Josephine Erhabor with daughter Sarah, 3, at their Vancouver home July 26. Erhabor is a refugee from Nigeria and attended many literacy programs after arriving in Canada, and is helping Sarah, who is autistic, to get the help she needs. Jason Payne / PNG
When Josephine Erhabor emigrated to Canada in 2015, she not only didn’t speak English, she also hadn’t been to school at all in her life, growing up in Nigeria.
“Math was really hard,” she says. “Imagine someone never being in school. I didn’t know how to read a calendar.”
When it came time for her to enrol in a literacy program “they wanted to know what they were teaching us, but I didn’t go to school at all before I was here,” she says in the Commercial Drive apartment where she lives with her four-year-old, Sarah.
Erhabor, 24, was pregnant when she arrived as a refugee, fleeing from what she only wanted to describe as “family reasons.”
Sarah has a learning disability and the two of them are getting help with their education through the Canucks Family Education Centre (CFEC), partly funded by The Vancouver Sun’s Raise-a-Reader campaign.
Erhabor, who’s called Jo, attends the Britannia Partners in Education program, which offers English literacy and math instruction, in partnership with Vancouver school district No. 39.
She and Sarah also attend CFEC’s Grandview Get Ready to Read — GR2R — early learning program for preschoolers at the Grandview Terrace Childcare Centre (in partnership with Britannia Childcare) once a week, which also offers parenting support.
As Erhabor adapted to a new country, she was unable to carry out a simple transaction in a store because numbers were foreign to her.
“When it came to math, I wasn’t that good at counting,” says Erhabor, as an inquisitive and energetic Sarah checked out a visitor’s cameras. “But now I am able to calculate, and that’s made it easier.”
She says she was never given the opportunity to learn how to read and write until she was in her mid-teens in Nigeria. The continent’s most populated country, at 186 million, now faces a threat of breaking apart along ethnic and religious lines, according to a BBC profile. Jihadists have killed thousands over the past few years in the northeast, and some groups want to separate. Islamic law has been imposed in several northern states, causing thousands of Christians to flee.
The former British colony is one of the world’s largest oil producers, but few Nigerians benefit and instability hinders foreign investment.
Erhabor wasn’t given a chance at education until about 10 years ago.
“It was when I turned 15 and then I wanted to go, but then it was a bit too late,” she says.
Her goal now is to earn her high school diploma and eventually she would like to enrol in a course so she can help seniors, perhaps as a care aide in a seniors’ home.
“I don’t want to stop there (high school graduation). Once I got my English, I want to go on. I just started (English classes) last September (at CFEC),” she says. “My reading was really bad, and it is improving.
“What I was really into was writing,” she says. “I still don’t really like math.”
Erhabor is especially grateful for the help that CFEC provided for her daughter. When Sarah was two, she was diagnosed as autistic after CFEC officials raised money from donors to pay for a private assessment, Erhabor says.
She also received help settling in Canada from other programs, including immigrants’ advocates Mosaic and the Immigration Services Society of B.C., before coming to CFEC, and is grateful for the kindness she was shown during her pregnancy and for help finding her apartment.
“I have never seen a country like this in my whole life,” she says. “They help me out to fix everything.”
And she is grateful for the chance to learn English.
“If you don’t speak English or French, how can you cope?” she says.
Since its launch in 1997, Raise-a-Reader has provided more than $18 million to promote literacy in B.C.
Kira Lynne lives with chronic pain, along with millions of other Canadians. Francis Georgian / PNG
In spite of the heightened public awareness of global warming and its climate-altering effects to date nothing significant has been done about it.
The City of Vancouver banned plastic straws, which is a farce as it might affect at most 0.0001 per cent of non-recyclable plastic in the system. Banning plastic bags is a good idea but I see it has been struck down by the courts.
The problem is that anything really significant affects someone’s sacred cow.
Banning plastic water bottles would be a really good idea since we all would be better off drinking tap water, but of course that won’t happen since most of the water-bottling business is controlled by large international companies like Coca-Cola who have a lot of economic and political power.
And how about air travel? It’s very polluting and most of it’s a luxury for the wealthy and not essential. Again a political and economic non-starter. Or cruise ships? Get the picture?
Our governments will go on mouthing platitudes and seeking placebo solutions until one day an environmental catastrophe will occur rendering all or a large part of the planet uninhabitable and then it will be too late.
I would like to be optimistic and believe that world leaders will suddenly become enlightened and work together to save the planet, but I see no sign of that happening.
Garth M. Evans, Vancouver
Chronic pain is indeed invisible
An invisible disability, such as chronic pain, is a harsh reality for many.
Kira Lynne is courageous to allow her photograph on the front page. In my view, it enhances awareness and I’m grateful. Many have been conditioned to believe that disabilities are visible. I didn’t see her pain. Did you? She presents as young, beautiful and filled with vitality.
When I look in the mirror I don’t see mine either, yet it’s a part of me right now and who I am goes with me everywhere. A seemingly innocuous sudden hit to the head in 2015 has changed the trajectory of my life. I’m unable to work, yet my rehabilitation forces me to go out each day subjecting myself to judgment and skepticism.
All I can say is that when I venture out, like Kira and others, I have so earned that walk in my neighbourhood, the weekend getaway, an afternoon matinee or lunch with a friend.
Debra Dolan, Vancouver
Bike lanes chaos-free after all
Thanks to The Vancouver Sun for the story, “Ten Years of Bike Lanes: Life goes on, chaos free.”
When the lanes were first conceived I can remember numerous naysayers and whiners complaining about gridlock, disruption and chaos that would follow, that were reinforced by dramatic headlines of doom. To read the self-criticism of The Sun on its past articles, now acknowledging things turned out pretty well, is a good reminder of that much of the negative slant we read today about our evolving city isn’t necessarily true.
It might also provide a good reminder to our journalists that feeding fear may sell newspapers but can be entirely misleading.
Let’s hope we remember this when we discuss new initiatives such as the New Vancouver Art Gallery, the removal of the viaducts or the need for more bike lanes.
Examples set by Gordon McIntyre in The Sun continue to inspire journalists to rise above fearmongering and report on actual data and research.
Lisa Turner, Vancouver
Police should target cyclists
So when can we expect the city and police to start focusing on getting cyclists to ride safely and follow the rules of the road?
I followed three bicyclists home last evening after the baseball game at Nat Bailey Stadium. None had any lights. All I had of their presence was the occasional faint reflection in their rear reflector. They were moving much more quickly than I was driving because I couldn’t see them consistently. When approaching a stop sign, of course one went right through without stopping.
It’s surprising there aren’t more accidents and injuries with such careless behaviour.
Mark van Manen would do most anything to get a photograph.
Hang out of a helicopter, hundreds of feet in the air. Rearrange somebody’s apartment. Argue with the U.S. Secret Service about how close he could get to the president.
Then there was the time he commandeered hundreds of extras from a film shoot.
“Mark was sent to the fair to shoot a human-resources story about people who’ve made their entire career at the PNE,” says the PNE’s communications head, Laura Ballance. “They went to Playland because he wanted something colourful. There was a movie being filmed at Playland, and Mark walked over to the director and said, ‘I’m going to need all these people on the ferris wheel.’
“The director said, ‘Well no, we’re in the middle of filming a movie.’ And Mark held up his lanyard (with his press ID) and said, ‘If you want to be on the cover of The Vancouver Sun tomorrow, you’re going to have to do this.’
“And they moved a thousand extras working on the movie set over to the ferris wheel for the most Disney-like photo in the history of the Canadian newspaper industry.”
Van Manen died Saturday at Vancouver General Hospital after a two-year battle with esophageal cancer. He was 58.
Mark Richard van Manen was born on Aug. 11, 1960, in Vancouver. He was something of a boy wonder as a photographer, landing a job at The Sun before his 20th birthday.
“He spent his whole life there,” said former Sun photographer Bill Keay. “I remember him coming in the first day. Somehow he got friendly with (photographer) Brian Kent, and Brian Kent said, ‘Go on in.’ So he came in, and (head photographer) Charlie Warner said, ‘Take him to the darkroom and see what he knows.’ ”
Keay laughs: “And a star was born.”
Van Manen was irrepressible, and utterly fearless. When he was sent to take a photo of boxer Mike Tyson at the airport, Tyson was so incensed that he trashed van Manen’s camera. Mark was undeterred, filing a shot of Tyson attacking a BCTV cameraman.
He would make people pose for shot after shot until he got it right. One time he was tapped to photograph Nivek Ogre, the singer in Vancouver’s gloom-and-doom noisemeisters Skinny Puppy.
Van Manen wanted him to smile. Ogre said he didn’t want to, that wasn’t his image. Van Manen cajoled him again and again (“C’mon pal, just a little smile, c’mon pal”) for several minutes until it got so ridiculous that Ogre laughed. And van Manen got his photo.
“He was never early for anything, but oh my God, he turned everything off when he did a picture,” said Keay. “All he saw was the background, foreground and the subject, and it was all in focus for him. Nobody else was near him, nothing else was happening, that was what was in his head. It was total, absolute total (attention to the) picture.”
Van Manen was also a technical whiz.
“He is the master of outdoor lighting, where you’ve got the sun right behind the subject, hitting their hair and everything,” said Keay. “He backlit a lot of the subjects, because he wanted them to stand out. He was the master of that backlighting. Everybody tried it after they saw his pictures, but nothing ever came out like his.”
Van Manen loved to shoot rock shows. He caught the pomp of Freddie Mercury at Queen’s concert at The Coliseum in 1982, took a number of great photos of Mick Jagger over the years, and was proud of his shot of Bryan Adams meeting Lady Diana backstage at Expo 86.
In his private life, van Manen lived in Lions Bay and was an avid skier and golfer. He co-owned a boat with his close friend and fellow Sun photographer Ian Lindsay. When Ian died, also from cancer, he left money to upgrade to a bigger boat that Mark shared with Ian’s son Paul. They called it the Kodachrome.
Van Manen is survived by his girlfriend, Heide Eden, aunt Doris Coleman and uncle Alex Cook. A celebration of his life is being planned.
There should be some good stories there, like the time Mark was sent to photograph former U.S. president Bill Clinton at GM Place Stadium.
“Clinton came to town for one of those famous live things,” said Ballance. “They’ve got all of the media in a bullpen, dead-centre at the back on the floor. Everybody’s there, and I’m watching the manoeuvring in this tiny little bullpen. And then I see Mark come in.
“It was a classic van Manen. He comes in late and everybody else is set up. He takes one look and goes over to the GM Place staff. His arms start waving and he holds up his lanyard. ‘If you want Bill Clinton on the cover of The Vancouver Sun tomorrow you’d better do this!’
“This goes on for about 10 minutes and is escalating up the chain. From where I was sitting I could see from behind the curtain. And I thought, ‘Oh my God, he’s actually activated the Secret Service.’
“These two typical Secret Service come down. I thought, ‘If he pulls out the lanyard to these Secret Service I’m going to buy him a bottle of wine, because this is the best thing I’ve ever seen.’ Sure enough he’s holding up the lanyard, arms flailing.
“The amazing thing is, after 15 minutes they literally allow the media to move the bullpen. So Mark walks them over there, and gets the best position! And the guys that have been sitting there for an hour-and-a-half to get their little piece of elbow room end up at the back.”
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