my family. One day, I will give back by either working here or donating when I have money.”

At a recent Covenant House event, Marco volunteered to share his story as a former resident. One of our supporters in attendance who owns some restaurants downtown, was so impressed by him that he immediately offered him a full-time job as a line cook.

Marco is also looking forward to the Pan Am Games this summer, because he was selected to be a volunteer at the athletes’ village to interpret for Spanish-speaking athletes.

Marco aims to sponsor his mother and his two younger siblings to join him in Canada. They are in touch every day online, but it has been some time now since they’ve been together. “I told my mother, you’ve worked too hard your whole life. When you come to Canada, it’s your time to relax and I will take care of you now.”

10 thoughts on “Far from home

  1. I am so very grateful to be able to help Covenant House even in a small way. Thank you for all that you do for the marginalized in our society and thank you for sharing their stories. What a blessing!

  2. i read the story ” a moving day” and “findering how own way”. To be honest at first i wanted to cry, when i realized so many young people like the ones in the story above, hard to go through such struggles at such a young age.
    Family no matter what should be there for their children. I have grandchildren, and it would never enter my mind not to be there for them. They are our responsibility , These young people have had a rough start , nothing handed to them on a silver platter, and yet they have made it . I feel they should be so proud of themselves. To be handed things and do well is one thing, but to get it yourself because of a lack of support is FANTASTIC! I respect and admire these young people. Their stories will help other people drowning in the weights they carry themselves. To see someone else accomplish something , who has similiar starts to them, gives them hope. Great job Covenant House , and great job to these young people for STICKING at their goals. !!!!

  3. To the kids of Covenant House,
    Your life-changing stories are inspiring and attesting to the commitment of Covenant House to the homeless youth who are in need of help and caring.
    To Covenant House,
    Just to let you know my unfading support for your remarkable charity to the homeless youth.

  4. I donate each month to Covenant House and am pleased to read this story of a young man who was helped.
    I am an eldelry lady and do not have much money to help but try my best
    Thank you for your kindness to the less fortunate. .

  5. I was so moved by the story – God Bless all at Covenant House – you are doing God’s will and are angels to these lost kids.

  6. Covenant House Toronto

    Thank you so much for all your kind words. We are so very proud of Marco, and grateful to our supporters who make it possible to be here for kids like him.

  7. Thank you so very much Covenant House for the excellent work you do. It is good to know that some of those that need help are receiving it and having better lives. I really liked Sr. Mary Rose’s book and am passing it on to a friend.

  8. I feel so blessed to hear these storries of God’s love being shown to people.I do not have much money,but I will always be praying for Covenent House,all it’s staff,and all the people that are helped through your programs.Thank you so much for all the work you do in God and Jesus’ name.

  9. covenant house««i’ve been supporting you’s since at least 30 some years,my husband died 34 years ago this january & i don’t remember if i was supportting when he was alive but i know that at first i was sending twice a year but i got tired of that so now i have them take it of the bank automatically i ‘m going on 86 in April 2016,so you forget, till i’m alive i’ll be supporting you’s, your making a good job & the kids love you so much to call your place their home & they keep in touch after.i’m glad to know what my money is used for,i’m only on a pension but being a christian we have to share with others less fortunate.HAPPY NEW YEAR 2016«««GOD BLESS ALL YOUR STAFF«««AMEN««

  10. Thank you, Covenant House, for the wonderful work you do to help our LGBT youth. Sadly, Marco’s story is repeated so often. Christ reminds us that as we do to the least of these, so we do to him. Covenant House are the hands of Christ bringing love, comfort, and safety to those who need it most. Blessings!

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