Pictured above: Aba Newton was recognized at the 2019 CAMH Service Awards for her 10 years of volunteer service.
By Patrick Callan
Newcomers face many challenges when they arrive in a new country—finding a job, a place to live, navigating the immigration system. It’s not easy.
But that didn’t stop Aba Newton. She started volunteering at CAMH shortly after arriving in Canada and persevered to become a successful entrepreneur. Now, she’s reaping the rewards of her generosity and hard work.
In 2005, Aba Newton came to Toronto by herself from Ghana to study interior design. Not long after, she ended up at CAMH in search of a security job.
As luck would have it, the first person she met at CAMH was Volunteer Coordinator Norma McDowall, who suggested Aba should try volunteering instead of working security.
“I came the following week, went through the orientation process and my relationship with Norma began,” explains Aba.
Over the next few years, Aba worked a number of odd jobs to pay the bills and fund her education. She was a housekeeper at a downtown Toronto hotel, did coat check at a high-end steak house and worked in several factories.
“Then I went back to school to do medical administration and even with that it was so difficult getting a job,” she says.
At one point, Aba even became a refugee because the immigration office lost her travel documents. “I decided there’s no way I’m going to stay in this country illegally, so I took the case to court,” she says.
Despite facing a number of obstacles in her early years as a newcomer in Toronto, a constant in Aba’s life was her relationship with Norma and her weekly volunteer shift at Suits Me Fine, a clothing boutique for CAMH patients.