In 2014, Dickson Obasuyi found himself in Edmonton with $80 and no place to go as a new graduate from a college in Ontario. Looking for a place to escape the cold, Dickson weighed his options. Thankfully, he knew The Salvation Army’s Edmonton Centre of Hope would provide him with shelter, though it wasn’t an easy decision.
“I thought there would be drug addicts and terrible people in there,” he remembers. How would he cope?
When Dickson finally went in and got settled, he realized just how far off the mark he was. He was impressed and touched by the love that the staff showed for those in their care, from the cleanliness of the facilities to the protection and security of personal items. He also found an unexpected friend right in his room.
“When I moved in, the person I shared the space with was a new graduate and new to the city, too. I realized that there are people here who are trying to start life,” he says. “Contrary to my belief, there were people there who were put together, and the Centre of Hope represented a roof overhead for everybody, no matter whom.”
With the downtown location of the Edmonton Centre of Hope, Dickson was able to walk to construction jobs just blocks away. He began to save money and eventually was able to settle in the city. As life went on, he often passed by the building and reflected on how thankful his heart continued to be, thinking: “How can I say thank you back to this place?”
“This is where my story began,” he says. “I don’t see it the way other people see it. I see it as my first home.”
The Centre of Hope was almost peeking over his shoulder during another major life event, receiving his Canadian citizenship.
“My citizenship ceremony was two blocks away from the Centre of Hope. After, I walked by and thanked God.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dickson went into a local store and looked at a camera. He couldn’t get it out of his mind and, after much deliberation, went back in and purchased it. What started as a hobby within the COVID-19 restrictions at the time became a business for him, all through the goodness of others.
“People were telling me that I took good photos, then someone asked if I would take their engagement shots,” he says. From there, his photography business grew enough that he had an idea of how he would say thank you to his first home.
“I realized I could use photography to achieve my dream of giving back to The Salvation Army,” he says. “I would go back there and take photos of the clients. “I wanted to show that everyone is beautiful, no matter the situation, no matter what your status is,” he shares.
“I wanted people to look back at their photos and remember a day when they felt that way.”
Dickson reached out to some friends for help and had an acquaintance give free haircuts to those who participated, while another person came to help with manicures. At the event, which took place last October, a city councillor showed up to lend support and thanked the management and Dickson for their efforts.
“The councillor said that because of people like The Salvation Army, people like me can go through their system and not be homeless,” he says.
Dickson remembers a conversation with a member of Parliament who was present.
“He told me that they can’t get people off the streets without The Salvation Army, and that he could see what the organization means to people.”
Homelessness continues to be a cause close to Dickson’s heart, and he plans to stay in touch with those he made connections with. He also gives back to the wider community in other ways, too. For instance, he conducts a photography workshop with high school students.
“God is good. God has been faithful," Dickson beams.
Kimberly McIntyre enjoys writing stories of transformation, faith and the human experience. After completing a communications and media degree from Canadian Mennonite University, Kimberly is continuing her education and pursuing a bachelor of science in exercise science. When she is not writing or working in Riding Mountain National Park, she enjoys cooking, exploring Canadian national parks and dancing.
Photos: Courtesy of Dickson Obasuyi
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