Myriam was the daughter of a wealthy and successful man growing up in a luxurious home in the suburbs. But her postcard-perfect childhood was a façade. Charismatic and charming to those outside the family, Myriam’s father was a tyrant who frequently beat her and her brother. When she was three, he beat her until she blacked out.
Myriam went to live with her grandmother when she was five for a short time. Perhaps her mother meant to protect her by sending her there, but her great-uncle molested her throughout the summer. Betrayed, beaten and robbed of her innocence, she was an anxious and despondent child who contemplated suicide.
At 19, Myriam knew that to find her own way, she had to run. She spent a long restless night at a bus stop waiting for the morning buses. In the few hours en route to downtown Toronto, she was terrified that she had made a terrible mistake. “The second I walked into Covenant House, I knew I made the right decision,” she recalls. “I thought, ‘This is the place that’s going to change me.’ I was tearing up—that’s how happy I was.”
Myriam arrived brimming with determination. Within a month, she enrolled in classes at our on-site school, landed a part-time job at a fast-food restaurant and immersed herself in the hard work of healing from her past with our psychiatrist and counsellors.
Myriam reveals poetic flare every time she speaks about the hope that she has gained from Covenant House. “Places are places, but home—now that’s hard to find. I was being abused living in a giant house. Now, I’m in a shelter, but I’m on top of the world. Home is a place where you belong. That’s why Covenant House is home and the people here are my family.”
As a child, Myriam had borne more pain than many of us know in a lifetime. But her wisdom and resilience is remarkable. She is rejoicing in her newfound self-confidence living amongst people who care for her. “At Covenant House, I have been told so many times that it wasn’t my fault—the things that happened to me. Sometimes I look back and I still feel like that child again. But I tell the child in my mind every day, ‘It’s not your fault, girl!’” she shares. “Me and my father, we are related but we took different paths. Are you going to hurt people because they hurt you or are you going to love other people because you know how it feels to be hurt?”
Myriam has found joy and solace in her studies and in exercising at the gym. She plans to finish high school, keep her job, save up for her own place and go to university.
“At Covenant House, I learned that I could do it. That I could make it through,” Myriam shares. “Here, they make me shake hands with my potential. They make me rise each day feeling thankful, blessed and motivated.”