Father’s Day in July

Mgonea Luhui, and Becky Harris with their newboard daughter Sarah. - Kathy Santini
Mgonea Luhui, and Becky Harris with their newboard daughter Sarah.
— image credit: Kathy Santini

Just one look at Becky Harris and her husband, Mgonea Luhui, cuddling their baby Sarah would turn diehard cynics into romantics and believers in happy endings.

In June, when the News Leader Pictorial reported on their story, Harris was eight months pregnant and desperately trying to get her Tanzanian-born husband into the country in time for Father’s Day and their daughter’s birth.

The mother-to-be pulled out all the stops, including getting her MP, Jean Crowder, to advocate for her as well as starting a Facebook campaign.

She won the war, but not the battle, as her 27-year-old husband arrived July 11 on a temporary visa. Little Sarah was born June 21.

While he didn’t make it in time for the birth, he made an instant impression on baby Sarah, his wife said.

“It was amazing, you could instantly see that she knew who it was. When he held her, she stopped crying, and fell asleep in his arms,” Harris said.

What struck Luhui when he held his daughter for the first time was her size. She was born three weeks early and weighed five pounds, 15 ounces.

“She was so tiny, it was hard for me to carry her,” Luhui said. “I was afraid I would drop her.”

After a request made via Facebook and the News Leader, Harris got 350 signatures supporting Luhui’s temporary visa. Two hundred others signed a request for a permanent visa.

“I still can’t believe that he’s here,” Harris said.

Although he couldn’t make it for Sarah’s birth, Harris said they’re blessed he’s here now to spend time with his family.

She said special thanks go to Nanaimo-Cowichan MP Jean Crowder and her staff, particularly staff member Deirdre Haines.

“They went above and beyond calling immigration for me, to follow up on things., wow, I cannot thank them enough,” Harris said. “This community is really amazing, even people I didn’t know heard our story and asked how they could help.”

Crowder, in turn, said a lot of the credit goes to Becky’s efforts on her husband’s behalf.

“Becky did a lot of work in providing additional information that strengthened the application,” the MP said.

“And support from the community was a strong indicator that it should be granted. (Becky’s case) is a good reminder of how important community support is.”

With the temporary visa process behind them, they’re now focused on getting Luhui a permanent visa. The process takes 18 to 23 months but the couple has hired an immigration consultant to speed it up.

Luhui’s temporary visa expires Dec. 18, but the good news is he can renew it without leaving the country.

“It needs to be a simpler process. Other countries do better at it than we do,” Crowder said, pointing to Australia as an example.

While there’s forests full of paperwork before them, the couple is taking the time to enjoy what it’s all been about.

Like gazing adoringly at little Sarah, who they think has Harris’ eyes, but Luhui’s nose and eyelashes.

“(Caring for our baby) has been a real learning adventure. It’s nice we get to do it together, and that we’re  not doing it a world away,” the new mom said.

Their long-term plans, if the new dad is granted a permanent visa, is to live in Duncan, with trips back to Africa. It all depends on where they can get jobs.

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