Against all Odds

When Mulugeta first arrived in Toronto, he found employment in a factory for three years. “During this time, I was also going to school full time and finished my degree while working.” The factory owner created a night shift specifically for Mulugeta, so he could work and go to school full time. Although Mulugeta was grateful for his job, working in the factory was unfamiliar. In Ethiopia he “had never lifted as much as a hammer,” and now he was washing oil and aluminum from his hair.

One morning coming back from a night shift at the factory, Mulugeta came home to discover his apartment near High Park had been destroyed by a fire. Without enough money for first and last month’s rent for a new apartment, he bought a sleeping bag and slept in High Park for three weeks.

“I wasn’t getting enough sleep. I was sleeping in the park, and also, I was missing work.” Eventually he was pulled into his employer’s office, “I thought he was going to fire me,” Mulugeta recalls. When asked why he wasn’t going to work, Mulugeta described his living situation and how he could not afford first and last month’s rent for a new apartment. His boss was so touched by this news that he rented Mulugeta an apartment which he paid for only when he could. “When I have money, I would pay him, but when I would not have money, I wouldn’t pay him.”

Mulugeta and his family at home in Toronto. Courtesy of Mulugeta Abai.