BY: ALYSSA MAHADEO
To endure is to discover an inner strength we didn’t know we were capable of, our resilience unwavering pushing forward to a bigger brighter future.
Forged in Toronto, on the streets of St. James Town, in Regent Park, Elizabeth Corriea’s story is one that continues to shock and inspire all those that hear it. Elizabeth was born to Portuguese immigrant parents, who instilled very traditional teachings and values in their children. Raised in government housing Elizabeth shares that her childhood was a mixture of both light and dark moments.
“I grew up in a very abusive household,” she shares, “My mom was physically, mentally and verbally abusive, and then my dad he was all of that, including sexual abuse.”
Elizabeth recalls life as a little girl to be very confusing, “There was a lot of pain, but there was also a lot of joy as well,” she says.
Growing up on the streets, much of her joy was found outside of her home, amongst the friends she had in the neighbourhood. Whether it was playing games or playing the fool, Elizabeth found happiness in the time she spent laughing, away from those who would choose to hurt her.
Neither of her parents worked, nor were they able to speak English fluently. Her father had been born blind, he was a musician and he would sing at restaurants, events, and even weddings to make a little extra cash.
“It was tough growing up on welfare, there were things my siblings and I would want, sports we wanted to play, things we wished we could buy, but we would never dare try to ask our parents for these things,” she explains.
Living in this environment, Elizabeth says that it never felt abnormal to her. The people that lived in her neighbourhood led the same lifestyles as her own family, so she never knew there could be anything better. School was a challenge for her, seeing as her home life affected her mental well being tremendously.
“I would show up to class and have to pretend to be a different person,” she shares, “There was always something happening at home, and by the time I got to school I would have to behave as though I wasn’t being affected by it at all.”
The abuse she was dealing with at home was something that she was taught to never speak about outside the home. “At the time you don’t realize it’s a bad thing, it just happens,” Elizabeth says.
Throughout her rocky childhood, she spent time in and out of foster care, either running away or getting thrown out. She found herself caught up in the shady world of selling drugs, hanging out in the crowds and doing things she never thought imaginable.
“I got caught up in street life, and became a product of my environment,” Elizabeth admits. “I was selling drugs, but miraculously I never tried any myself. Two of my best friends became drug addicts, but it was never a temptation for me.”
By the time she turned twenty-two Elizabeth had seen and experienced it all. She later went on to document her story in a memoir ‘If you Played in my Playground’ detailing the extreme circumstances of violence and abuse she dealt with at a young age. It shares her story of love, tragedy, heartbreak, depression, becoming a teen mother and the journey she embarked on to heal and discover her faith.
“I was well aware of the choices I was making, but I wasn’t present to the pain I was feeling,” Elizabeth says.
Since her time on the streets, Elizabeth’s life has completely transformed. She is the founder of The D.e.v.a In You group, a personal development and leadership company for women and girls. She is a speaker and a life coach, hosting life development workshops and programs in order to help women and girls to build resilience and make healthier choices in order to fulfill their destiny
In her journey Elizabeth has found a way to harness the lessons she has learned through her own experiences, moving from victim to victor as a tool to help inspire women and girls to overcome obstacles and challenges in order to achieve their greatest potential.
“I led the kind of life that no thirteen year old should be caught up in, but it’s not the trials and tribulations of life that define us, but who we are at the core of our being.” Elizabeth states.
Elizabeth has and continues to experience incredible growth every day. She has learned to deal with her pain, and forgive the circumstances of her past.
“My legacy will be how I used my story to serve the world, until the day I take my very last breath I want to empower, lead and inspire people to live full lives, to believe they can create the life that they want to live.”