Refugee-turned-TWU student builds a new life in Canada
TWU’s Langley campus is just about as far as you can get from the refugee camp in Ghana where current student Victor Dillon spent some 22 of his 30 years. Now Dillon, who enrolled in TWU’s partner program, ESLI, in January, is adjusting to life in a new country, with a very different future ahead of him.
As a young child, Dillon and his family fled Liberia due to political unrest, settling in a refugee camp in Ghana. “We went to seek safety,” he said. “We hid for days and weeks on our way there.”
Thinking the political situation may have improved, his father and brother returned to Liberia, leaving Dillon and his mother behind in Ghana. They were never heard from again. In 1996 Dillon’s mother went in search of his father and brother. She, too, disappeared.
Dillon—who was taken in by widowed grandmother Sarah Weeks, also raising her grandson Ralph—later learned that his parents and brother had been killed. Often forced into hiding, he received death threats, including one note that read, “You’re next.”
For several years, Sarah raised both Ralph and Dillon in the refugee camp, teaching them to forgive their enemies and show love.
Eventually, Ralph immigrated to Canada and began working towards helping his grandmother and adopted brother join him. It took years before Ralph, who is now serving in the Canadian Navy, received permission for Sarah to immigrate. Sadly, the authorization letter came two weeks after she died from complications of osteo-arthritis in Dillon’s arms, in 2009.
With Dillon now alone in Ghana, Ralph’s First Baptist Church family, along with Victoria resident Hildegard Horie, championed Dillon’s cause. But it would take another four years before he would arrive in Canada.
During that time, Horie was a tireless advocate, lobbying Saanich-Gulf Islands MP Elizabeth May and then-Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney. As his last act in office, Kenney approved Victor’s immigration on a student visa.
“This is an example of a community gathering around a student,” said Brian Kerr, TWU’s Executive Director of Admissions. “When we first heard of Victor’s case, the obstacles to him successfully arriving at TWU seemed insurmountable. It was the passion and dedication of Hildegard that really caught my attention and I knew that we had to come alongside her in the effort to bring Victor to Canada. Seeing Victor arrive on campus was a great example of TWU’s mission at work.”
Horie shrugs off any accolades for her efforts. “That’s how it should be,” she said. “We should care for our brothers and sisters in Christ. That’s our calling.”
In January, Dillon arrived on the TWU campus. “God has been guiding and protecting me,” he said. “Without his grace, I don’t know where I might be.”