I want to share with you a story of heartbreak, patience, resilience and tenacity.
I first met Larwuo in 2014, through the charity West Welcome Wagon when I had a brand new toy peddle car to donate to a family in need. They mentioned a single mother and her daughter had just moved into the area and had very little. They would be perfect recipients for the toy car. Living only 10 minutes from our home in Melbourne’s Inner West I delivered the toy and stayed for a cup of tea.
I learnt so much about Larwuo over that very first cup of tea. She had arrived in Australia a year earlier after fleeing a life of sustained violence in her home country of Liberia, Africa. Over time she shared with me the extreme violent episodes her family faced due to the country being at civil war. These brutal episodes included seeing her sister killed in front of her and her father fleeing not long after in fear of being killed.
As a teenager, and not long after losing her sister and with her father missing feared dead, Larwuo was forced to travel to a neighbouring country to a refugee camp. During this long and difficult journey and in the crush of people, Larwuo and her younger brother became separated from her mother and other family members. Although the refugee camp helped with shelter and some food, being the eldest, Larwuo was forced to turn from protected to protector in a place that saw daily violence and tremendous hardship.
After enduring a series of harrowing experiences Larwuo and her brother returned to Liberia desperate to try and find their family. It was at this time Larwuo became pregnant and had a baby boy. This baby boy was named Chisom. For 8 months, life almost seemed normal.
However, one day while her boyfriend was away for work, Larwuo, her brother and baby Chisom were subjected to yet more violence by a gang of men. It was in this episode Larwuo’s brother was murdered, she was seriously brutalised and became separated from her baby son. Fortunately some people eventually came to her aid and took a very traumatised Larwuo to safety - far from the scene of the crime. The whereabouts of her son was unknown and Larwuo was too injured and traumatised to return to search for him. When she was finally able to, no one was willing to accompany her the long distance to do so for the fear of suffering further violence.
After a period of time and with very few options Larwuo was offered passage out of the country via plane. Still seriously fearing for her safety, she reluctantly took the journey even though she was still without her baby. It was a heartbreaking decision to make.
Larwuo arrived Australia. Over time she was helped by legal aid to submit her asylum seeker application. Larwuo later found herself pregnant to her then boyfriend and gave birth to a baby girl, Praise. Unfortunately, Larwuo soon found herself as a single parent and in limbo as there was little positive progress on being granted her Australian residency and a safe life. The fear of both her and her daughter being returned to Liberia if her application was unsuccessful was always hauntingly present.
For 4 years she did not know if her son was alive. However, Larwuo never lost hope. In 2016, finally news came that the Red Cross Tracing Service had found her son alive in Liberia. Incredible, incredible news. Chisom was being cared for by a family but with their own significant challenges they stuggle to make ends meet and need him to be reunited with his mother as soon as possible.
After years of uncertainty, Larwuo was finally granted her Australian Residency in 2017 and now the process to be reunited with her son permanently here in Australia is almost complete.
Since that that first cup of tea, Larwuo and I became close friends. Her and Praise became part of our family. We have shared birthdays, Christmases and other significant occasions. We have shared life. My husband and I have supported her emotionally, materially and financially. My Mothers’ Group and friends got behind our family’s efforts for both her and Praise as well as Chisom in Liberia. Amongst many things, collectively we have supported Larwuo's education and training to gain meaningful employment as well as legal costs toward her residency application. My Mother's Group and another friend also combined to send a monthly parcel of funds to help the family caring for Chisom to buy food staples they could all benefit from and help cover Chisom's basic medical costs.
Larwuo is one of the most extraordinary, brave, resourceful and resilient people I have ever met and she deserves all the happiness in the world.
To get Chisom to Australia to finally be reunited with her family after 5 long years Larwuo desperately needs funds to pay for DNA testing to satisfy the government he is her son so his visa can be granted.
Once the visa is granted, Larwuo needs funds to get to Africa to collect her son and bring him home.
Chisom is now almost 6 and has not seen his mum since he was 8 months old.
Please help this mother hold her baby again.
Thank you in advance,
Kyla-Jane Rickard (Hunt)
- Melinda Torner
- Gillian Conway
- Cheryl O’Connor
- Sally Jones
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