Haven of hope for war-torn refugees

TEN orphaned refugees from African countries ravaged by war and poverty could find a new home in the Hunter, if the hopes of refugee advocate Sister Diana Santleben are realised.

Sister Santleben, from Penola House, has begun a fund-raising drive to raise the estimated $5000 a child needed to deliver the orphans – from two families – to Newcastle.

The cost covers the approval process and airfares from Africa, she said.

Sister Santleben said she was hopeful the Hunter Region would support the cause, which would take the children clear of the violence and uncertainty they had endured.

‘‘This is going to be as close to happily ever after as we are ever going to see in our lifetimes,’’ she said.

‘‘Each of these children has been orphaned by war.

‘‘These kids are going to flourish [in Newcastle] … we’ve got so many runs on the board as a city [welcoming refugees].’’

Seven of the children, waiting in Liberia as they apply for visas, will be reunited with their grandmother Isata in Australia.

Their father, Kollie, left to seek food on a day in 2009 but never returned.

Mother Sangay died unexpectedly following an undetected cancer.

While Isata is based in Wagga Wagga, Sister Santleben said she planned to move to the Hunter nearer relatives to raise the children.

The other three children, who are in Kenya, are relatives of University of Newcastle student Jerome Rugaruza, who fled the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo and arrived in Newcastle as a refugee in 2009.

He was reunited with his family in 2011, but the lengthy screening process prevented his wife Immaculee’s younger siblings Fabiola and Patrick and his nephew David from receiving visas at the time.

Jerome and Immaculee said Patrick enjoyed sports while David and Fabiola were musically minded.

‘‘Above all they like school more than anything and they adapt quickly,’’ Mr Rugaruza said.

The couple said they were confident they could financially support their extended family in Australia as they were already sending money to them overseas.

‘‘It would be very good for them because their life is changed completely, not just for themselves but the generation that will come from them,’’ Mr Rugaruza said.

Donations to support the Penola House bid to bring the orphans to the Hunter can be made to the Our 10 Lost Children Fund through any branch of the Commonwealth Bank (BSB 062 194 Account 1010 8045) or directly to Penola House at its Wilson Street, Mayfield, site.

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