Welcome to our special series celebrating Diversity and Inclusion in MercyCare’s employees, volunteers and service users. Our stories are accompanied by Steve Wise’s remarkable photographs, that show how these ordinary, yet extraordinary, people are individually effecting change for themselves and the people around them. We hope you enjoy their personal stories.
Ada Kanu – MercyCare Service User and Residential Aged Care Worker
Ada Kanu is a fighter.
Through countries, across continents and between families, she has shown strength despite circumstances, now positioning herself and her young son for a future where she can give back to others.
She does this not only with style and certainly a bit of sass, but with the respect and morality instilled in her, first in Sierra Leone and then Guinea.
“In my culture you can’t talk back to an adult. You have to respect someone that is older than you,” Ada said.
“Morality is like: you are the woman, have dignity and respect for yourself.
“You don’t just go drinking and smoking – that is not what is right. In Australia you have to do a little bit different, but at the end of the day I am still who I am.”
She is determined to pass those cultural values onto her five-year-old son.
“My son, he has to have respect. I always tell my son even if you see your friend screaming at the teacher you don’t have to follow them. You have to respect. As young as he is, he is doing that.”
Ada spent the first six years of her life in Sierra Leone. During the civil war she was separated from her parents and each presumed the other dead.
Ada ended up in neighbouring Guinea for the next seven years. Despite her tumultuous early childhood she found happiness with her adopted French family whom she adored. But that serenity didn’t last.
She was recognised and her father, who had survived the civil war and made his way to Australia, voided the adoption and brought her to Australia as a humanitarian refugee.
At just 13, Ada had to draw on her strength as she was taken from the home and family she had made in Guinea to live with her biological father and step mother in Wagga Wagga.
“Me and my parents, there was no understanding because we were separated for so long.”
Ada’s new home life was riddled with issues, and she sought refuge and strength at school.
“I loved school. That was my escape, my friends, my way of getting away from home.”
Home life escalated and she was taken by child services and put into care at 15 years old.
From Wagga Wagga, Ada spent time in Melbourne then Canberra before coming to Perth with her son. It was in Perth she would have to draw on her own deep reservoir of dignity and respect.
“In Perth I was in a domestic violence relationship. I got out, I went to a refuge and that’s how I got linked up to MercyCare.”
With all her belongings destroyed, including her identification, Ada was trapped.
“It was so stressful because I really wanted to work, I really wanted to study but you can’t do any of this because you need ID.”
After hitting one brick wall after another, MercyCare outreach worker Tania Hennah successfully reached out to secure identification.
Employing her fortitude and supported by MercyCare accommodation and employment at a MercyCare Residential Aged Care centre, she is now in the midst of securing her own private rental.
She’s also taking inspiration from those that gave her the leg up that enabled her to draw on her own strength.
“Next year I am planning to study mental health, social work because people have helped me to get where I am, like Tania.
“Everything is not perfect but when I look back where I was last year and where I am now, it is a huge, huge difference. I want to help people like me.”