Welcoming the Achindas
Stuck in Vermont 299
1/20/13: Robert Achinda believes in miracles, and after hearing his story, some Vermonters do too.
Originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Achinda, his wife Anna and three of their children fled to Tanzania in the 1990s to escape civil war. The Congo conflict has become one of the bloodiest since World War II, leaving millions dead and hundreds of thousands displaced.
For the past eight years, Achinda has been in the United States, living separately from his family of nine. Until Achinda was granted asylum, his family was not able to join him. This process took seven years.
Vermont was not the first place Achinda imagined when he dreamt of America, but he has called it home for six years and has made many friends here.
In the fall of 2012, Achinda was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given six months to live. North Ferrisburgh residents Lisa and Tom Bove rallied the community in his support. Sen. Patrick Leahy's office helped expedite the Achinda family's processing through the Department of State and helped obtain visitor visas for Achinda's mother and sister-in-law. Floery Mahoney and her mother, Debbie Allen, donated airplane tickets for the family and computers for the children. The Community Bible Church rented a Charlotte home for the Achindas and local donations of furniture, food and clothing poured in from the surrounding community.
After eight years of living apart, the Achindas were reunited in late January (one son has yet to arrive) and introduced to their new home. Eva caught up with them at the Community Bible Church where a reception was being held in their honor. After undergoing intense chemotherapy, Achinda's diagnosis is better than expected, and it remains to be seen if the miracles will continue.
Achinda hopes to pay it forward with his non-profit organization, International Solidarity for Peace & Development (ISOPEDE Inc) which will help both immigrants and Africans alike.