SALT LAKE CITY — A Sudanese mother separated from her family for five years was reunited with two daughters and met her granddaughters for the first time in an emotional meeting Friday afternoon at Salt Lake City International Airport.
Edana Gama immigrated to Utah in 2008 to find medical help for her youngest daughter, Catherine, who has a severe cleft palate.
Phoenix Ostermann of Salt Lake met Edana in 2011 when she volunteered to spend six months as an International Rescue Committee volunteer helping her and her daughter adjust to life in the United States.
"Catherine is my daughter and Edana is my sister," Ostermann said. "That's how it feels. They are my family now."
When Ostermann heard Edana's story, she said she couldn't help but call on everyone she knew to help raise money to help the political asylee bring the rest of her family to Utah.
"I have had Facebook acquaintances, total strangers, college roommates step forward and say 'I want to help you with this,' " Ostermann said. " 'I want to support you in this.' "
Kimberly Wagner said she heard about Edana's situation through Facebook and once she started helping she didn't want to stop. Wagner said she couldn't wait to join the welcoming party when the woman's daughters arrived at the airport Friday.
"Then when we saw that half the family was arriving, I thought it would be great to bring my kids and share in this happy moment," Wagner said.
However, Friday's reunion celebration was only the first step. Edana's husband and three other children are still waiting in Uganda to have enough money to make the move to Utah. Ostermann seeks to raise another $7,000 to cover the cost of their airfare and other expenses.
Hopefully, some day soon, there will be another family reunion.
To learn more about the family and how to help, click here.
Contributing: Marjorie Cortez