PRISCILLA BIRAGO - ROLE MODEL & AMBASSADOR
Officially Inducted into the “National Wall of Role Models” on June 7, 2014 ( See full list www.BlackCanadianAwards.com )
If I could describe myself in three words, it would be friendly, ambitious and bold. Many people identify me as Priscilla but my full name is Yaa Priscilla Birago. I was born in Ghana, West Africa but grew up in Toronto, Canada. I obtained my first degree at the age of 23 in Criminology and Sociology. For 3 years, I was part of the organizing committee for the African Diaspora Youth Conference; a conference for secondary school students with interests in learning about the African Diaspora and how it has played a role in their development of self. I also served as a mentor, facilitator, and telecouncellor from 2008 – 2010 conducting presentations and counseling potential university students from low income communities who were uncertain about their future after high school.
My passion for helping people ignited, when I received an award in peer tutoring during my high school graduation. Hence, I made the choice to take an extra step to fulfill my dream and to give back to my community and the world around me through a philanthropic mission. I am currently the co-founder and President of Hands of a Hero Foundation founded in January 2011. HOHF is a registered non-profit organization in Canada and Ghana that concentrates on transforming the lives of less fortunate children through empowerment, mentorship, education and the improvement of their standard living conditions.
It gives me a great pleasure to know that the little steps I’m taking is making a big difference in the lives of youth in Canada and in Ghana. Many people ask me, how am I able to manage different projects and run a family at my young age, and I always say to them “Vision without passion is visionless, but add passion with extra dedication and you will produce extraordinary”.
Tell us a little bit more about yourself?
I am a licensed Insurance Analyst/Advisor for TD Insurance andalthough I have a lot on my plate, I am also part of the Balance Living magazine publication team and I am a writer for the magazine as a well.
Tell us something not many people know about you?
I am a blogger and I have been blogging for the past 3 years about my personal experiences as a young woman in Toronto. My blog is my online dairy where I share my thoughts on certain encounters in life. It is a synopsis of my life.
What's your inspiration or how do you get motivated?
My inspiration derives from many sources, including my parents and from individuals who had the courage to fight all odds and reach to the top. My parents moved to Canada as immigrants to offer my siblings and me a brighter life. I often reflect on the hardships my parents had to endure in Canada as immigrants in order to provide for the family. Thus, I am influenced and motivated to work harder to make them and myself proud.
How did you get to where you are now and what more should we expect?
When you have a vision, you need passion and dedication to achieve what you are envisioning. When you want something to happen, you don't just sit there believing that “thing” will fulfill itself. You have to pray about it, and move towards the path God is directing you to; act on it with faith and you will get to your destination. What I am trying to say is that God, prayers, family and passion are the main force to my current reality.
More community projects through my organization and a possible book in the near future.
What would you like to be remembered for?
I want to remember for the lives I've touched through my philanthropic mission.
How do you balance work, family, friends and leisure?
It is very challenging to obtain a balanced lifestyle, when everything I’m involved in is significant to me. It is very important to prioritize and maintain a balanced life; hence I try my best to manage my time properly with family, work, friends and leisure. However, I tend to spend more time with my family and friends because they keep me sane.
What's your favorite food, book, music and movie?
Food: I don't really have a favorite food but I love my African food. It makes me feel more connected to my roots.
Book: I love reading spiritual, inspirational and motivational books. One of my favorite book of all time is “The Secrets”, it is a book I revisit from time to time to encourage my spirit to keep staying positive.
Music: I love African, soul and R&B music
Movie: Avatar equals Africa, no explanation need.
What's your experience as a Black person in Canada?
My experience in Canada has been awesome and I will never take anything away because my experience has influenced my way of thinking and has shaped me into the woman I am today. I am thankful for my family and friends for being the best support system I could ever ask for.
Solutions and challenges of being black in Canada:
I believe young black people need more mentors and educational advisors that will help them make fewer mistakes and assist them to make the right choices in life. This issue is very sensitive to me because of my experience in high school. I had countless meetings with my high school guidance counselors about my academic interest in chemistry but never received a valid answer as to which route I should take for having the highest grades in my chemistry class. I wish someone mentored me about the right courses I needed to take to get accepted into a chemistry program in University. Now I have no interest in the program anymore.
I know there are many successful people in our community who are capable of influencing the black youth in this generation in different areas such as academics, finances, businesses, and personal affairs.
“Train a child on the right track and she/he will sure get to the finish line”- Priscilla Birago
I always question myself, where I would be if I had a mentor earlier on in my life?
What is the Black community doing right or wrong in Canada?
I have noticed some outreach programs that help the black community and also keep black youth off the streets. I believe the future is bright and will be brighter if the black community takes proper precautions to safe guard this generation and the generation to come.
Are there as many opportunities for Blacks in Canada compared to the US (e.g: when can we have our Obama, Beyonce, Oprah, Tyler Perry, BET, etc)
There are a lot of opportunities for blacks in Canada because of the similar structure we have with the U.S. It’s all a matter of conducting the proper research in your field of pursuit, finding the right resources to access, staying passionate, dedicated to your work, and staying optimistic about your dream. I believe that everyone has the same will power to succeed no matter where they live in the world. The difference is being able to fight back obstacles that may collide with you and getting back on your feet to fight again when you are down. Therefore, one must fail in order to succeed; this has been proven among many successful people around the world, including Opera, Tyler Perry and many more. I strongly believe that blacks in Canada innate the fighting spirit as everyone else, and as long as we continue to demonstrate our will to fight, we will succeed beyond measures.
Mention a few of your favorite Black Canadian Leaders, Artists and Role Models?
Black Canadian Leaders: Michaëlle Jean and Afua Cooper Artist: K-OS(Kevin Brereton) and Celine Dion Role model: Pastor Tope (House of Praise) and Anna Aidoo- Founder of Women Courage Awards.
Should & do Blacks support black music, events and businesses?
It is imperative for blacks in Canada to support each other in every aspect because it brings unity and produces business growth.
What’s your understanding of Black History in Canada?
Based on my knowledge of Black History in Canada, over 30,000 blacks slaves escaped from the U.S to Canada using the Underground Railroad as a secret route. You can find some of the underground rail road in Windsor. In addition, many people don’t know this but Canada also had slaves who escaped to the U.S to obtain refuge in the 1700s.