Father, former child soldier, seeks better life for family in Shuswap

Salmon Arm volunteers begin fundraising effort to help family resettle in Canada

For 16 years, former child soldier Oliver Bokondji has dreamed of a better life, first for himself and later for his family; now a group of Salmon Arm residents are working to make it happen.

Refugee Action Partners, including representatives from two Salmon Arm churches, Lakeside Community Church and Grace Church, have partnered with the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) to help Oliver, wife Exode and their four children resettle in Salmon Arm. Oliver has had asylum seeker status in South Africa since 2003.

Sheldon Carlson says the MCC reached out to local volunteers involved in Refugee Action Partners given their experience in helping to resettle another family in the community.

Read more: Syrian refugees fear for lives at home

Read more: Coalition cooks up plan to bring Syrian refugee families to Salmon Arm

“After our sponsorship was over, they contacted us to see if we would do a second one because they had this young fellow from the Congo who had married in South Africa who has been asking to come to Canada for a long time,” said Carlson.

While there’s a lot of work ahead, the first step for the volunteer group is securing the necessary funding: $35,500.

“Until we raise 80 per cent of our funding, Mennonite Central can’t even begin the paperwork because they have to have the funding guaranteed before they can contact the family and say we’re going ahead and get them going on that end with checks for health, security, etc.,” said Carlson. “We’re trying to get this funding in place by summer, so we can get Mennonite Central going. And then we’ve still got to wait 18 months.”

In January 2003, at age 15, Oliver, was abducted from his home and forced to into military training as a child soldier in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In his early weeks of training, while on assignment with a unit charged with collecting food for the soldiers, Oliver was abducted yet again – this time by sympathizers, who smuggled him out of the region in a wooden container on a commercial goods truck.

Eventually Oliver reached the refugee office in Pretoria, South Africa where he registered and sought asylum. In May 2003, Oliver was recognized as an asylum seeker and has remained as such since.

Oliver met and married his wife, Exode in 2010, and they have four children: five-year old son, Bomoyi, three-year old daughter, Princess, two-year old daughter, Amba, and an infant.

Read more: Flight for life lands in Salmon Arm

Read more: Helping thousands of refugees

“Oliver and family continue to struggle as refugees do in countries of asylum, with limited status and opportunities, unable to return to his country or find an enduring solution to his displacement in South Africa,” says the MCC.

Carlson acknowledges the path ahead will require much work, but the rewards for all involved make it worth the effort.

“These families that come, so much they’re interested in their children,” said Carlson. “Mom and dad sort of miss the homeland… and their relationships and all of that, but they do it for their children it seems.”

Anyone interested in helping or providing financial assistance can do so by calling 250-517-7249, or on the MCC website under Refugee Action Partners.


@SalmonArm
newsroom@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Heavy rain in Okanagan results in slowest start to fire season in four years

119 hectares of land burned so far this year, compared to 991 ha in 2019, and 3,835 ha in 2018

Dog rescued from rocky ledge in Summerland

Penticton Search and Rescue members perform high angle rescue

VIDEO: Summerland holds Canada Day celebration

Full event can be viewed on Summerland Legion’s website

QUIZ: Put your knowledge of Canada to the test

How much do you know about our country?

Penticton Speedway prepares for first race of the year

Limited capacity and social distancing protocols in place after track closed for months

North Okanagan man gives back for Canada Day

Food packages given away to those living on the streets in Vernon

Undercover operation exposes prominent human trafficking problem in Greater Victoria

VicPD’s Operation No More took place in mid-June at a local hotel

Tsilhqot’in Nation demands meeting with feds on declining Fraser River chinook stocks

The Nation wants to partner with DFO to rebuild and recover the stocks

PHOTOS: Dual rallies take over Legislature lawn on Canada Day

Resist Canada 153 highlighted colonization and genocide, Unify the People called COVID a hoax

Gov. General honours Canadians for bravery, volunteer service

Five categories of winners presented on Canada Day

COVID-19: Should non-medical masks be mandatory in Canada?

New poll shows Canadians are divided on the rules around mandatory masks

Okanagan mine makes way for industrial project

Council holds a special meeting to rezone property

In photos and video: Colourful Canada Day parade rolls through Sicamous

Patriotic procession allows community to celebrate together while maintaining distance

Okanagan arsonist sentenced to 3 years probation

Arsonist must pay $500 to each party affected, no access to drugs, alcohol or fire starters

Most Read