By Genevieve Dery, Canadian Red Cross

April 1, 2011 should have been just another regular day for the Bambas. Sara, a young mother of four, had left her two eldest with her mother while she took her youngest son, Mohamed, to a neighbouring village for medical care.

Little did they know that their lives would suddenly turn upside down and that it would be six years until they were together again.

Sally and Suleyman, aged 8 and 10, were at school when a coup broke out in their native country. With their lives in peril, they had to flee immediately. Alongside other children, they walked for hours and crossed through a forest in the dead of night. Two days later, they arrived in Conakry, the capital of Guinea. Seeing these two helpless orphans, a rice merchant took them into her home. They would live there, with no news of the family they had left behind, for six years.

Sara and her two youngest children would also walk a long and exhausting road before arriving in Canada in 2014. Since Mohamed had spina bifida, Sara had to carry him on her back for kilometres on end while cradling her young baby in her arms. After first fleeing to Danané in Ivory Coast, not far from her home, she then sought refuge in Guinea. Penniless, she earned money by handwashing clothes to provide the basics for her children. One year later, Sara resumed her journey with the hope of a better future. Before arriving in Morocco, where she would fly to Canada, she travelled through Mali and Algeria.

Sally and Suleyman never left Sara’s thoughts. She wondered constantly where they were and whether, one day, she would once again be able to hold them tight and inhale their sweet scent. As a mother, she was hopeful that that day would come. It was what gave her the strength to carry on.

In March 2014, finally settled in Montreal, Sara began working with the Canadian Red Cross to find her children and her mother. The Regional Program for the Settlement and Integration of Asylum Seekers (PRAIDA) and Community Services Centre (CLSC) staff supported her throughout the process. Less than a year later, the Red Cross found her children. Staff from the International Committee of the Red Cross in Conakry visited them to make sure they were healthy and safe and to take a photo.

A Journey of HopeWhen Isabelle Marin from the Canadian Red Cross showed the photo of the two children to Sara, she looked at it for a long time and traced their faces with trembling fingers. “They’ve grown up,” she managed to say, her voice thick with emotion. “My children, my little children.” From that moment on, Sara was confident that her family would be together at last. Bringing her children over was an arduous process, but as the months passed, she was able to count on the support of the Centre social d’aide aux immigrants (CSAI).

On April 20, 2017, Sally and Suleyman landed in Canada. It was an incredibly emotional reunion. Sara’s children have since enrolled in the local school and are slowly adjusting to their new reality as a family and as Canadians. One dreams of becoming a computer scientist, and the other an economist. Here, anything is possible.

Surrounded by her four children, Sara is not giving up hope of one day finding her mother.

The Bambas are extremely grateful for all the work done by the PRAIDA, CLSC and Red Cross staff. 

Learn more about the Red Cross Restoring Family Links program.

Pictured, from right to left: Anita Reny from the Red Cross, Sara Bamba, Suleyman and Sally, Luz Elena Caceres from CSAI, and Isabelle Marin, Case Manager for the Canadian Red Cross Restoring Family Links program.