Sometimes the hardest roads lead to renewed purpose — a statement that sums up the attitude of Shaikh Hussain, a witty and self-aware former youth in care who came to Surrey from Mumbai, India when he was nine years old.
Initially, Shaikh didn’t want to come to Canada. Separated from his birth family in India, he was still hopeful to be reunited when a Canadian woman reached out and adopted Shaikh from across the Pacific Ocean, seemingly welcoming him into her heart and home.
“I still wake up with my birth mother’s image in my memory. Every day she is with me,” Shaikh says.
But the warmth and love he immediately felt from his adoptive mother overshadowed any fears he had.
“In India, people are so welcoming. Everyone helps one another. I was looking for that when I met my adoptive mother. I felt so safe and welcomed that I thought, finally! Through private adoption, I had found a mom.”
According to Shaikh, problems arose when his adoptive mother wanted to change his name. At 12, Shaikh refused, feeling that if he let go of his birth name, his connection to his mother and sister in India would be lost forever.
“I didn’t want to upset my adoptive mother, but I also wasn’t ready to let go of my identity,” he says.
Shaikh isn’t sure if his refusal influenced his adoptive mother’s next decision but, shortly after this, she placed him in foster care where he remained until his 19th birthday.
“It was the loneliest I had ever felt,” Shaikh recalls. “While my foster parents were kind to me and made me feel accepted, I didn’t have siblings to hang out with. I found friends that weren’t good influences and I made mistakes which I learned from — eventually. A loving and supportive family is all I have ever wanted, and that’s why I am working towards a career that will be able to support a family of my own one day.”
Shaikh recently celebrated his 22nd birthday and is eager to make his mark on the world. His love of communication and connecting with people is steering him toward becoming a real estate agent in Vancouver, one of the fastest growing markets worldwide. But it is his love for entertaining people that drives him in his biggest passion: acting. With a couple of gigs on the Vancouver-filmed television series Prison Break, Shaikh is already achieving success in the acting world.
Shaikh gushes about the support of the provincially-funded Strive program, a 12-week program for Vancouver youth who are transitioning or have transitioned out of foster care into adulthood.
“I wish I could be a part of that program forever,” Shaikh says. “Everyone needs support in life and friends to talk about how you’re feeling. Strive provided that for me and I am incredibly grateful.”
Shaikh has some wise words for youth currently in care, like he was just a few years ago: “Just focus on your goals, don’t worry about your loneliness. Surround yourself with people who are good for you, who you can open up to. And most of all, believe in your heart that you are loved.”
This week (June 6-12, 2016) is Child and Youth in Care Week across B.C., an opportunity to celebrate the resiliency and contributions of current and former children and youth in government care.
To find out how you can change a child’s or youth’s life by becoming a foster parent, please visit: http://ow.ly/x1VX300RFQZ
For more information about the Strive Program, please visit: http://ow.ly/CYMg300U1ex