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Welcome to Carberry Wollo/Kollie Family

posted Sep 26, 2016, 8:46 AM by Kathy Carr
Carberry has a new family in town, Frances Wollo along with her children Etta, Benjamin and Jackie Kollie have come to live in Carberry from the Ivory Coast in West Africa. It was through the hard work and dedication of the members of the Carberry Community Refugee Committee and our town that made it possible for this family to leave the refugee camp in the Ivory Coast behind and begin a new adventure here in Canada where they are safe. 
The committee and the federal government is jointly sponsoring this family for one year and when they arrived in Carberry in the evening on Wednesday, September 14, Frances, the mother told me that she finally felt safe. A feeling that many of us probably take for granted, but for the refugees of Africa and really all around the world, that feeling is a luxury and now it’s a luxury that we can provide to this family.
They have had quite the journey from Africa to Canada and it all began in Liberia. 
Frances grew up in the Grand Gedeh County in Libera. Etta and Benjamin were born in the capital city of Monrovia while Jackie was born in the Ivory Coast. Frances, Etta and Benjamin all lived in Libera until 2002. Life there was pleasant and that country faced everyday issues like every other country, but then civil war broke out and in 2002 they fled the civil war and made their way to the Ivory Coast. During the civil war thousands of people died and many fled for their lives. Families were disrupted and members are still missing. They went by themselves and spent three days walking in the bushes and sleeping under the trees at night. “You are running for you life through the bushes” said Frances. The last hurdle they faced in trying to leave Libera was crossing the Cavalla River. Frances said that there is a man with a canoe that will take people across and you pay money for it, unfortunately when they needed to cross they didn’t have any money, so she said that they gave the man their clothes and they crossed the river into the Ivory Coast. They were just some of the many hundreds of thousands of Liberian refugees who had to be settled into refugee camps.
 At first they stayed in a town called Plupie then in the second week of Novem­ber in 2002, they ended up in a refugee camp in the town of Guiglo in the Ivory Coast.
This refugee camp at Guiglo only had Liberian refugees and it was a very large camp divided into blocks and zones. 
Frances said the first place the family lived in was a thatched house and when they were sleeping water would come into their ears from the rain along with many flies and mosquitos that would get in. Malaria was an issue in the camps as it was on the rise. Frances and Etta said they all got malaria plenty of times, but there was a clinic there and medicine available for them to take. They then moved to a warehouse building that had a zinc roof. Whenever it rained Frances said it was so noisy you couldn’t sleep. 
They were in this camp from 2002 to 2011, but fled the camp after disputes following the 2010 election in the Ivory Coast, which lead to civil war and the ousting of President Laurent Gbag­bo. Thou­sands of Ivorians fled to Libera while others were displaced or killed. For­mer president, Laurent Gbagbo is currently on trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague for crimes against humanity along with many other charges. 
Before they left the camp in 2011, Frances said that the UN provided the camp with food from 2002 till 2007, but after 2007, no more food came from the UN. Now it was up to Frances and her family, like many other refugees there to find food for themselves. Frances said that she would go into the woods to cut wood to sell and Etta sold things in the market.
It was on March 28, 2011 when Frances, Etta, Benjamin and Jackie fled that camp, once again walking and sleeping in the brushes and swamps before ending up at a UNHRC camp (an­other one in Guiglo as well). Frances said they lived in this camp until 2013, that was when the camp was told that the government wanted their land back which the camp was located on. So the UN gave Frances and her family $50,000 in foreign money which is equivalent to $1000 in US dollars to rent a house. They ended up renting one in Guiglo where the population is 113,796 according to a census done in 2014 and have lived there until the day they left for Carberry.
When they were told that they were coming to Canada they were very excited. They began their journey flying from the Ivory Coast to Winnipeg stopping along the way in Brussels and Montreal. Frances said that when they were first told that they were coming to Canada, they were told that they were going to Winnipeg and they had no idea they were actually coming to Carberry until they got off the plane in Winnipeg. Needless to say they were extremely surprised and a little sad, because they knew nothing about Carberry, but she said when they arrived in town they were all once again very happy and excited to be here.
They are not the only refugees from Guiglo in Canada though. Frances says that people from the camp they were in have been relocated to Ontario and British Columbia and the two other refugees they travelled with are based in Winnipeg. 
Frances said that she would like to see their friends that are in BC and Ontario again and hopes they’ll be able to come for a visit one day. There is also a family in Killarney that arrived back in July of this year, but they do not know them. When asked what they all thought of the plane ride, since this was the first time all of them have even been on a plane, Etta, Benjamin and Jackie said they all enjoyed it and would be okay taking a trip on one again, but Frances was not a big fan of flight at all. When it came to the food, they weren’t huge fans of it either. They were  though extremely excited to arrive at their new home to a nice hot african meal that was prepared and waiting for them. 
They’ve been enjoying themselves immensely since they arrived  to town. Benjamin who’s 16 years old likes to play soccer and is extremely excited about going to school for the first time. Jackie’s 13 years old and very friendly. She’s a little ner­vous but also really excited about the thought of going to school too. Etta’s very kind and will be going to Brandon to take lessons in English and Frances the mother, is very kind and welcoming saying “Please stop by, our door is always open.” She said that’s what is was like back in Africa, you always left your doors open to welcome in visitors for a visit or for a meal.
They are very happy to be here and Frances says she has no regrets at all leaving Africa. Frances said she would like to get a job and start working, making money so she can save up to bring one of her twin daughters here, unfortunately she has no idea where her other daughter is, “She’s on the run” said Frances and for many refugee families in Africa, that is their reality. Family members can be killed or go missing sometimes for many years while fleeing for their lives from the war and unrest there. Frances told me they have called their family back there and let them know that they arrived safe and sound here.
The Wollo/Kollie family is looking forward to experiencing snow for the first time among many other things. Frances said they brought some seeds with them and hope they can have a garden next year.
This upcoming year will be a huge year of changes for this family, but they are very thankful to be here and the committee is very thankful for the donations they have received from clothes, to furnitures, to household supplies and the list goes on to help Frances, Etta, Benjamin and Jackie feel at home. And while I sit at the kitchen table with Frances, Benjamin, Etta and Jackie for this interview, Frances points out a sign on the wall in the kitchen that says “Home Sweet Home” and Frances said that she agrees with that sign, they are home.
The committee is still looking for volunteer drivers and for people that could volunteer to help out with tutoring. If you are able to help out in any way, please let a committee member know.
by Kathy Carr
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