College donation helps African refugee students

21 Oct 2019

A Rwandan refugee studying for a diploma in pharmacy in Lusaka, Zambia, will benefit from $2000 given by Christ’s College in Chapel today.

Elijah Habimana is just one refugee to be helped by Bishop John Osmers, an Ashburton-born Anglican priest who has been working in Africa for the last 54 years, and who was on hand to receive the cheque from Head Prefect Zach Gallagher.

Greeting the boys in the Lesotho language, Bishop Osmers, 84, said he had spent most of his life as a priest working in very poor rural areas of Africa, including Lesotho, Botswana, and Zambia.

While the church was very involved in working in development – bore holes, maize grinding operations, and setting up campaigns to address HIV – his most important work had been working with young refugees, he said.

“Zambia now hosts 75,000 refugees who have left their own countries for a better life. They are given small plots of land, but receive no help for education, which means that as peasant farmers they can’t pay the costs for their children to go to college.”

He is currently helping nine students with their tertiary education and advocating for refugees’ local integration in Zambia.

“When we help a single refugee we’re helping a whole family and then a whole community. We no longer see refugees as a burden, but an asset.”

Known for his work opposing apartheid in South Africa, Bishop Osmers spent many years helping the ANC, and in 1979 lost his right hand and the front of his legs from a parcel bomb planted by South African Security.

“It was then that I realised just how important was the work I was doing.”

It took until 1994 for a free independent South Africa to be established under its first black president, Nelson Mandela, he said.

College donation helps African refugee students

Chaplain Bosco Peters with Bishop John Osmers and Father Peter Williams, formerly Vicar of St Michael and All Angels.