SCOTT ALLAN talks to guests at a farewell party for his family Wednesday in Litchfield Park.
Community rallies around family from South Africa
Beth Kristin Ott assistant editor
After months of sleepless nights wondering what the future would hold, Cheryl and Scott Allan and their five children are bundled up in winter gear, heading home.
Home is a place they've never been - the snow-covered community of Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada - and yet, they've never felt so secure.
The family left their native land of Durban, South Africa, where violence was on the rise and work was hard to come by last spring.
"We saw things deteriorate rapidly - lots of violent crime, thefts, murders. Just when we thought we couldn't handle it anymore, our neighbor was murdered. We could hear the screams," Cheryl said. "We wanted out for the kids' sake. The United States was our first choice."
Cheryl and Scott feverishly sent out hundreds of letters and resumes to try to get a sponsor for a visa. Finally, one day they received a response and got a training visa that brought them to Litchfield Park.
It was in Litchfield Park where they found a community that rallied around them, raising money, donating items and ultimately finding them a new place to call home.
Glimmer of hope
Lawyer David McCarville had sponsored Scott's J-1 training visa as Scott has a law degree.
"Having been to Durban, I knew their situation was not good."
So, he brought them to Litchfield Park. They knew the situation was temporary, though, and spent months searching for a more permanent future for the family.
"It was like a dream," Cheryl said. "My young son started school and said it was like in the movies."
Teachers and families at Litchfield Elementary School collected money to help the Allans. Members of the Church at Litchfield Park, which the Allans attended, donated items. The Rev. Jud Souers began looking at all possible options for the family and finally found them a way to make a new life in Canada.
"It's been such a struggle for them, but this is an amazing community," Souers said. "There are five children who are going to have a better future now."
The family had three children at Litchfield Elementary School, one child at Western Sky Middle School and one student at Millennium High School.
All of the children gained weight, gained confidence and improved their grades since arriving in the United States, their mother said.
"When we arrived, my kids were all very thin. My 7-year-old was very withdrawn and wouldn't talk to people," Cheryl said. "In such a short while, my kids have improved so much."
A new future
Facing a return to their native country was unbearable, Cheryl said.
"Thinking about boarding that plane, well, I can't," she said. "As a mother, I can't do it."
Although the Allan children settled into American life quickly with little flags all around the house, their parents were uncertain where the future would take them.
"Our immigration policies in this country are very difficult," McCarville said.
That's where Souers came into the picture, connecting the Allans with lawyers he knew in Canada. Eventually all of the pieces of the puzzle came together and the family received a two-year work visa for Canada and Scott secured a position with a law firm in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada.
"The church and especially Pastor Souers really made it all possible," Scott said. "As soon as we get there, we will start the process toward permanent immigration."
A community celebration was held Wednesday at the Church at Litchfield Park before the Allans began the long journey toward their new home.
"We are very excited and relieved," Cheryl said. "The community here was absolutely fantastic."
Beth Kristin Ott can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source:West Valley View