In 2015 the eruption of long simmering political and ethnic tensions in Burundi led to an estimated 50,000 Burundians being driven to escape to neighboring countries. This forced exodus included the immediate family of members of Trinity Anglican’s own congregation who after trying without success to bring their family members to safety in Canada, requested the assistance of their parish in helping to gain refugee status for their family members.
The church answered their call for help by becoming co-sponsors of the family, (Pelagie, Augustin, their daughter Alida and her husband Salvator), who at that time were living in Rwanda after escaping from Burundi. The process of completing the application for refugee status and of raising the necessary funds to cover expenses associated with the application was completed seven years ago; the pandemic and ensuing re-ordering of priorities as well as other evolving situations in the world, e.g. the war in Ukraine, led to an even longer than usual processing time of the family’s refugee application.
After seven long years of hoping, praying and planning, the family finally arrived in Ottawa this past November. Despite the trauma they have experienced, they have joyfully launched themselves into their new lives in Canada. Pelagie and Augustin are thrilled to be able to hug their grandchildren and have adjusted quickly to life in Ottawa. Both Alida and Salvator are university graduates with plans to obtain re-certification in their respective fields. Presently, Alida is focusing on learning English formally in the LINC program (a language training program for eligible adult learners), and Salvator is working full time at the University of Ottawa as a cleaner. Both Alida and Salvator are French speakers. As Myrna Rootham, a parishioner of Trinity Anglican stated, they have a very bright future ahead of them and they look forward to being contributing citizens of their adopted country.
Lindsay Whillans, a Trinity Anglican parishioner who has been coordinating the Trinity refugee committee, shared that the family are fully embracing their lives in Canada and are hungry to establish community ties and to build for the future. Part of their excitement, (joyfully shared by their fellow parishioners at Trinity Anglican, where they all attend mass every Sunday), is the anticipation of the birth of the first child of Alida and Salvator, due at the end of May. The arrival of the family has greatly enriched the lives of their fellow parishioners. Their faith and commitment inspire those around them.
Cindy May is a resident of Old Ottawa South and a member of OSCRS.