Never Give Up
Eric Kangar’s life story helped prepare him for his life’s work— inspiring others to strive to do their best
ERIC WAS JUST A CHILD when his home country of
Liberia began to unravel. He was born in the capital,
Monrovia, and at first life was good.
“My family was middle class,” says Eric. “My father
worked for the government, and I went to school.
My parents raised me well and brought me up in a
Unlike its neighbours, Liberia was a fairly stable republic,
established in 1847 by freed slaves from the US. But
in 1980, the nation suffered its first coup. By 1989, it
entered the first of two civil wars. By the time the guns
were put down, 500,000 Liberians were dead, including
Eric’s father, who was brutally killed by rebel soldiers.
“My mom struggled with us six children during the
war. Sometimes, we would go without food for the day.
Sometimes, mom would come home with only a little
bit for us to eat.”
Today, Eric and over 100 of his fellow countrymen from
Liberia are Local 301 members employed by Entrust
Corp. and Entrust Adult Inc. in Edmonton. Eric exudes
energy, joy, and enthusiasm for life—in spite of, or perhaps
because of, what he and many of his co-workers
endured in their home country in Africa.
AS HARD AS LIFE WAS, Eric’s family was one of the
lucky ones—they were able to stay in Monrovia. Many
Liberians, including Eric’s now-wife, were displaced
and forced to survive in refugee camps.
“People endured rape. They saw people slaughtering
other people. They saw many bodies lying on the street
and dogs eating them. Many people are still traumatized
Those in the camps hoped and waited for years for a
chance to flee to America or Canada.
Again, Eric was one of the lucky ones. Because he was
able to finish high school and enrol in post-secondary
education, he had the opportunity to leave Liberia
behind and study in Charlotte, North Carolina.
He packed his bags and headed across the ocean in
2006. While studying, he began to look for ways to
remain in North America and, specifically, to come
to Canada. He knew that his chances of coming here
were greater than his chances of staying in the US
after his student visa ran out.
“When I was thinking of moving to Canada, some of
my friends said, ‘What are you going to do there? It’s
cold. Do they even have electricity in Canada?’ ” laughs
Eric. “So I told them, ‘Get on the computer and do
some research. Canada’s a developed nation, and it
even supplies America with electricity.’ ”
ERIC APPLIED FOR REFUGEE STATUS in Canada
through an organization called Freedom Hearts.
“When I got the news that I was going to be accepted,
I was so excited,” he says. “The reception from the
Canadian immigration and customs guys was so
friendly. I felt relieved—I felt like I was in heaven.
“I lived in Windsor for six months—that was in 2008—
working on a turkey farm. But I only worked for two
or three hours per day. I couldn’t keep doing that, so
I started to research again, and I learned about the
boom in Alberta.
“I started saving my money, and then I took a bus for
three days to get to Edmonton. Within a day or two, I
got a job at a hotel cleaning 14 rooms per day.”
Edmonton has a close-knit Liberian population of over
1,000 people, most of whom live in the same area of
the city. Eric—outgoing and gregarious—fit right in to
his new job and community.
“I met a man who introduced me to my job at Entrust,”
he says. “It was brilliant from the beginning. The
boss is a very good man. He accepted everybody from
all walks of life without discriminating. The people
employed here are working hard to improve their lives.”
Entrust employees help people with developmental disabilities.
Entrust runs small group homes and also provides
respite care. Over 60 percent of the 178 employees
are from Liberia, and most of the others are from India.
“Sometimes, it’s hard for us to adapt to life and work
here, because we’re coming out of a war zone,” says
Eric. “But we work to adapt and put ourselves in a better
place to make a better life.”
In some ways, their background helps them empathize
with their clients.
“I work as a mentor to a group of guys,” says Eric. “I
write programs for them, help them find jobs or daily
activities. I take them to appointments. I have a good
relationship with them.
“I have a real passion for this job. I love it because
I’m helping somebody. I’m inspiring somebody’s life,
and I’m making a big difference for them. I often ask
myself, if I was in that position, who would take care
of me? Who would sacrifice to look after me?”
Eric not only helps his clients, he also helps his
co-workers by serving as a steward and on the bargaining
committee. Because he understands where
his co-workers are coming from, he is a strong liaison
between them, the union, and the employer.
ERIC NOT ONLY FOUND A JOB and a community he
loves, but also the love of his life, his wife, Josephine.
She is also the reason he was able to stay in Canada.
After arriving in Canada, Eric’s initial refugee claim was
denied, so he got a work permit and filed a humanitarian
compassion claim. That was also denied. By then,
Eric and Josephine were married. Because she was a
citizen, she was able to sponsor Eric so he could file a
claim for permanent residency.
“On November 5, 2015, immigration called me to tell
me that I was approved for permanent residency. My
wife had to come with me because she filed for me.”
Josephine had given birth to their son, Eric B. Kangar
Jr., only two days earlier.
“We have two girls and a boy,” says Eric. “They are the
reason I struggle to provide them with the best of life.
Our parents did it for us, so it’s time to reciprocate.”
While Eric’s life in Canada is more than he could have
hoped for, he has one sadness. He hasn’t been back
to Liberia, or seen his family there, since he left nine
“I want to take my kids back to Liberia to see their
grandma,” says Eric. “She calls me sometimes on the
phone. She talks to one of the little ones and asks, ‘Are
you coming for grandma?’ Sometimes, I cry. I want
my mom to be around today. I’m blessed because of
her, because of the upbringing she gave me. One day, I
want to bring my mom over here so that she can have
some peace and enjoy a good life here too.”
Eric’s journey has been one of always striving for
better things for himself, his co-workers, and his
family. He credits his mother’s hard work and faith
for enabling him to come so far.
“My mom always said, ‘The road to life is hard. But
with strength and determination, you will get there.
Never give up.’ It’s like climbing a mountain. Don’t
look down or listen to people who try to discourage
you. Put cotton in your ears and just keep on going.
Keep on striving, because the sky is the limit.”