Barriers beyond borders

How the Avoudikpon family came from nowhere to somewhere

While I now live in America and go to UGA, my Life story wasn’t always like this. Before I was living in a 2 story home with 3 cars in the driveway of a great neighborhood, I was living a different life. I was in Togo living my simple life as a young boy. If it weren't for my parents decided to move to America to help their kids, I don’t know where I would be today. My parents were the ones that changed my life. Now its time for me to tell their story and why they decided to move.

My Mother

My mother was born in Lome, Togo in 1967. She was the 3rd child of 7 in total. Born in a Christian family, she would have to go to church nearly every day of the week. In her house, she cleaned the house every morning and would have to go to school every day and come home to clean and finish her homework. During this time period in Lome, there weren’t as many opportunities to do things after class as we have here in America. The roads were not clear and were usually muddy. Walking outside would be described as a struggle. Going out to the store on a rainy day would be as bad as walking into a flood.

When I asked my mother why she told nursing, she told me, “Becuase I like helping people. Going to church and helping around became my life as a child. It drove me to leave high school and join med school early. With that, I was able to meet some great people, have some good experiences, and also meet my best friend who delivered you.” I was actually given the experience to meet the doctor that delivered me last month. It’s like we were family.

My mother wasn’t employed until she was in her late 20s. The job market in Togo is so bad that people are often just roaming the streets looking to sell things to get by for their families. After she got her job at Lome Hospital, she would work most every day. My mother worked at the hospital for over 5 years before she one the visa one lucky day. She was very intuitive at her job. 1 thing also that my mother did every time she left work would hire our maid to take me around to buy food and explore. I was able to meet my caretaker last month as well and he told me a story about one time where he took me to see a gun movie and how I snitched. Who would have thought I would get the chance to meet my caretakers?

My Father

My dad was born in a small village called Akposso, Lome. Akposso is an easier way of ahepoeakposso. My father has 8 brothers and siblings. My dad had 4 step-siblings. My grandfather had 2 wives. In the African culture back then, it was ok to have 2 or more wives. In my dd’s village, they would have to farm every day. My grandfather’s farm was pretty big. He and his siblings would farm and then go to the market to sell off their goods.

It wasn’t until high school that my father had an interest in electrical engineering. He was an A+ student. He would describe the studying he did back then to now as being way easier. He said he would go to class and then come home and study until 12.

My dad’s passport picture before he went to China

After working super hard in school, my dad got a scholarship to study at the Chinese institute of technology. He studied there for 2 years and then returned to finish his 6 years of school at the University of Lome. After finishing school, he was a professor for 3 years. He then went to work for a technical company before he moved.

When asked my father about why he choose mechanical engineering, he told me, “This was something I liked dealing with as a child. I liked looking at the electrical components and see how I could use those skills with me. It proved to be very beneficial in the end and even landed me a job in America. Who from my hometown would have thought of that?”

The Togolese Government

During the time of this, Togo was dealing with some crisis. The Gnassingbé family have been in order since 1967(No Change in Sight, 2017). Ever since the current father's president, Gnassingbé Eyadéma, took office, Togo has never been the same. Not only has the government been corrupted, but also the way they vote as well. In the past election of 2017, the election was faced with much fraud and also tampering. Being that the country is over a dictatorship, it has been through many burdens and troubles. There have been various wars between the people and the government. While my parents were still in their early stages of life, the president had many military coupes to take leadership. The president would do anything he wanted to make sure he stayed in power, even if it meant killing his own people. There would be many occasions where President Gnassingbe would kill people who created rallies. Even now, the current president has thrown his own brother in prison for allegations of overthrowing him. For my parents, seeing all the political problems since birth was not something they were continuing in pursing. From stealing money from the people and using it for his own needs, the president of Togo made people poorer and worsened the economy. The average GDP for someone in Togo is $100.Thankfully my parents made the wise decision to move to America, where they were able to escape the political problems and be able to make more money here in America.

When asked my father about why he choose mechanical engineering, he told me, “This was something I liked dealing with as a child. I liked looking at the electrical components and see how I could use those skills with me. It proved to be very beneficial in the end and even landed me a job in America. Who from my hometown would have thought of that?”


My parents had a few friends. My parents were raised up to not have too many friends because people tend to flip on others. This was also a lesson they to me. It was mostly a closed circle since my father lived in a circle and my mother living is a small neighborhood. They would usually spend fun time hanging with friends that their family knew. For music, they would listen to Togolese artists such as King Mensah and Bella Bollow. Besides Music, my dad spent most of his time studying. He would only hang out with friends sometimes and often took many naps. My mother would only spend time with friends that she knew as a young child. When she and my father weren't busy working, they would take me and my sister to the beach to walk around and have family time together. My parents wanted me and my siblings to stay close together so we wouldn't get mixed up with other people.

For socializing, my parents had a few friends. My parents never really wanted to be a social couple. They were mostly quiet and kept to themselves. When my mother was young, her auntie would come and take her to parties along with her siblings. My mom’s side of the family rarely took pictures. That is due to them mostly being very quiet and very anti-social.

After both my parents received their job, they moved into a 1 story house to start their life and raise their kids. I was actually able to go back and see my precious home last month. It seemed just the way I left it.

kpalime Mountain

Landscape of Togo

Compared to other countries around the world, Togo is one of the lowest-performing countries in the world. That would help to just give you a broad explanation of how the roads are. it wasn't until later in the 21st that the government was forced to build roads for people to go on. Although most of Togo is mainly trees, the land is fairly well for growing crops. My grandfather had a farm where he would grow different types of foods. My father recalls growing crops in his younger days and explaining how he would have to wake up early to go attend to the crops before school. On my mothers side of the family, the roads in Lome wouldn’t be done until… well never. The roads are still being worked on to this day. Roadwork has been an obstacle for more than 40 years for the country of Togo because of the Presidents Greed and wanting more money for his own family (Togo, n.d). Even to this day, most of the roads there are unfavorable uneven. As I went last month, I couldn't ride through a neighborhood that wouldn’t have me bumping the entire ride. Although the roads are bad, there are beautiful sights to see. One of which is the presidents old home in a city called Akpime. My mother told me that she was able to go up there one with her 7 siblings. She described the spot as a high top mountainous view. My father’s village looked more like a rural city. There are no big cities nearby his old home. There are also long mountains and multiple waterfalls. But beyond all of that, the best thing that my parents loved was the ocean. My father once took my dad took my mom on a date at the beach. The coastline of Togo is like no other.

kpalime River

Coming to America

It wasn’t until my mom and dad were in their 30s and settled down that they were given the opportunity. My parents were so surprised when they got the lottery that didn’t even know what to do. My mom wanted to stay in Lome (THANK GOD THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN). Although my parents loved their home, they thought long and hard and realized that they had kids. Smart kids. But their kids needed to get a better education. My parents decided to sell their car, rent out their house, and get on the plane to America. They took a quick step to visit my 2 uncles who ran to France while they were younger. When they got to America, they decided to work minimum wage jobs to get enough money to bring their children the next month.

My parents had the option to stay and continue living their normal lives. But instead, they decided that they wanted to help further me and my sibling's life and help us go to a better school. While it meant sacrificing everything, it was all for a better cause. Now, look at me, I'm at UGA!

While I am now living a better life than I could have ever had back at home, I cannot forget to be grateful to my mother and father who brought me all the way over here from Togo to Atlanta.

When my parents came, they stayed with a few family friends for over a few years. My parents worked their butts off for 2 months to pay so they could pay for me and my sisters to come to America. After that, we were able to get our first apartment in a low shady neighborhood. My dad would work at a restaurant and my mother would work at a fast food place. Me and my sisters would go to school and come home to work on homework and study all night.

After a few years of working, my father got his degree in electrical engineering from Atlanta metropolitan college. He would then go on to work for Delta that same year for a few years. My mom also went back to college after my father had finished college and got her degree in nursing back in 2012. While it was a hard time for us since we were still poor, it was something. This something would, later on, help my family pay for my sister's college, get us a house, and pay for me to go see family in over 100 years.

After years of school, a few hospital visits, and a few graduations, we have gotten to this moment in history. With me. The baby of the family and the most adventurous and enthusiastic. With my young nephew. But enough about me! Here are some pictures of my family that I got to visit and the pictures of my old home and my family.

My Old Tree
My old house ( i used to look outside this every day)
Me and some of my youngest cousins.
Me and my last living grandparent

Maybe in the future… I’ll have a girlfriend who has a better history so I can explain to my kids a little better about their past. Until then, I’ll just be the same Yaovi, traveling and exploring, seeking to figure out more about his family than ancestry could have provided.


1.My mother

2.My Father

3. Togo. (n.d.). doi:

4.No Change in Sight. (2019).



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store