Interviewed Kristi Pinderi, IAR member. This article is a part of the series Surrey LIP Turns Five in 2019.
Up to 2003 Dacious Richardson, now a 21-years old student of Douglas College was a happy child living in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, in western Africa.
He remembers the city during that time very clearly. “We used to play under the rain…” he says, “it was one of the best experience I had, while growing up”.
He would play soccer and other games that were improvised to be played especially during the rainy days. “At night time”, he recalls, “we would gather to tell stories under a very bright moon”.
Dacious was an active young boy. He would try to teach other young children with their school lessons. Also, he served as an acolyte (altar boy) in the Trinity United Methodist Church. His grandmother seems to have had a great impact in his life. “She taught me how to be respectful, to care for people, to be honest with myself and others and treat everyone exactly like I would like them to treat me.”
But when the rebels of a group called The Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) besieged Monrovia, a city with over 1 million of inhabitants, in a continues fight with the forces of former President Charles Taylor, a brutal chapter had entered directly to Dacious’s life: the civil war.
Defining a civil war
“You struggle in war”, he tries to describe it, “you are worried, you live in fear, you can starve, you constantly experience violence, you see the death, your childhood is taken away, and both anxiety and trauma kick in. You don’t want to think about it. Civil war is a war that is fought within a country, where the “enemies” do not come from outside but are among its own people”.
And, as in every war, atrocities are endless and shocking. “I remember once, early in the morning, I saw my first (dead) body,” he has stated earlier this year for a local media in British Columbia. “My body began to tremble and I began to cry. Then this rebel came over to me. He said ‘Why are you crying? Haven’t you seen this before? Well, now you’re going to see a lot more.’ And he took some little guy and shot him in the head, right in front of me. I was like ‘No.’”
He thinks he will remember that time “during all life on earth”.
Landing in Canada
On March 22nd of 2011 on a sunny but cold day, together with his two older sisters, Dacious landed in Canada as war refugees. His mother, few siblings and other family members were left in Liberia, where the second Civil war has ended but the country that used to be in 19th century an African settlement for black African American slaves needs still more time to reconcile with his past and rebuild itself.
Arriving in Canada was certainly a new phase and a great beginning. But as everything new, it had its own challenges. First they were held at the airport for a certain period of time, during which they received food that he did not like, because the food, as everything else, was new to him. “It was also, for the very first time in my life that I met my father who left the country while I was just one year old”, he adds.
That year Dacious started high school in grade 8 at Guildford Park secondary. Being a shy young boy with difficulties expressing in English he relied on his athleticism, which made it easy to make new friends and helped with his communication skills. “I played on the soccer team”, he says, “in the wrestling team and the track and field team”.
Sport to forget and sport to fight the trauma
But one challenge he kept facing was the trauma and its long lasting effects. “It was something I experienced during the civil war as a kid. Things people see or experience do not go away easy so it was very difficult for me”, he explains.
To overcome it, Dacious believe that God has his own share (and he doesn’t forget to thank him) but the best way to forget the past has been to engage himself with sport activities, like wrestling that he started to love when he came in Canada and soccer that he used to love since the time in Liberia. “As I play sports or pray and sing to God, my problems are gone and I don’t think of anything else but the beautiful moment I often found myself in”, he rejoice.
He is currently attending Douglas College persuading a degree in Sports Science and Coaching, while he is a co-leader for the Surrey Refugee Youth Team and a mentor and coach for the YO Bro YO Girl Youth Initiative.
Since 2018 he is a member of Surrey Immigration Advisory Roundtable, where he advocates, among other things, helping newcomers by offering them the opportunity to participate in sport activities. Recently, he has introduced in front of a large audience at the Surrey City Hall a project to organize a soccer tournament.
Liberia is still in his thoughts though! “I would love to visit it because my mother, siblings and family members are still there and it would be a great reunion connecting with them after this many years of being far away”, he says.