Karl Rasquinha

Immersed in the culture

Students from Burundi now living and studying in Vernon

Olinda Rasquinha, 18, and her brother, Karl, 17, don’t remember the genocide in Burundi in 1993 and 1994, but they have grown up with its effects on their family and country.

They were born in India but lived with their extended family in Bujunbura, the capital of Burundi, while they were growing up. Burundi has a population of eight million with two million in the capital.

“You would call it a Third World country but it is slowly coming up. It is a beautiful country of farming, hills and greenery on Lake Tanganyika but there is often a shortage of water and electricity to homes,” said Olinda.

“Our parents have seen the war. Our father is a pharmacist and people would always come and ask for medicine, sometimes they would break in. It was a terrible time for people and they are still hurt by all that happened.”

They did some of their schooling in India and then went to private high school run by missionaries to learn English. There, they heard about the opportunity to study in Canada and came to Vernon in the fall of 2009 where they have stayed with local host families. Karl is now in Grade 12 at Fulton secondary school and thinking of going on to study engineering, while Olinda has graduated and is going to Okanagan College to upgrade her English so she can study kinesiology.

“The first thing we noticed about Canada was the cold but now we have warm clothes and we like skiing. The school system is different here because it is more creative and you use your mind; in Burundi, it was more strict,” said Olinda.

While they both found it difficult to make friends at first, that changed.

“Now we have lots of friends with Canadians and international students. Once you get to know them, they’re pretty cool,” said Karl.

They both said most of their friends are impressed that they can speak so many languages in addition to English — Kirundi, the national language of Burundi, French, Swahili, and Kokani, an Indian language.

Both have been involved in church activities, Karl playing guitar and Olinda singing.

“We have a wonderful time here. Grandma and Papa (Marlene and Tom Buffie) have been so kind to us. They have really taken us into their heart,” said Olinda.


Just Posted

Valley First feeds a big Okanagan need

Feed the Valley succeeding in fighting hunger

City of Vernon cuts Portland Loo hours

Facility now only open until 8 p.m.; council looks at adjusting schedule

Walk this way, if you dare at Armstrong farm theatre

Caravan Farm Theatre near Vernon presents Walk of Terror

Rockabilly and zombies merge for good cause in Vernon

Living Independent Vernon to host Halloween dance to raise funds

North Okanagan salmon expert supports calls for change in salmon management

A North Okanagan salmon expert supports the Federation’s call to move away from net fishing

Competition shakes up for the Okanagan Mixoff

The Okanagan Mixoff takes place Nov. 7 in Kelowna

Woman, 24, faces life-altering injuries after being dragged 4 blocks by vehicle in Vancouver

A gofundme account says the woman will have to undergo multiple complex surgeries

Fatal overdoses down by 33% in B.C., but carfentanil deaths continue to spike

Carfentanil, an illicit drug more powerful than fentanyl, causing more deaths than ever

South Okanagan dangerous offender guilty plea struck down

Trial delayed again because Ronald Teneycke failed to elect his choice of trial

Six bears destroyed in three days in West Kelowna

A West Kelowna business has been charged for leaving garbage around Lake Okanagan Resort

West Kelowna Warriors being sold back to BC Hockey League

Current owner Kim Dobranski said the sale back to the BCHL should be completed by the end of October

Police standoff ends peacefully in West Kelowna

A distraught man was taken into custody Wednesday afternoon

Most Read