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The Southern Cross : November 2011
November 2011 Page 5 www.thesoutherncross.org.au The Southern Cross news | An Adelaide altar server will be reunited with his mother after 17 years apart when he returns to Africa next month to help educate children out of poverty in Burundi. Ferdinand Ntahonziye will visit his mother in south-east Burundi on December 13, just days before he turns 20 years old. Ferdinand last saw his mother when he was two years old. They were separated from each other among the thousands of refugees crossing Lake Tanganyika, in Burundi, into Tanzania. "I want to see my family and then I want to help people that can't afford school fees for their kids or children who have dropped out because they have nothing," said Ferdinand. In 1994, Ferdinand, his mother and brothers fled Burundi after the country's bitter civil war claimed the lives of his father and sisters. Ferdinand and his brother Cyriaque were settled in the Nduta refugee camp in Tanzania. There they remained for 15 years awaiting a visa to Australia without knowing the fate of their mother and brothers, who were settled 600km away at the Mtabila camp. It was only after arriving in Adelaide, in May 2007, that Ferdinand and Cyriaque discovered their mother and brothers were alive and had last year returned to their village, Giharo. "I want to tell those young children (in Giharo) whose families have died in the war and who have suffered great trauma that there is hope, because I was one of them," said Ferdinand, who has received Australian citizenship. "I want to give them hope that they too can achieve their dreams." Against all odds, Ferdinand Ntahonziye learnt the English language, completed his Year 12 SACE as a boarder at Sacred Heart College (SHC) with a credit level last year and gained entrance to his chosen course at the University of South Australia, which he will begin next year. In 2010, he was awarded the John Brewer Memorial scholarship from the Knights of the Southern Cross. In the same year he received the Sacred Heart College Principal's Award for meritorious and outstanding achievement in his graduation year. He is an altar server at St Francis Xavier's Cathedral and a youth minister and server at Aquinas College, Adelaide's Catholic Residential Tertiary College, where Ferdinand studies and resides with support from Aquinas benefactors. Ferdinand's education fees have been partly funded by SHC and KIDS (Kindness Is Doing Something) @ SHC -- a group formed to assist a number of disadvantaged students, including aboriginal students from Santa Teresa. Last year's first biennial fundraiser collected about $25,000. Ferdinand is currently holding down two part-time jobs -- he's been a kitchen-hand at the Morphett Arms Hotel since May and a furniture removalist at Allied Pickfords since 2009 -- while studying a bridging course at UniSA with a distinction-grade average. The majority of his earnings are set aside for the reimbursement of schooling fees, monies sent to his mother, and for his trip home next month. He has also set aside $500 of his earnings to buy books and education resources for the children of Giharo and is hoping to raise more funds. Bruce Hendry, Allied Pickfords national operations manager and part of KIDS@ SHC, said Ferdinand was "an outstanding and resourceful young man, whose honesty and integrity are beyond reproach". Sacred Heart College senior school principal Paul Hine said: "Ferdinand is truly a remarkable young man -- he is humble, industrious, a person of deep faith and has a genuine concern for those around him. "His journey is an inspiration to those around him and I have no doubt that he will become a very significant leader of his community into the future." Donations towards the education of Burundi children can be made by contacting the Business Manager at Sacred Heart College on 8294 2988. BIG THANKS: Burundi refugee turned Australian citizen Ferdinand Ntahonziye thanking one of his many benefactors Bruce Hendry, Allied Pickfords national operations manager. Photo: Simon Stanbury Moving reunion for Ferdi Rebecca DiGirolamo Nearly 4 out of 5 Australians would be happy with a donation to charity instead of a gift. Donate now to the Vinnies Christmas Appeal and help support over 500,000 people this season. Call 13 18 12 or visit vinnies.org.au How will you spend this Christmas?