Tatjana Micic, an accredited immigration specialist for IRC, has helped Gama and Ostermann through the maze of paperwork required for the family's entry. She also deserves credit for making the reunion possible, Ostermann said.
“The paper trail for eight people has been really hard,” she said.
Gama and Catherine, who have experienced homelessness since relocating to Utah, now live in a modest apartment in the central city. Gama has worked low-wage jobs and has been sending a part of her wages to family members who remain in Africa.
These hardships pale in comparison to the horrors of civil war in Sudan. She witnessed the murders of her parents. Her brothers and sisters were killed as well.
Gama was held captive for five years. As a teenager, she was raped by a soldier and she gave birth to a son. Her daughters who rejoined her Friday were also raped by soldiers within six months of each other.
“What happened to me, happened to them,” Gama said in an interview prior to her daughters’ arrival.
Another of her husband’s relatives was murdered this past week.
“There is no safe place there,” she said.
Gama was relieved that half of her immediate family was safe in Utah Friday afternoon.
“I’m so happy,” she said, her cheeks stained with tears.
“Finally!” Nelly said.
Ostermann wept tears of joy, too.
“I held it together until she spotted them and she got down on her knees,” she said.
Ostermann said her goal is to raise another $7,000 to bring the rest of Gama’s family to Utah by December.
Last December, Ostermann organized what she described as an “African feast” as a fundraiser. A number of Gama’s friends from Sudan and their church cooked.
Although friends and family were very highly supportive, Ostermann said she soon realized she would need to make a broader appeal to pay airfare for the entire family. So she created a website, From Sudan to Utah, to appeal online for help.
“This is going to take more than my network of friends and family,” she said.
Ideally, Ostermann would like to raise the entire amount so the airfare can be purchased in advance.
“Instead of paying $2,000 apiece for a ticket, which is about what we paid here, we’re looking at $900 each. If there’s anything extra, we’d use it for resettlement,” she said.
Ostermann’s mother, Ruby, for whom her granddaughter is named, marveled at the reunion and her daughter’s role in making it happen.
“I’m so proud of them. She worked so hard. I just hope she can make the rest of it happen," she said. "She will.”
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