Do you know what your donation looks like?

It looks like me.

I grew up in an angry home. My parents fought a lot, and when I was 10 years old they divorced. It was the saddest day of my life. My heart broke.

My parents decided I would live with my dad. I don’t know why. Things became really unsettled at home and I didn’t see my mom very often anymore. Then one day, my father came home and told us kids that we were moving to Canada.

My first few weeks in London were tough. Learning a new language was difficult, and making new friends at the same time was even harder. I never felt so alone. We didn’t celebrate birthdays very often, or even Christmas because my dad didn’t care about those types of things. I needed my mom through this time and I really missed our special talks.

I grew up thinking, if it wasn’t for my dad, I wouldn’t have to live like this. If it wasn’t for him, I would have friends and birthday parties and Christmas dinners. If it wasn’t for my dad I would still have my mom. I wish I’d had someone I could talk to about it.

My dad wasn’t exactly father of the year.

My brother and sister had their own problems. My father was really rough with them. When they were old enough, they wanted to move out. I started to cry so they said they would wait for me to graduate high school before they left. They didn’t want to leave me alone with him.

When I was in grade 11 things got worse. I came home one afternoon and my brother and sister told me they were leaving — in one week.

I cried myself to sleep that night. I wish I’d had a place to go.

As time went on I began to make friends. Things got easier. I loved to play sports and was invited to join the baseball team at school. I really wanted to, but I knew I wouldn’t have a way home after school if I missed the bus. My dad didn’t like “the hassle” of picking me up.

The next day I made a decision that would change my life.

I only had one more year of school and knew I had to get my diploma. I could move out with my brother and sister but that would mean another new school and making friends all over again. I asked a friend if their parents would rent me a room the rest of the year. They agreed and I paid $120 a month.

I went to school during the day, worked in the evening and slept when I could. I made just enough to pay my rent and fill my dad’s fridge. He wasn’t working and needed to eat. I barely had enough left over for clothing, bus fare or school supplies. I wish I’d had some financial support.

It was difficult, but I finished that year and graduated high school. I was so happy, and proud too!

I went on to university and now I have a great job and a family. I haven’t heard from or seen my dad in over five years. I don’t know what happened to him. I wish I did.

Looking back, I wish I’d known there were people out there who wanted to help me. I wish I’d known about LUSO Community Services, a place I could have gone to meet other children in a similar situation. I could have practiced my English with them too.

I wish I’d known about Changing Ways. Maybe my dad could have gotten help. They teach fathers how to deal with their anger in constructive ways and not take it out on their kids.

I wish I’d known about Youth Opportunities Unlimited. I could have fled there when my dad got so angry I was afraid he would hit me.

Or maybe South London Neighbourhood Resource Centre. They would have listened when I told them how much I hated being judged by kids at school for wearing makeup. I was just trying to hide the bruises.

I support United Way because so many kids out there deserve a happier life. I am proud that I can help give it to them. They deserve it.

*Rebecca’s photo has been changed to protect her identity.

Dakota HalfpennyRebecca