Arriving with only with one suitcase each and the clothes on their back, Stettler’s newest family is settling into Canadian life.
The family – Daniel Kwizera, Diane Mukasine and their three children Junny, Daniella and Darissa, – arrived in Stettler recently as sponsored refugees from Ethiopia.
It was a long journey that started in Burundi when Kwizera’s parents were assassinated after challenging the corrupt government. Fearing for his family’s life, Kwizera, his first wife and their daughter fled the city. A year later, his wife and three-year-old daughter were killed when he was not at home.
Once again Kwizera found himself on the run. His escape took him across four borders: Burundi, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Kenya.
When he arrived in Kenya he was told Kenya was not a safe place for him and was advised to travel to Ethiopia.
Frightened and alone, he crossed the border as a refugee into the country’s capital Addis Ababa. He was directed to the nearest refugee office where he was transferred to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
He was sent to a refugee camp 1,000 kms away near the border of Sudan. He met his second wife, Diane Mukasine. Mukasine, who is Tutsi, fled her home country of The Congo when ethnic tensions flared and her husband was taken away by police. She fled the country with her eight-month-old son. Their two daughters, Danielle and Darissa were born during their time in the camp.
While in camp, Kwizera was elected as camp chairman. It was the camp chairmen’s responsibility to help maintain peace and security.
After some years in this position, Daniel began to experience problems with some of the other refugees. Realizing he was no longer safe at the camp, he met with the UNHCR officials and he and his family were eventually transferred back to Addis Ababa.
During this time in Addis Ababa, Kwizera opened a social media account. One day he received a message asking if he was Daniel Kwizera, formerly from Burundi.
The person was a friend of his late wife. Kwizera learned that his daughter was alive and well. She had been looking for word of him for the past nine years. He was overjoyed and immediately registered his daughter with immigration.
In May of 2014, the couple had their first resettlement interview with the UNHCR. They were told they may have a long wait but that Canada had accepted their application. In February, 2017, the couple and the children were interviewed by Canadian Immigration officers in Addis Ababa.
With about three weeks notice, the family was on their way to Canada.
The family arrived at the Calgary International Airport on November 22, 2017.
They were all exhausted when they arrived in Canada.
What they didn’t expect upon arrival was the group of people waiting for them. In fact, as they slowly made their way through the arrival gate, they looked back over their shoulders wondering if the group excitedly waving was waiting for someone else behind them.
This is a moment forever imprinted in his mind; Kwizera wept for a moment realizing he had a new Canadian family. (WHO WAS WAITING FOR THEM?)
Since arriving, the family has been very pleased with the hospitality they have received.
“How is it that people are so happy for someone they don’t know?,” said Kwizera. “It is so wonderful to see people genuinely care for one another.”
They also really appreciate that people smile and greet one another.
The couple said that they feel safe and loved in the Stettler community.
“People show how they feel in their hearts,” added Mukasine.