1/20/13: Robert Achinda believes in miracles, and after hearing his story, some Vermonters do too.
Originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mr. Achinda, his wife Anna and 3 of their children fled to Tanzania in the '90s to escape civil war. The Congo conflict has become one of the bloodiest since World War II, leaving millions dead and hundreds of thousands displaced.
For the past 8 years, Mr Achinda has been in the United States living separately from his family of 9. Until Mr Achinda was granted asylum, his family was not able to join him - this process took 7 years.
Vermont was not the first place Mr Achinda imagined when he dreamt of America, but he has called it home for the past 6 years and has made many friends here.
In the fall of 2012, Mr Achinda was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given 6 months to live. North Ferrisburgh residents Lisa and Tom Bove rallied the community in his support. The Office of Senator Patrick Leahy helped expedite the Achinda family's processing through the Department of State as well as helping to obtain visitor visas for Mr Achinda's mother and sister-in-law. Floery Mahoney and her mother Debbie Allen of the Terry F Allen Family Charitable Trust donated airplane tickets for the family and computers for the childen. The Community Bible Church rented a Charlotte home for the Achindas and local donations of furniture, food and clothing poured in from the surrounding community.
After 8 years of living apart, the Achindas were reunited in late January (one son has yet to arrive) and introduced to their new home. Eva caught up with them at the Community Bible Church where a reception was being held in their honor. After undergoing intense chemotherapy, Mr Achinda's diagnosis is better than expected, and it remains to be seen if the miracles will continue.
Mr Achinda hopes to pay it forward with his non-profit organization, International Solidarity for Peace & Development (ISOPEDE Inc) which will help both immigrants and Africans alike.