Written by Matthew Powell, an ambassador for the Foundation and former young person in care.
My name is Matthew and I am an undergraduate student at York University in psychology and history and aspire to become a Canadian historian. I am also an alumnus of the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, and my goal in contributing to this blog is to highlight what I believe to be an imperativeness for Canadians to invest in today’s socially and economically disadvantaged youth. I am convinced that providing an underprivileged youth with the psychosocial encouragement and financial means required to pursue post-secondary studies is a powerful remedy in curbing the self-perpetuating cycle of poverty, which is the lamentable life-long reality for many CAS alumni. As a Crown Ward of the CAS for 16 years and a victim of sexual abuse by a family member, I am confident that my story is a good example of how a life of social, economic, and emotional poverty can be transformed into a life empowered, enabling one to embark on the pursuit of happiness.
When I first went into care I thought it was because I had done something wrong, and that my admittance into care signified that I was somehow “different” from other five-year-old boys. This conviction that I was inferior (in that I did not belong to a “normal” family) sponsored the development of a stuttering problem, which epitomized my insecurity. And whatever cathartic gestures my new foster family offered me, I was not ready to receive them. Indeed, all I wanted was to return to my mother’s embrace. When this failed to materialize I concluded that the reason was that my family did not love me, henceforth resulting in a strong antipathy for all families content in their love for one another.
This delusional sentiment developed into a vendetta against society in general. In my teenage years I was initiated into a street gang in an inner-city neighbourhood. In the gang I thought that I was united with my fellow gang members in our hatred for social order, which resulted in a collective sense of kinship for one another. This destructive path would eventually culminate with my admittance to a reformatory as a young offender for committing armed robbery. Nonetheless, all was not yet lost; in my youth incarceration years I came to understand the wisdom of the Socratic maxim: “know thyself.”
The writings of certain philosophical and religious texts helped me understand my blind hatred toward society. Through a great deal of spiritual contemplation I discovered the emotional splinters afflicting my soul, which manifested as a deep conviction of insecurity, doubt, alienation, anxiety, and powerlessness. I further realized that the only viable remedy for my emotional plight was for me to confront my demons. So I donned the sash of introspection and took up the sword of individuation. And it was at this juncture that I came to the realization that I am unique, I am valuable, and I am powerful.
If prayerful introspection and finding an experiential meaning in life empowered me to arise out of the desert of emotional desolation, the Children’s Aid Foundation enabled me financially to drink from the healing water of education. My transformation, a combined result of prayerful self-examination and education, made it possible for me to reform my life and strive for good grades; but the Foundation’s generous support has enabled me to pay for my university studies, helping to make my academic dreams a reality. Thus, although my past may have been defined by hardship and loss, because of beneficent organizations like the Children’s Aid Foundation, my future will be marked by achievement and success.