NL a potential fresh start for young Ugandan
By Jaymie White
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
PORT AUX BASQUES — In life, one small decision can have a profound impact. For Sandra Spencer that decision came in the form of a 14-year-old boy in Uganda named Fredrick, a young man she has been working hard to bring home for the past three years.
“While the other kids were screaming, coming to get things, he was sitting over in the shade, drawing. He’s a fantastic artist,” said Spencer. “He was sketching then, and his sketching has gotten so much better.”
From the moment she met him, Spencer believed he was someone special and is amazed by how much Frederick has impacted her own life for the better.
“We did a three-week mission to Uganda seven years ago and I met Fredrick at the orphanage there. There are so many kids in need, but something drew me to Fredrick, as well as my daughter, Jennifer. I lost contact with him for a few years and regained contact with him three years ago, and I’ve been trying to get him here every since,” said Spencer. “It’s been three years trying to get him to Canada, and there’s a lot of roadblocks. We’ve filled out so much paperwork and then it comes to a standstill, but recently, thank God, when we were down and ready to give up, about a month ago, we found out about a provincial program, the Provincial Nominee program. I contacted them to see if we could get Frederick on that. It’s a good program, but he needs a job offer to get here.”
The red tape and hoops that Sandra has had to jump through while trying to get Fredrick here have been substantial and she worries it won't ever happen.
“I don’t need anything from the government. He’s coming to live with us, and with this Immigration program with the province, they will provide housing, but I’ve already told them that if that is the stumbling block, he has a place to live. He already has his passport for Uganda. I paid for that. He has his national ID. I paid for all of this,” said Spencer. “A good friend of ours from over there, who is a fine man to deal with and is involved with social work, World Vision, the churches, he met up with him in the city to set up a bank account. Not everyone understands Africa or Uganda. He doesn’t have a job. He lives in a village. He doesn’t have a roof over his head, but he has to show he is contributing, so I came up with the idea to set up a bank account for him in the city. Nowhere else can be trusted. It was a three-hour motorcycle ride for Fredrick to pay for to get there, so I paid for him to get there, and now he has the bank account set up, which is a stipulation.”
With so many hurdles and disappointments, Spencer admitted it’s difficult to not let it get her down.
“I don’t give up very easy. I get down about it sometimes because it takes a lot of time, and I have a family. I have grandkids in town, and all of our family is very supportive. If Fredrick can’t reach me, he’ll call Frank, my husband. We all want him here. We all want the best for him. I’ve been talking about him for seven years and now he is already a part of our family. We FaceTime him when everybody is here, so I can’t give up on him now. I don’t know what it would do to him, a young man who has nothing, no parents. He’s been in an orphanage since he was seven. All his siblings were put in an orphanage, and his parents died with AIDS.”
Now that Fredrick is an adult, he is too old to be formally adopted, and he is too old to be sponsored, but Spencer still sends money to him at the end of every month, which takes weeks to arrive, and sends packages when she can.
“He turned 21 in December and by the time I got any response from anyone, he was too old to be adopted. That was our first let down. Then I went for guardianship, and no. It’s been a hard road. He got his criminal record check done. His medical records are all done. He graduated high school and I know he did well because he qualified for the college, but they wanted $10,000. I don’t have $10,000 to get him here. Sorry, I don’t have that, but it seems like, if we can get him a job, that’s the easiest way to get him here. He wants to study medicine. They’re crying out for nurses and doctors. I just don’t get why they are making it so difficult when I could bring in a fine young man who’s not dependent on the government. I just don’t get it. He is a good person.”
Spencer won’t ask anyone in her community for donations to help get Frederick to NL and into medical school.
”We did fundraising before we went to Uganda and everybody in this town was very supportive, but I won’t ask anybody to help me bring Frederick. I’ll ask the government in a heartbeat because they’re doing it all the time.”
Despite the time difference, Spencer and Frederick are in touch daily.
“I talk to him every day,” said Spencer. “He learned how to FaceTime with me right before Christmas and we FaceTime every day. It’s seven hours difference so, we try to FaceTime by 11 or 12, before it’s dark.”
Spencer says Frederick shares her disappointment at all the red tape.
“I try to keep him up. If I’m down at all I won’t FaceTime him that day. He got really down because he’s a really gentle soul. He said, ‘I’m down,’ and I asked if it was mentally or physically. I'm always worried about him getting sick, and he said, ‘I went into town to get food with the money you sent and I witnessed a very terrible fight. I tried to help break it up.' I asked if he got hurt and he said, ‘No, but I feel down, upset inside.’ They’re not allowed to show emotion, so I don’t think he really knew how to deal with it. I can’t go into the three weeks with what we did there because it would blow your mind. Kids show no emotion. I watched them have parasites cut out of their feet with a razor blade and a safety pin with no deadening, 26 on one foot, 28 on another, no crying, ‘here’s a lollipop.’”
Life in Newfoundland would be an incredible opportunity for Fredrick, who lives in a country so far removed from Western society and the modern conveniences and opportunities it offers.
“The government doesn’t care about anybody in the villages because they aren’t contributing, so there’s people dying every day,” explained Spencer.
The bottom line for Spencer is that Fredrick is part of her family, and she won’t stop fighting to bring him home.
“I’ve done and tried everything, everything and everybody. The only hope we have is with this program now. I don’t see any other way. I had a contact with Immigration in Ottawa, Simon, and he was really helpful and was going to do everything he could to help me, then everything came up with the Ukraine and I lost contact with him two years ago,” said Spencer. “It’s been hard but I’m not giving up on it.”
Jaymie White, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wreckhouse Weekly News