By Barb Brouwer
Salmon Arm Observer
The community has done it before and the Shuswap Five (Plus One) is hoping residents will step up again.
Many Salmon Arm groups and individuals surged forward with help of all kinds when preparations were being made for the first Syrian refugees to arrive in 2016.
Another refugee family is now looking forward to the security and freedom of living in Salmon Arm – very soon.
Dr. Richard Currie and four others formed a group called Shuswap Five in order to be able to sponsor Algoni Moussa and his family, who fled their home country due to religious persecution and violence.
Moussa and Currie met when they were working together in a mission with Médecins sans frontières (MSF) in the Central African Republic (CAR) in 2009-2010. Currie and Moussa, a nurse/midwife who later became the head of obstetrics in the hospital, became friends and kept in touch intermittently throughout the year.
Conditions in the country were relatively stable when Currie was there, but civil war erupted after his departure.
“Essentially, the family was the wrong religion in the wrong place at the wrong time,” he says, noting Muslims had attacked Christians in other parts of the country and, in the ensuing backlash against Muslims, Moussa’s younger brother was killed and the family home destroyed.
Moussa and his nine children were all born in CAR, a small country colonized by France, with a population of about 4.5 million and French as the official language. Except for one of the children who lives in France due to health issues, life in Bangui, the capital, was all the family knew.
But because of the threat to their lives, MSF evacuated the family on a humanitarian flight to neighbouring Cameroon on Jan. 2, 2014.
“It should be noted that we do not know Cameroon, it’s just a matter of life or death, we must leave the Central African Republic – if not it is death,” says Moussa in the letter to one of the members of the sponsoring group which is translated from French. “It’s a community conflict, people kill everywhere.”
Shortly after their arrival, Moussa and his family registered at the United Nations Refugee Centre to further improve their safety.
Moussa then accepted a job with MSF in Chad but his family had to remain in a Cameroon refugee camp.
Determined to seek a better, safer life for his family, Moussa wrote to Currie to share the family’s plight and tell him of his intention to emigrate to Canada.
Currie investigated the possibility of sponsoring the family and discovered doing so would require a commitment of five people living in the same community. He then discussed the possibility with Daniela Widmer, who had also been Moussa’s supervisor in an MSF mission in the Central African Republic.
Thus was born the Shuswap Five (Plus one). Daniela Widmer, Damien McCombs, Nadia Widmer, Callum Reid and Currie are the five members of the group who committed to the Canadian government’s requirements and signed the necessary documents. The sixth member is Currie’s wife, Alyson Stone, who is taking care of many of the details – including securing a number of necessities for the family.
And time is of the essence.
A year ago, the group was advised it could be four years before the family would arrive. However, a July 3 letter from the Canadian government advised the family will be arriving in Salmon Arm on Aug. 1.
Of chief concern is finding suitable accommodation for the large family. A home with at least three bedrooms is required.
As well as furniture and assorted household/kitchen items, the family will need clothing. The children range in age from a young woman, 23, a boy, 18, a boy, 16, two girls aged 13 and seven and a three-year-old boy.
Anyone who can help may call Alyson at 1-647-835-4436, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.