Uniting three generations in Killarney

Group to privately sponsor refugee’s daughter and grandchildren


The image of seeing a mother united with a missing daughter – plus meeting her two grandchildren for the first time – has fired up emotion for a local pastor.

Danny Groening, pastor at the Killarney Mennonite Church, says he has put his name on the line to sponsor the family of Zoe Dickson, a refugee who arrived here in Killarney with her son Willie three years ago.

“It’s not very often that you are presented with the opportunity to re-unite a family,” he said. “This will bring together a mother, a daughter, and two grandchildren that she has never even met. It’s so special.”

Groening is a member of the Killarney Refugee Sponsorship Project (KRSP), a group that helped bring in Dickson, along with her friend Felicia Joh – both refugees in Ivory Coast – and offer them a home in the bustling Prairie town.

And they are willing to work hard again, he said, to assist more members of Dickson’s re-discovered family. 

But this time the sponsorship will not be a government managed process, as it was with Dickson and Joh, but one in which the immigrants will be named and requested.

“In 2002 Zoe became separated from her daughter, Favor, in Ivory Coast,” said Groening. “She later sent money and hired someone to try and locate the daughter. She was eventually found, living with Zoe’s sisters in Bonoua, east of Abidjan, on the Ivory Coast. Favor now has two daughters herself: Mercy, age three, and Annabelle.”

And Groening is not the only one signing on the dotted line to help support the family.

“This is going to be a private sponsorship, a PSR, in which we are naming the people we want,” he said. “KRSP is a community group, with a steering committee, and there are 12 of us on that committee. And seven or eight of us had to sign on for the sponsorship. I’m one of the signees. We had to agree to sponsor Favor and her children for one year, and cover all their financial costs and needs.”

So was it a big step to take on this massive and responsible role?

“I felt fine,” said Groening. “It’s just another step in what we set our minds to. I felt personally a calling to do this.”

But it may be a long haul before the young family actually arrives in Killarney, he added.

“This is a process that takes time,” said Groening. “Maybe a year, or up to two years. The hope is to arrive at the finish line somewhere in the next year or so.”

In the meantime, KRSP has organized their first fundraiser to begin raising money for the family’s needs.

“We know from experience now that $25,000 will cover the costs for a year for this family of three,” said Groening.  “Combined with help and donations from the community, we can do this. We have a fundraising event planned for Friday, April 12, at 7 p.m., at the Shamrock Centre. It will be free, and will include desserts from Wow! Factor Desserts. Zoe Dickson will share the story of how she was separated from her daughter in 2002, and their hope of soon being reunited. Plus the Kaduri family, who have also settled here recently, will share with us just how much their lives have changed for the better since coming to Killarney. There will be a free-will offering.”

In addition, there will be musical entertainment provided by soloist Lisa Campbell, and the JT&T Trio.

Dickson herself will travel to Killarney for the event, said Groening.

She currently lives in Hearst, Ontario, where she moved to secure full-time employment. 

“Zoe’s hope is to move back to Killarney,” he said. “She went to Hearst because there was a job waiting for her there. A number of refugees she knew were being sponsored there, and one of them had found her employment in a care home. She is working there now, and also at a McDonald’s Restaurant. Her goal was to earn as much money as she could, and to be independent.”

Dickson had been working half time here in Killarney, at the Co-op grocery, added Groening.

In a perfect world, Dickson will be able to return, and also finally be re-united with her extended family, all in Killarney. That’s Groening’s big plan.

“It would be quite a moment,” he said. “I ’m pumped about that – that’s what fuels me.”

ZOE’S DAUGHTER, OLIVIA FAVOR DICKSON – Zoe Dickson has not seen her daughter, who goes by her middle name, Favor (above), since 2002, when they were together in Ivory Coast, Africa, living in a refugee camp.

THE DICKSON GRANDCHILDREN – Above is Zoe Dickson’s granddaughter, three-year-old Mercy Dickson, and below is a second granddaughter, Annabelle Dickson. The KRSP hopes to sponsor the family, and bring them to Killarney.

NEW LIFE, NEW HOME, NEW SCHOOL IN 2016 – Newcomers to Canada are (from left): Felicia Joh, William Mensah, and his mother Zoe Dickson, who have been settling into their Killarney home since arriving in late July from Ivory Coast in Africa. Willy, age seven, is already looking forward to entering Grade 2 at Killarney School next week. Laura Rowley (far right) is part of the Killarney Refugee Sponsorship Project (KRSP) committee, which has facilitated the Liberian refugee family’s passage into this country. KRSP also organizes practical and emotional support for the family, plus financial help, during this first year in their new country.