The idea of a village began early in Johnson Boateng’s life. Growing up as an Officer’s kid in a family with 5 siblings, he was surrounded by a “family village” from the day he was born.
His parents, Lt. Col’s Samuel and Elizabeth Boateng, set high standards for their children. “Growing up as Pastor’s kids in Ghana, we had expectations to demonstrate good morals and values”, says Johnson. These expectations also made their way into the children’s classrooms at school, where Johnson excelled.
Upon high school graduation, he entered teaching college and spent 3 years teaching technical drawing and engineering science. Little did he know that his life would take him to Canada, trading one “village” for another, when he accepted a scholarship to Booth University College.
In his years as a student at Booth UC, he would call residence home. “Everybody was there for each other” he notes, describing students from 7 different cultures who were in residence at that time. “I saw winter for the first time, and the people at Booth UC treated us as their own”, says Johnson. “I received a Newfoundlander’s fisherman’s hat, that I still have” he quips.
Fellow students, staff and faculty, along with the folks at his new church, all became Johnson’s new village and the community in which he thrived. After completing his BSW in 2004, Johnson went on to obtain his MSW and is now the Clinical Team Lead at Crisis Response Services (Crisis Stabilization Unit) at 755 Portage Avenue in Winnipeg. He has never forgotten his “family” at Booth UC and has been a sessional instructor in the School of Social work since 2014. Johnson talks about both jobs in terms of the villages he creates within both settings. “I am giving the support and knowledge back to others. Without connections, we are not healthy. You know, the opposite of addiction is connection”.
COVID-19 has brought added stress and worry to his staff, students and family. “It caught all of us by surprise,” he says. Much of the worry, he states, comes from feeling vulnerable in a situation that we have no control over. “There is information overload, financial instability and resources are closed, in many cases.” He says that his students are feeling it too. And that is when he reminds them that they are a part of his village and he reaches out, listens and counsels.
Johnson, who is married and has two children, has been joined by his sister and brother in Winnipeg. His family circle is growing. As he wisely says, “I have no doubt that God’s hand was in it.”