After 18 years of living in a refugee camp, Summerland’s newest family is settling in nicely to a more peaceful community.
Ajah Ayuen and her seven children were displaced from their home in South Sudan by the ongoing conflicts there, living in the UN Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya for the last 18 years. All but one of Ajah’s children were born in the camp.
“I am happy to now be in Canada,” said Ajah. “I am happy all my children are safe and will be able to go to school. When I go to bed at night, I am happy. When I wake up in the morning, I am happy.”
The Ayuen children range in age from two to 20 years old. Amer, 20, and Angeth, 18, will attend Okanagan College starting in January while sister Yar, 16, will attend Summerland Secondary School. Their brother Mach, 13, is enrolled at Summerland Middle School and two younger siblings, Herjok, nine, and Abuk, seven, will go to Giant’s Head Elementary.
The family arrived in November, supported by the Summerland Refugee Sponsorship Group. The charity has previously assisted resettling refugees from Syria and Eritrea. The Ayuen family underwent quarantine and testing for COVID-19 before and after they arrived.
The SRSG had initially sponsored the Ayuen family in October 2019, but the family’s departure was delayed due to various factors.
“On three occasions, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) asked us, given the uncertainty, whether we still wanted to sponsor the family. Each time we re-confirmed our commitment,” said SRSG Chair Doug Holmes.
Under its agreement with the federal government, SRSG is responsible for helping the family get settled in the community and for supporting them financially for one year.
To support a family as large as the Ayuens, the group needs about $40,000, which covers income support, start-up expenses, and half the cost of the family’s flights from Kenya. Fundraising is underway with the Penticton-based ‘100 Women Who Care’ donating $6,500.
Tax-deductible donations to support the family can be made through the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan – Similkameen at: https://www.cfso.net/donors/donate/summerland-refugee-sponsorship-fund/
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