On the evening of Nov. 3, 2011, the Nigena family - Alphonse, Denyse and their three children, ages 8, 6 and 2 - arrived exhausted, but smiling, at Vancouver International Airport after leaving Nairobi 24 hours earlier.
They were met by a small group, including Gerry Bouman, co-ordinator for the sponsoring Ladner Christian Reformed Church.
The Nigenas experienced a number of delays that kept them confined to a hotel room in Nairobi for three weeks before catching their flight to Canada. Originally from Rwanda, both Alphonse and Denyse fled to a Kenyan refugee camp to escape ongoing violence and danger.
The camp had been their home for over a decade. Alphonse operated his own business fixing small appliances, but sold his business to cover health care costs for his family.
Ladner Christian Reformed Church began sponsoring the Nigenas while they were still in Kenya, in order they would be fit and able to emigrate.
The wait took more than a year, but prayers were answered and they arrived to a warm welcome.
As sponsors, members of the church were reminded of how much we have to share when they were told the two-bedroom apartment they had furnished for this family of five would house about 40 people in the refugee camp.
It took the Nigenas some time to acclimatize, being accustomed to constant sunshine with temperatures of 40 degrees. Or more When they arrived, they were warned that cloudy skies and rain would be common for the winter. Even the tiny bit of snow was a real treat, especially for the kids.
The two oldest children are learning to adjust to their new country and culture as they attend Delta Christian School. The youngest has entered a whole new world of swings and slides at the playground.
Denyse is learning to cook some different foods and is eager to become more fluent in English. Alphonse has found employment in Tilbury, and is happy to be able to contribute to his family's needs.
The whole family's adjustment to a completely foreign culture cannot be overstated. Everything is new and different.
The people at Ladner Christian Reformed Church are grateful for individuals in the community that have come forward to help in various ways. Special thanks to Dr. David Kason for his care of and concern for the family, devoting extra time and flexibility to help ensure their well being.
The Nigena family is required to pay for its travel expenses to Canada and the three-week stay in Nairobi preceding the trip, a significant debt that could take a number of years to clear. Their trip here necessitated the attendance of a physician on the flight to Vancouver, increasing the bill.
Anyone wishing to contribute a tax-deductible donation should contact the church office at 604-946-7033.
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