Story: Roseline Ezea

Published on
Wed, 16/10/2013 - 15:30

Roseline Ezea followed the integration programme at bon eight years ago: “It was the start of my life here.” Her former teacher social orientation invited her for a talk on her work at Familiehulp and volunteering work in Nigeria.

Who? Roseline Ezea
From: Nigeria
Age: 37
In Belgium since: 2005
Education: Institute of Management and Technology
Integration programme at bon: 2005

Roseline, you’ve been living in Belgium for eight years now. Have you ever gone back to your home country Nigeria?  
This summer, I’ve been back to Nigeria for the first time, with my daughter Vera. I hadn’t been there since 2005. For my daughter, it was her first Africa experience. I can still feel the tears of when we arrived at the airport, just as much as when I left eight years ago. Everybody was crying, but this time of happiness.

It wasn’t an ordinary holiday. I worked as a volunteer for the non-profit organisation CIDEO, which is a medical aid organisation my mother founded. All types of people volunteer there: pastors, doctors, nurses, engineers, economists… They all take care of people who are sick.

So you go back to your home country for the first time in years, and the first thing you do is volunteering work?
It was hard work, but it gave me lots of energy. It’s very natural for me: my mother and my best friends are giving their best for that organisation. The best way to be with them is to work with them on their dream. I was really able to help out thanks to my experience at Familiehulp, where I’ve been working in Brussels for the last five years.

What does your work at Familiehulp look like?
I work with elderly people full time. Most of them live by themselves. They are lonely and have a lot of worries. If I am late for even five minutes, some of them call Familiehulp to ask if I’m still coming. Most of them - although not all of them of course - are very friendly… We laugh a lot. I tell them about Africa, they tell me how it used to be here. They are surprised to hear I’m very Catholic – my religion is very important to me. They remember going to church when they were younger, in their Sunday clothes, with lots of young people and children at the church.

Sometimes, I visit them in the hospital when they get sick. When someone dies, the family often invites me for the funeral. Familiehulp allows us to attend funerals during, but not outside of working hours, so work and private life don’t get too mixed up. Some people would like us to always be there, just because they are so lonely.

What does an integration programme mean to you?
My husband already lived in Brussels when I arrived in Belgium. His friends brought me to Oniko (now bon Schaerbeek). I still remember some of the names of people that followed the social orientation course with me: Paulina, Aissatu, Catherine, Hatem,… I still see some of them regularly. Others, only on Facebook.

It was very important for me to follow the integration course. I couldn’t understand anything in Brussels; I didn’t even speak the language. Social orientation has helped me to completely restart in a new environment. It was the start of my life here. After the social orientation course, I took a Dutch language course and then one at VDAB. I attained a certificate of Care Provider (8 months) and Nursing Auxiliary (2 months extra) at Familiehulp. Without bon, I’m quite sure this wouldn’t have been possible that quickly – or at all.

Do you ever think of going back to Nigeria?
Vera and I are both Belgian. We enjoy going to Nigeria, and we enjoy coming back to Belgium.

With special thanks to Marianne Buyck