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Meet Sim

Because you cared, Sim is happy again.

My name is Akearok. It means stomach in Inuktitut. My friends call me Sim. When I was 6 years old, I was sent to a residential school. I was stripped of my identity. I was given an English name, Simeonie, and a number. Mine was E51655. But I’m more than just a number.

I am a residential school survivor. I am a father and a grandfather. I’m a teacher and an Elder. And for nearly 20 years, I was homeless.

I thought I would die on the streets. If Shepherds of Good Hope can help me, they can help anyone.

My life hasn’t been easy. I went to a residential school until I was 18 years old. Can you imagine someone changing your name when you’re 6 years old? Telling you that you are just a number. Taking you away from your family. Telling you that you can’t speak your native language, Inuktitut. At the residential school, if you were caught speaking Inuktitut, you would be beaten. That was my life for 12 years. It was a horrible experience. The trauma I endured has haunted me for many years. It’s one of the reasons I ended up on the streets and at Shepherds of Good Hope.

Because you cared, I now have a space of my own. I have my family back together. I’m happy again. I didn’t realize I could be this happy.

Will YOU consider becoming a monthly donor and help someone suffering find their happiness again, like you helped me?

Your support meant Shepherds of Good Hope was there for me in my time of need. You helped me in my journey to find a new beginning, and to find happiness again.

I grew up in Igloolik, a small community in Nunavut. My family and culture has been my strength over the years.

My mother taught me to always smile, to speak kindly about others, and always help people when you can.

Each day, I try to live by my mother’s teachings and work hard like my father. As a kid, I liked to play basketball. I liked to hunt and live off the land with my family. I was motivated to do well in school and go to post-secondary school.

When I was 19 years old, I heard about opportunities and universities available in Ottawa, so I decided to move south. When I arrived in Ottawa, I enrolled in the adult high school to complete my high school diploma. I then went on to Carleton University, where I studied English, law and politics for three years. During this time, I met my now ex-wife, and we had five boys in six years. I worked as a custodian to support my family while also going to school.

In the mid-1990s, I got involved in negotiations with two national Inuit organizations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada in their fight for an acknowledgement from the Federal Government and churches about the residential school system.

Being a part of the negotiations was such an important experience to me. I felt I had a purpose. Unfortunately, doing this important work also meant re-living trauma that I hadn’t healed from. To cope, I started drinking more and more to numb the pain.

My marriage fell apart. My wife left me and took our kids with her. With no other family in Ottawa, I found myself homeless.

That’s how I came to Shepherds of Good Hope. I was left with no wife, no family, and no home. Everything came crumbling down around me.

I started doing drugs and drinking heavily every day. I was in and out of jail. Sleeping in the shelters was rough, but I always kept myself busy. I would wake up at 7am and walk across the city – from Kanata to Orleans – collecting empty beer bottles and cans to support myself. I was a lot like my father, a hard worker who couldn’t sit still. I always had to be working or doing something. It helped to take my mind off the trauma I experienced.

I thought I would be on the streets forever. It wasn’t until a few years later that I found a place to call home.

Ray, a staff member at Shepherds of Good Hope, got to know me over the years. He knew about my history of trauma and knew I could find my happiness again. One day in 2012, he asked if I had a minute to chat. We went into his office and he told me about the program at The Oaks.

It was a place where I would have my own room, my own bed, and three meals a day. There would be an hourly pour – a medically-prescribed dose of alcohol so I wouldn’t go through withdrawals. I thought it sounded amazing. That’s how I ended up living at The Oaks and I’ve been here ever since.

I love it here. I have a family here. I have been able to reconnect with my culture, my family and find my smile again.

Today, I smile most when I’m teaching as an Elder or helping someone learn Inuktitut, the language I nearly lost while in residential school.

Thank you for being there for me when I needed you. Today, I’m comfortable and happy, but there are many other people at the shelter, right now, who deserve a chance to find their happiness again.

Please donate today and help someone struggling find happiness and hope again. We all deserve another chance.

It’s because you cared. It’s because of The Oaks and Shepherds of Good Hope that I have been able to access counselling services, mental health nurses, and manage my alcohol. Because of your support I have a community and a renewed sense of belonging.

Now that I have a permanent residence, my children can come visit me. My sons come once a month and my youngest brings my grandchild. I get to be a grandfather or ataatatsiaq, as I am called in Inuktitut.

None of this would have been possible if it wasn’t for you. I’m so grateful for your compassion, thank you for caring about me. Thank you for caring about others who have gone through trauma or who struggle with their mental health and addictions.

Please, donate today to support someone in need. Because you cared, your support helped to change my life. Now, someone else needs you.

Because you care, someone staying in our shelter can find their happiness again.

A little bit of hope, compassion, and strength goes a long way. Thank you for helping me find my happiness again.

In kindness,

Akearok (Sim)

Homes for all. Community for all. Hope for all.