A player on the pro Saint John Mill Rats basketball team, who has been fighting to get his family out of their war-torn African country, arrived on Canadian soil with his wife and daughter Sunday morning.
After months of hard work and fundraising — Modibo Diarra, his wife Miriam and their three-year-old daughter Cindy stepped off a plane at about 12:30 a.m. and were met by an emotional crowd.
When a military coup plunged his native country Mali into unrest, Diarra returned home to make sure his family was safe.
There have been executions, rapes and other human rights violations in the country, according to Amnesty International.
Since then, efforts have been underway to return the basketball star and his family to Canada.
Mill Rats head coach David Cooper says he was at a loss for words seeing his player and friend arrive.
"Just seeing Modibo, he and his family and everybody. And just seeing it be a reality him being here, is just a blessing, it's overwhelming for a lot of us," Cooper said.
The Diarra family will spend the next few months in the home of friends Geoffrey and Rebecca McCullogh while they get settled.
Diarra says the decision to leave his homeland was difficult, and the support shown by Saint John has been overwhelming.
"It's really emotional. And seeing all that hard work, from all over the world," Diarra said. "And coming here and coming to live with a beautiful family here. I just can't thank them enough."
"It feels very comfortable. And I feel like Cindy's been here for days when she just arrived ... And the kids are [going to] get along well," Rebecca McCullogh said.
Fundraising efforts will continue for other items the Diarra family may need, such as winter clothing and gift cards for food.
Diarra supports 22 extended family members in Mali.
The family is still waiting on one more arrival, Diarra and his wife are expecting their second child in December.