A woman who grew up in a war torn country is now giving back to children facing the same situation as she was, with her foundation in Winnipeg.
"Ozanna Foundation has been a dream and a vision of mine since I was a child," says Helen Salako, the founder of Ozanna Foundation. "I've always had an impression in my spirit to be able to help children that experience poverty and war."
Salako is the right person to run this foundation as she has experienced both poverty and war growing up in Liberia, Africa.
"There has been war since '89 up until 2003 so we moved back and forth because of the war. Since then I've had a dream to help out children."
She now lives in Winnipeg with her husband and their three children with one on the way. Salako shares that even though she is away from constant war, she still sometimes struggles with the trauma of it.
"Growing up I have built myself in a way, with the help of God, to be strong and be able to help. It was an experience I'll never forget. Living in a place where every time you hear a gunshot and we always had to hide somewhere. For me, I didn't have a proper home so bullets could go through any time."
Salako remembers her mother being strong during the trying situations, moving the family around to escape the terror.
"In '96 we moved to Ghana. On our way, we went to the seaport and got on a ship, but the ship was drifting back and forth from the bank of the port and I had to be thrown on the ship."
Salako was traumatized as she watched a pregnant woman trying to jump onto the ship. The woman didn't make it and fell to her death. It's a scene that Salako will never forget. When the family heard things were settling down, they moved back to their home country of Liberia.
"Another war broke out so we had to move again. In 2003 we moved to Nigeria. It was a hard experience as I was a teenager at this time. But my mom was always praying. Every morning she made sure we prayed and every night also."
Salako's family ended up back in Liberia after that, but the country wasn't suitable for many families to thrive. At that time Salako helped the family in the only way she found, which was to sell drugs.
"At times we wouldn't have anything to eat so I had to sell so we could be able to have something to eat. All these experiences have brought me to the place where there are many other children out there like me that need help. I want to be the voice and help them. I want people to rally around them."
Fundraising Gala to Help Children in Poverty
On June 17 Salako is hosting a Gala fundraiser at the RBC Convention Centre in downtown Winnipeg.
"This night is going to be a life-changing experience. We are planning so many fun things to do. We'll have a paint night session, a dinner, a comedian/magician, and it's going to be a night of fun. The funds go to Ozanna Foundation children's programs. We're starting up a summer program this year for children to be able to afford to go programs."
The funds help newcomer children to Canada, like Salako once was, as well as low-income families in Winnipeg.
"We take kids on field trips, teach them the Bible, do arts and crafts as well as leadership programs with them. This is something that I wanted to do for many years, but I want people to know that we are out here, we are willing to help children in every and any way we can."
Tickets for the gala can be purchased individually or as a whole table.