Ottawa

Christmas miracle for Burundian man reunited with family

It was a Christmas Guido Niyokwizigira will likely never forget. After fleeing his native country of Burundi in 2016, he was able to see his family again in Ottawa on Christmas Eve.

Guido Niyokwizigira met his four-year-old son for first time Christmas Eve

Reverend Arran Thorpe, left and Guido Niyokwizigira, right. Ottawa’s Trinity Anglican Church began to support Niyokwizigira after the newcomer fled Burundi and became separated from his family. (Supplied by Robert Taylor)

It was a Christmas Guido Niyokwizigira will likely never forget.

After fleeing his native country of Burundi in 2016, he was able to see his family again for the first time in four years, on Christmas Eve.

Niyokwizigira only learned Tuesday that the visas for his wife and two sons to join him in Ottawa had been approved.

"It was a miracle for me," he told CBC Radio's All In A Day Thursday. "I cried for a couple hours."

Lived at shelter

After Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza announced plans to run for a third term in 2016, violence erupted across the central African country, leaving hundreds dead and forcing hundreds of thousands to flee. At the time, Niyokwizigira was detained by government forces.

He eventually fled to the United States before crossing the border into Canada.

Niyokwizigira lived at The Shepherds of Good Hope for six months, eventually landed a job, and continued trying to help his family join him.

Trinity Anglican Church in Old Ottawa South reached out to support Niyokwizigira, helping him buy Canadian necessities, like winter boots.

The incredible story of a Burundian man determined to reunite his family, after four years away from them. 10:20

"I remember it was one of the icy times in Ottawa and Guido just had dress shoes, and I'm thinking, 'that's not going to work in Ottawa'," said Reverend Arran Thorpe.

He said people in the neighbourhood also rose to the challenge, helping Niyokwizigira prepare for his family's eventual arrival.

Family moving into apartment

Niyokwizigira's wife, Marie-Claire, and sons, Kenny and Caleb, arrived in Ottawa on Christmas Eve. They're now spending the next two weeks quarantining and Niyokwizigira is joining them.

He's secured an apartment and they are allowed to move in early.

"People just stepped right up. They put aside all their plans," Thorpe said, adding someone was able to secure enough donations to fully furnish the new apartment.

"It's just so overwhelming to see just good people doing good things with what we have," he said.

Niyokwizigira also has another reason to celebrate this season. Not only is he reunited with his family, he has finally met his youngest son, Caleb.

Caleb wasn't born yet when Niyokwizigira was forced to flee and he was overwhelmed with emotion being together with his family after so many years.

"I felt I was in paradise."

With files from CBC Radio's All In A Day

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