Caring Mentors Transform the Life of a Young Refugee
By Eric Steckel
January 27, 2022
Few children have overcome the challenges Abraham Wordsworth faced. Born in Liberia in 1996 amid a violent civil war, Abraham was just six months old when his Aunt Theresa fled with him and his two older cousins to nearby Ivory Coast. After spending his early childhood in a refugee camp, Abraham’s family finally relocated to Oakland when he was seven years old.
The transition was difficult. Kids would tease and bully him about being a refugee. Fortunately for Abraham, he had a caring third-grade teacher who recommended he enroll in Succeeding by Reading. He vividly remembers his first meeting with Miss Nancy, who tutored him in reading twice a week throughout the year. Abraham understood at that young age that it was unique to have a caring adult pour so much into him.
“As a child, there is nothing that shows them their value like an adult who, for no other reason, just cares for them. Tells them they are loved, regardless of who they are or what they have been through,” Abraham shared.
“As a child, there is nothing that shows them their value like an adult who, for no other reason, just cares for them.” — Abraham Wordsworth
During a field trip to the Santa Cruz Mountains as part of our former Science Horizons program, Bill Branagh, Nancy’s husband, had a long conversation with Abraham. Bill invited the youngster to the youth group his son led at First Covenant Church in Oakland.
“That was when the relationship really transformed,” Abraham recalls. “Every Wednesday, they would pick me up, take me to dinner and youth group. And it became a routine of ours. We would hang out on Fridays and Saturdays and go to the movies. They were showing me all of this love when all I did was enroll in a program.”
The Branaghs and Randy Roth filled a role in Abraham’s life that his aunt could not fill. They encouraged and supported Abraham and provided him with experiences he would never have had, including trips to conferences hosted by The National Youth Leadership Council in Nashville and San Jose.
When it came time to enroll in High School, Abraham had a burning desire to attend the Head Royce School. Although he was unable to afford tuition, the Branaghs helped Abraham apply for acceptance and then for scholarships. They even interviewed with the school when Abraham’s aunt could not do so. Abraham received a scholarship and graduated from Head Royce.
Today, Abraham is an account executive at Salesforce and still very close with the Branaghs and Mr. Roth. “Without the vision and love they poured into me, I would not be here today. If every child had that, we would be in a much better place.”