Pious Mangong’s path to Canada was arduous, but he’s learned to roll with the punches both at home and on the job
Mangong loves cleaning. For the refugee who came from southern Sudan in 2005, having a clean workplace was almost as important as the work itself. Problem was, he was part of the Holy Rollers program at the New Westminster, B.C., (Canada) Salvation Army, and he was being paid to paint.
“Pious loves cleaning so much that we had to constantly remind him his job was to paint,” said Holy Rollers team leader Wayne Tugwood. “Now, I think he realizes he’s a painter first.”
Mangong admits he took some time to focus on his new job, but you can never accuse him of not working hard.
“We first met Pious when he came to volunteer at the church,” Captain David MacPherson, the pastor, said. “He helped out a lot, and when he applied for the program, we thought he might be a good fit.
“He doesn’t talk much about what happened back in Sudan, but I imagine it must have been very tough for him to be a Christian there.”
For Pious, learning a trade is important, but he’s survived so much more.
A painter first
Since 1996,Mangong had been trying to leave a homeland ravaged by civil war. He spent two years in Egypt, waiting for a visa to come to Canada.
By the time he got to New Westminster five years ago, all he could find were two manual-labor jobs, one in a wood factory and the second in a chicken-processing plant.
He hit a stretch of bad luck when he fell and tore some knee ligaments. After surgery, he soon found himself jobless but not hopeless.
“Because of my faith, I would wake up every morning thinking today was the day I would find work,” he said. “It was hard, but I had my faith.”
Mangong didn’t like collecting welfare, but he needed the money to survive. Now that he’s earning a wage, he feels like he can contribute to his new country. And with a confidence born out of surviving everything thrown his way, he can even laugh at his initial painting struggles.
“This room, we took six weeks to do. I think we can do it now in two days,” he states. “That’s how far I’ve come, and that’s how far everyone’s come.”
“It might take longer than that,” Tugwood said. “But it’s great to see how confident Pious is.”