MANIKO Rugato Bure and her eight children are survivors of a living nightmare in Sudan and are forging a new life in Logan City, south of Brisbane.
They fled from their strife-torn African homeland, and escaped over the border into Uganda where their torment continued in a refugee camp.
It was seven more years before they were cleared to migrate to Australia, out of the horror of living in constant fear, dogged by violence and disease.
They arrived in Brisbane last October and are making Woodridge their new home.
‘I can sleep now,’ Maniko said through one of her interpreters, 16 year-old son, Angelo.
She and her children, aged from seven to 20, are sleeping easily, with a little help from the St Vincent de Paul Society and others offering valuable support.
St Vincent de Paul Society state vice-president and chairman of the society’s migrants and refugees committee, Greg Harris, said refugees like the Rugato Bure family often arrived with nothing but the clothes in which they were standing.
That’s why anything the society is able to help them with is much appreciated.
But probably just as important is the friendly welcome they are offered.
Mr Harris said the refugees often were traumatised and then had to deal with the culture shock of their new home.
Maniko’s trauma started with the loss of her husband, a soldier whose opponents were out to kill him.
‘When war began, we went to live in a village, and my husband went to the bush to fight,’ Maniko said.
He was arrested and imprisoned, but escaped to flee with the family to the border of Sudan and Uganda. He was later captured in Uganda.
‘They took him back to Sudan and maybe they killed him, we don’t know. And I was beaten very badly.’
The family sought the protection of the United Nations and was sent to a refugee camp with thousands of others.
Maniko’s youngest child, Abraham, now 7, was born there, amid a life of suffering and danger.
Struggling to cope with the lack of food, clothing and shelter, and the sickness and disease, the refugees also had to endure raids from rebel fighters.
‘They would come and take food and clothes, and burn houses,’ Maniko said. ‘They would take people away and kill them.’
Angelo said: ‘Sometimes we would run into the bush when (the rebels) came, and stay maybe one week.
‘If they got us, they would take boys like us to fight against good people. We ran into the bush to save ourselves.’
Any problems the family have in resettling pale into insignificance in comparison.
‘We are so happy because we are safe from war,’ Maniko said. ‘Maybe if we stayed there, they would have killed us. I can sleep now.’
Maniko, 47, said they had no problems in their new home – except for the thought of those left behind.
Maniko’s brother and sister were both killed, leaving spouses and children, and her father is still there.
She has heartfelt thanks for the Australian Government for the opportunity she and her family are being offered.
‘I’m thankful for that, and (I give) thanks to the people who struggled for me to come here with my family. Also the people of the Church have welcomed us here in a good way.’
The smiles tell the story of that gratitude.
Angelo says they have made many friends.
‘Mum has got friends. Also we have friends in school, at the park. We’ve got lots of friends.’
Mr Harris said the St Vincent de Paul Society needed many more people to join them in offering friendship to hundreds of other refugees.
For the first three months the Rugato Bure family has been involved in a government resettling program which includes English language classes.
They have been in short-term housing during that phase and soon will move to long-term accommodation.
That is when the St Vincent de Paul Society’s ongoing support will kick in.
Vinnies will be a friend, helping the refugee families deal with everyday life, like visiting the doctor, going shopping, and other appointments.
The team working with refugees in the Woodridge area includes Canossian Sister Anna Limari and Vincentian Linda Walsh.
It is proving so successful and so valuable that Vinnies hopes to form special conferences around the archdiocese to do similar work.
Such groups were needed because regular Vinnies conferences are finding the workload with refugees too much, on top of the usual activities, Mr Harris said.
The society is working with hundreds of refugee families in south-east Queensland.
‘We’re appealing to the wider Catholic community to join these special conferences,’ Mr Harris said.
‘The volunteers will be called to the giving of one’s self to others, and creating a hand up, not a hand out.’
He said young and old were needed for this vital work in social justice.
Anyone wanting to help or more information can phone the St Vincent de Paul Society on (07) 3010 1000, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact the St Vincent de Paul Society conference in their area