Sunday, September 12, 2004

THE REAL LIFE OF JAMES GUBA

The story of James Guba’s journey from the refugee camps in Africa to eventual resettlement in Australia caught my attention. By every count, it’s an inspiring hard-luck story of heroism and survival beyond all kinds of adversities.

James has a smart and creative way of thinking about his adopted country, Australia; seeing it as a “home away from home” and “a good place to bring up children”. He is one of the new arrivals from the war-torn Sudan - barely four months old in Australia. In fact, he is still self-consciously trying to come to terms with what it means to start a new life in a new culture.

But there is absolutely no doubt in anyone’s mind about James’s survival ability, even in the most challenging conditions. James grew up in Kajakeji near Juba in Southern Sudan - the heartland of the current struggle.

He has been through a lot in his life; witnessing the horrors of war, death, destruction, starvation, malnutrition and disease in his native Kuku community in Sudan. He lost more than a few relatives and close friends. And, as the war dragged on, all what he worked so hard to achieve vanished into the thin air. The effect on James was devastating!

He ultimately survived the horrors of that war and the local militia atrocities and triumphed! And live to tell the tale!

Nevertheless, surviving the war is one thing, but surviving the peace is becoming an even more challenging proposition. “Starting from the scratch is not easy for me…I‘ve had a lot of problems here already; notably rental problems”, James said. ”They often ask for references, level of income, bond, and rental history which I can’t provide, because I’ve only just arrived”.

And, more importantly, there are employment problems, too. James is a qualified bookkeeper, a true professional, with 15 years experience in the public and private sectors before the war got out of hand in his homeland; but he just can’t seem to be able to find a suitable job in his field of specialization; partly because his qualifications are not even recognized in Australia.

Yet, James is not giving up. He has a healthy appetite for life; and is ready to try anything. Meanwhile, he has been busy polishing up his English language skills and upgrading his professional credentials. He definitely wants to remain active in the community here and to be self-employed.

“I want to set up my own business”, he says without prompting. “And start making some real money…I have something to offer the Australian people”. And he, definitely, believes he has what it takes to run a successful small business here in Adelaide city.

James draws a great deal of strength from suffering and hardship; seeing his new life in Australia as an opportunity to try new things and change his life for the better.

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