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Safe haven

Frank Worley By Jeff Green

The record-breaking snowfalls that ushered in the winter of 2001 weren’t the warmest welcome to this province, but Frank Worley and his family were quick to embrace St. John’s.

Canada’s east coast was a safe haven from the violence and conflict he experienced growing up in Freetown, Sierra Leone, in West Africa.

Now, in spite of those hardships and challenges, Mr. Worley is set to graduate from Memorial’s bachelor of commerce (co-op) program and chart a new course in life.

“It was a big shock moving here in 2000,” Mr. Worley, said with a wide smile recently. “Mainly because that winter we had a lot of snow. One of my first memories is that it was cold. Very cold. I had never seen snow before, only on TV. But we certainly felt a lot safer, though.”

Safer because he grew up in the midst of the Sierra Leone Civil War, which began in 1991; things were volatile, there was constant fighting and gunshots were becoming all too familiar.

Tens of thousands of people were killed during combat while more than two million were displaced, including Mr. Worley, his parents and his two sisters. The war was eventually declared over in 2002 not before he and family took up roots here in this province.

“Before we came here we lived in Gambia for a while. The war was still going on so we applied for this resettlement program and came to Canada. I didn’t know where Newfoundland was. I had to get used to all the snow and how fast people talked,” he said with a laugh. “But we managed. We moved to St. John’s in 2000 and I started university in 2003.”

Five years later, he’s ready to cross the convocation stage and proudly accept his degree.

“University has been great for me,” he noted, adding the Harlow Program, which he completed last winter, still stands out as one of his highlights. He has also completed several work terms both in this province and Florida. He hopes to start working towards his chartered accountant’s certification in the coming months, too.

“I’m grateful my family and I are safe,” Mr. Worley said. “Maybe one day I’ll return to Sierra Leone to visit but right now I’m just going to concentrate on getting a job.”