“I found a home away from home”
The 50 x 50 photo exhibition at George Brown College celebrated the college’s 50th anniversary and demonstrated how it has made an impact in the lives of many Canadian immigrants, capturing the diversity of both the college and the city over the past five decades.
It showcased how education has shaped the lives of newcomers to Canada with 50 leading and emerging photographers capturing the success stories of 50 George Brown College alumni who immigrated to Canada.
Neil Chaudhury, Graduate 2013, Social Service Worker, was one of them.
When Neil Chaudhury arrived in Canada, he knew only one person: a father of twins he had met many years ago in his native India.
Though he held a graduate degree in commerce from India, Chaudhury had always felt drawn to working with people, and while living in the United Kingdom, had volunteered at a nursing home for the elderly. When his Canadian contact offered him employment as a babysitter to the twin boys to provide some income while studying, he jumped at the opportunity. This work inspired him to pursue his passion and was the impetus for applying to George Brown College’s two-year Social Service Worker program.
What stands out about his George Brown experience was the incredible level of support and encouragement he received from college staff. He found that people went beyond what was expected, not just in terms of his education but in offering psychological support during a difficult period in his life. They took the time to get to know each student individually and develop an understanding of their deeper needs.
Chaudhury was the only international student in his program yet everyone was so accepting of him. “I’d found a home away from home,” he says.
For the first time in his life, he felt accepted as a member of the LGBT community. He had the freedom to be who he was in an environment that clearly appreciated diversity and inclusivity.
With his new-found sense of empowerment, he went on to two placements: one with the Rekai Centre nursing home and the other with Community Living Toronto, where he was offered a relief position in November 2013. Upon graduation, he was hired as relief staff at the Griffin Centre in September 2013; he became a full-time employee there in January 2014. These GTA organizations are among the most well-known care providers to those with developmental disabilities and mental illness.
Chaudhury’s enthusiasm for participating in the 50 x 50 project was largely because George Brown sparked the biggest change in his life and helped him define who he was. He recalls how various professionals within the college collaborated across several departments to assist him in his time of need and allow him to flourish. Even now, five years after graduating, the George Brown College professors have been readily available to provide professional references and guidance when needed. It is that compassion that he now brings to his own work helping others.
He was photographed by George Qua-Enoo. “I find deep meaning in capturing artistic photographs of people in ordinary and comfortable states of existence,” said Qua-Enoo. “Indranil expressed to me weeks earlier that he felt uncomfortable being photographed. We met over coffee to discuss the shoot and get to know each other a bit better. We both enjoyed creating this portrait.”
• If you’d like to share the story of your arrival in Canada, please write to email@example.com or call 416-695-4357.