When Ciro Muiruri received a call from a close friend to inform her that her life in Kenya was in danger due to circumstances of her past, she was forced to leave behind the life she had built and pursue refugee status in Canada.
Following her arrival in Toronto, Ciro was connected with the Crossroads Clinic at Women’s College Hospital (WCH) — Toronto’s first hospital-based refugee health clinic. “When I came to Canada, I was so focused on my immigration status. It took all my time,” she said. “My health was neglected.”
This is not an uncommon theme with newly arrived refugees, as there is often little to no time to process the trauma that comes with uprooting your home and leaving behind a previous life.
The goal of the Crossroads Clinic, besides providing primary medical care, is to address barriers and close gaps in care that are distinct within the refugee population.
To this day, Ciro credits much of her ability to get on track in Canada to the help she received from the Crossroads Clinic, and Nurse Practitioner Vanessa Wright.
Today, Ciro sits in her office at her home where she is surrounded by bookshelves that stretch up to her ceiling. She is beaming as she speaks about her father, who she credits for instilling in her such gravity around the importance of education. “He believed that schooling was the only way out of the slums, a place he desperately wanted me to leave,” she said.
It was because of this belief, Ciro says, that she prioritized returning to school to pursue a degree in childhood education while still in Kenya – eventually leading to her opening her own Montessori in Ngong, a small town in southern Kenya. And while she had to say goodbye to her beloved school when she moved to Canada, she was nagged by thoughts about a piece of land that her father had gifted her before he passed.
Ciro decided to use the plot of land to remotely open an early childhood education centre in Kenya, named Pendo, which means “love” in Swahili. The school focuses on providing early childhood education and is funded through Pendo International Projects – a Canadian charity founded by Ciro herself that she continues to lead today.
At home, Ciro is surrounded by mementos. There is a whiteboard in her kitchen where she has translated basic Swahili greetings into English, pictures of herself at conferences across the world, drawings done by her daughter, and sticky notes with names and numbers scribbled across. She is busy, thriving, and centred.
This is, ultimately, the objective of the Crossroads Clinic: to provide a place of sanctuary amongst the chaos of a new life in a new country. The hope is, that through providing holistic, person-centred care, the Crossroads Clinic can bridge the gap that so many refugees to Canada face upon arrival.
“Months after my first visit, Vanessa told me that she had known, from the beginning, that I would be okay,” Ciro recounted with tears in her eyes. “It was never just about healthcare,” says Ciro. “The clinic was a place for me to just be, where they accepted me for who I was and helped me with what I needed.”
Everyone deserves timely, compassionate healthcare. Become part of this transformative journey for refugee healthcare at WCH. Together, we’ll create a future where everyone receives the care they deserve. Help us raise $5 million to provide equitable, culturally sensitive care for refugees at: weseedifferently.com