For Rita Josiane Bole and her ten-year-old daughter, fleeing the war in Cote D’Ivoire did not mean they would find peace. Like thousands of other Ivorians now at the Ampain Refugee Camp in western Ghana, life outside of the conflict zone is equally as hard.
Sitting in the restaurant, where we’ve met in Takoradi, Bole begins to cry when she talks about the situation in her home country. “Life is difficult – first in Cote D’Ivoire, and more so with the war. We experienced really terrible moments. Since we have come to Ghana, life is still difficult – to eat, to survive in very, very difficult conditions,” she says in French.
While the fighting may be over, the fear of persecution is still very real. Unable to return home, and feeling stranded in a foreign country, Bole hoped to make a new life for her and her daughter in Canada.
Born in 1977 in Cote D’Ivoire, she is the product of a brief love affair between her Ivorian mother and her Canadian father, a married man from Montreal who was, at the time, working for a printing company in the West African country. Soon after she was born, her father returned to his wife in Quebec, without knowing he had a daughter, and leaving Bole’s mother to raise her alone.
For the last three years, Bole has been searching to be reunited with the father she never knew. With the help of a Catholic priest missionary from Montreal, she finally found her father’s address and phone number. However, her dreams were blown apart, when unwilling to admit to having the affair, he refused to acknowledge her as his daughter or send her a letter of invitation into the country.
“I feel very bad,” Bole manages to say between tears.
Jacob Ahoua, the coordinator of refugees at the Ampain camp, says he was touched by Bole’s heartbreaking story.
“Today the war that has sparked in Cote D’Ivoire means that she can’t return to Cote D’Ivoire. She wants to immigrate to Canada to find her father,” he says.
He continues, “I am making an effort to speak of her story to those who can hear and to those who can bring her help.”
Ahoua is trying to find someone else to sponsor Bole to come to Canada, a place she sees as home.
“Because I am of Canadian origin, I want to be in Canada,” she says.
Bole says she’s not angry, although she regrets not being able to forge a relationship with her father. Her biggest concern now is for her daughter. Somehow, some way, their future, she says, needs to be in Canada.