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Reem’s Journey — Life Before CHV

“When I was young, I always hoped for an older version of myself to come and rescue me.”

– Reem, CHV alumna


Reem spent her childhood and most of her teen years growing up in the Philippines. Her early childhood sounded like any childhood. Reem was full of dreams and aspirations. “When I was way young, I used to smile so fully. I would scrunch my nose and just be so happy. For the most part, I feel like my childhood was filled with curiosity, imagination, and a lot of ambition. I wanted to be an astronaut and a doctor at the same time. That was my life before my mom moved away.”

Reem’s parents had different ideas about how to raise children. This created conflict in the home. When Reem was 10, her mother emigrated to Canada to try and build a better life for Reem and her younger siblings. This left Reem in charge of raising her siblings.


According to WebMD, “Parentification is often referred to as growing up too fast. Typically, it occurs when a child takes on parental responsibility for their siblings or even their parents, taking care of a sibling or parent physically, mentally, or emotionally. This can damage a child’s mental well-being and lead to long-term mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.”

What were Reem’s responsibilities, now that her mom was gone? “Looking after my siblings meant that I looked after their homework, I looked after their grades, I attended their events in the place of my parents. I had to make sure that everything in the household was stable and have my siblings behave so that I wouldn’t incur any anger from my father.”

Life at home, for Reem became filled with abuse. Reem described it as “abuse that can only be described as a parent’s worst nightmare.”

Reem’s childhood changed dramatically. “By the time I hit fifth grade, my father stopped me from going to playgrounds. So, I stopped playing around fifth grade. The most I did was maybe play pretend underneath the dining table with my siblings. I couldn’t really play outside.”

Teen Years

“The culture I was raised in was very restrictive and it took away a lot of my freedom of expression and my agency to believe that my emotions were valid. The way I survived all that abuse was by shutting myself down and just prioritizing a way to get through the day.”

With the Internet gaining popularity and information becoming easier to access, Reem began to research her situation and feelings to try and understand what was going on. It took quite a while for Reem began to understand what was happening because “I was groomed into thinking that was okay or that was normal [how I was treated], I didn’t really speak about it until I was 17 years old.”

At age 17, Reem opened up to her mom as to what was happening, and her mother immediately began to plan a way for Reem and her siblings to come to Canada.

Reem and her siblings reunited with their mom in 2019. However, having been parentified, Reem didn’t know how to be a daughter. “I have invested most of my time, most of my identity into something that I clung to because I didn’t know anything else. I didn’t have any hobbies. I didn’t have any extracurricular activities that I could fall back on to keep myself busy. So, when that [parental role] was taken away from me, I just felt so scattered. I felt like I lost control, and my identity was taken away from me, even though my mom didn’t mean it.”

There was conflict between Reem and her mother. “There were fights. It came to the point where my relationship with my siblings was at risk. And at that time, I didn’t know my mom all too well. So, I was willing to sour our relationship to make sure that my relationship with my siblings remained healthy.”

And that’s when Reem began her journey to Covenant House Vancouver.

Help Support Resilient Youth

Reem is an incredibly resilient young woman, and we can’t wait to share more of her journey with you!

It is because of the amazing support of donors, like you, that make it possible for youth, like Reem, to overcome adversity and work towards the futures that they deserve.

There’s no better time to get involved than right now!

Thanks to Westland Insurance, starting today, when you donate to Covenant House Vancouver, your donation will be matched, up to $50,000. That means your donation will have double the impact!

And, if you don’t already, follow us on social media so that you won’t miss the next installment of Reem’s journey. Follow us on Twitter @CovenantHouseBC, on Instagram @covenanthousebc, on LinkedIn, on Facebook, and on TikTok.