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Toronto social worker worried about immigrant youth

8 October 2007 at 06:48 | 3120 views

By Abdulai Bayraytay,Toronto.

With the spiralling wave of youth-related gun violence in Toronto, a community activist, Ghanaian born Kojo Akosey Bransah has called on the authorities to involve parents and families in a collaborative effort to combat the scary prevalence of crime especially among immigrant youth in the Greater Toronto Area.

Bransah(photo) made these comments in an exclusive telephone interview from his Ajax home in the outskirts of Toronto following concerns raised by Toronto residents over the gunning down of fifteen-year-old Manners, a student at the C. W. Jeffrey Collegiate school in the Jane and Finch area of Toronto, and the spate of stabbings and deaths of youngsters whom he described as the "future leaders of tomorrow".

When asked whether this sudden concern was a prelude to entering active politics as the Ontario provincial elections get closer, Bransah, always unassuming, dismissed the suggestion, noting that as a proud father of two, his concern has always been to seek and protect the interests of children and youth whom he described as being just too vulnerable.

“Whenever a child is killed, I usually think of my own children hence the need for all and sundry to get involved in order to curb the menace of gun violence”, he said.

Bransah further observed that the rationale to involve parents, the communities and families is borne out of the fact that young people, especially new immigrants who are contending with culture shock in Canada, are under immense peer pressure to join school gangs which are normally involved in violent activities.

This, he said, is where parents and families can complement school social workers to teach this group of vulnerable young people that being called a “chicken” (a loose name referred to cowards) does not in any way mean one’s self esteem is on the line. Bransah said this deficit could be reversed through a conscientious balance of communication between school administrations, families and law enforcement personnel.

Bransah’s concern over youth violence is nothing new. Having lived in Canada for over seventeen years, he has always provided immense support to at-risk youth and young people having problems with the law not only in his Ghanaian community where he served as treasurer for the Gomoaman Association of Canada from 2005-2006, but to all youth across the wider spectrum of Canadian society.

This could be traced back to the early 1990s when Bransah served with distinction his community as a counselor with the Canadian-African Newcomers Association of Toronto. He did not stop there. With his avowed concern about systemic discrimination disabled people suffer especially in higher institutions of learning, Bransah became a board member of the Accessibility department at the University of Toronto, and also worked as a mentor to young people at Cedar Heights in Markham, Ontario.

Reflecting on his achievements so far as an icon in the community, Bransah quickly pointed out that it has not been smooth sailing all along.

He said upon his arrival in Canada, he became a taxi driver in spite of his academic credentials from his native home of Ghana. But that did not deter him from striving to accomplish his professional dream of becoming a social worker. That dream started manifesting itself in 2003 when Bransah graduated with a honors with a double major and minor in public policy, sociology and health studies from the University of Toronto.

Recognizing his limitations in helping children and their families in a more therapeutic way, Bransah enrolled at York University in Toronto from where he graduated in 2006 with an honors Bachelors degree in social work. He later gratified his academic appetite for social work by graduating with a Masters degree in social work from the University of Toronto.

When asked how he was able to juggle his community activism, parenting and the pursuit of academia along side driving his Beck taxi, Bransah said he got his strength from God and owed it to his family, especially his children, who showed immense understanding.

He was however quick to reckon that it was very challenging for him to leave his home and family early and return late and still be greeted with the joy of being loved by his children.

“Sometimes it was just too emotional when the children would get of their beds and welcome you with “daddy, we still love you so much”, he emotionally recalled in a cracked voice.

His final message to youth and new immigrants is that, despite the barriers on the road to success, one should persevere and persist as there would always be light at the end of the tunnel.

“That is why my doors will always be open to offer advice where I could and also encourage other professionals to come onboard to guide the youth, the future generation”, he concluded.