Family of eight from South Sudan to come to Summerland

Summerland Refugee Sponsorship Group had initially planned to support family from Namibia

The Summerland Refugee Support Group will bring a family from Africa to Summerland this winter, but details about the family have changed.

Earlier this year, the sponsorship group had arranged to bring a family of six from Namibia to Summerland.

However, that family will not arrive in Canada.

Doug Holmes, president of the group, said the Namibia family, who had been living in United Nations camp in Botswana for 20 years, were determined they were no longer refugees and were deported back to Namibia.

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“It’s a tragic story — our family even had their flights to Penticton arranged; they were supposed to have arrived Thanksgiving weekend — but unfortunately the situation is beyond our control,” Holmes said.

While Namibia, northwest of South Africa, is one of the more stable African nations, Holmes said the family is from the Caprivi Strip, a small area in the northeastern part of the country. Holmes said refugees have been fleeing conflicts in the area for years.

Since the Namibian family will not be arriving, the refugee sponsorship group has chosen to sponsor another family.

This family, from South Sudan, consists of a single mother and seven children.

The children are aged 18, 16, 14, 11, seven, five and less than one year old.

They are living in a refugee camp in Kenya.

“This is obviously a family in need,” Holmes said. “We’re able to provide that support.”

South Sudan, in east-central Africa, gained its independence from Sudan in 2011. The country has had a civil war since 2013. The country ranks second lowest on the Global Peace Index and has the third highest score on Fund for Peace’s Fragile States Index.

While the family’s first language is Dinka, the mother and teenaged children also speak English.

The family is expected to arrive in Summerland in the next five to 10 weeks.

“Being a single mom with even more children than our previous families, this sponsorship will present some new challenges for the group to ensure the family adjusts and gets through their first year,” Holmes said, “but with a great team of volunteers and a lot of experience now under our belt, we’re pretty confident this sponsorship will go as smoothly as our previous three.”

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