I es­caped war, now watch me play NRL

Sunday Herald Sun - - News - JES­SICA HAL­LO­RAN jes­sica.ohal­lo­ran@news.com.au

AS a lit­tle boy, Obed Kar­whin walked for days past dead bod­ies in a bid to find safety.

He ex­pe­ri­enced ab­so­lute fear as bul­lets and grenades ex­ploded near him, his mother and baby brother as they headed for the bor­der to es­cape the Ivo­rian civil war.

By four years of age, he had seen peo­ple mur­dered.

As hard as his mother Becky tried to shield her el­dest son’s eyes from the hor­ror un­fold­ing in front of them, Kar­whin can­not for­get the sound and sight of death.

He sur­vived his bru­tal start to life on the Ivory Coast and to­day holds a dream to be the first “full African” to play in the NRL.

Be­hind a charm­ing smile, he still car­ries emo­tional scars but he says his child­hood made him re­silient and more de­ter­mined to live out a dream of play­ing first grade.

“There are very lit­tle things that scare me be­cause I have ba­si­cally seen it all,” Kar­whin told the Sun­day Her­ald Sun.

“I have slept next to dead peo­ple, just to stay quiet so the rebels could go past … I have run as bul­lets have flown over my head … many peo­ple who have ex­pe­ri­enced what I have ex­pe­ri­enced, their mind­set wouldn’t be right …”

Kar­whin, his mother and baby brother Sa­muel en­dured a hellish month-long walk to safety where they slept in the bushes and ate what they could find.

“I walked from the Ivory Coast to Guinea, it’s ba­si­cally walk­ing from here (Sydney) to Mel­bourne,” Kar­whin said.

“When we got to the bor­der, I saw the army peo­ple just kill peo­ple for fun. It was very bru­tal. I have seen things that would mess some peo­ple’s minds up for­ever.”

When they made it to Guinea, they were ac­cepted by Aus­tralia as refugees. “We are so for­tu­nate,” he said. “I am just grate­ful to be in a coun­try where I have so many op­por­tu­ni­ties — and I want to make the most of it.”

Kar­whin re­mem­bers walk­ing around in won­der­ment at a shop­ping cen­tre in west­ern Sydney. He’d never been on an es­ca­la­tor. It took him 10 min­utes to work up the courage to get on it.

His mother reg­is­tered him for rugby league when he was 14. Kar­whin says rugby league “res­cued” him from get­ting into lo­cal “gang” trou­ble. He played for Black­town PCYC Spar­tans. His side didn’t win a game that sea­son but he didn’t care. He loved it. He has played for Wests Tigers in the un­der-20s, scor­ing a hat-trick of tries in his de­but in 2015, then North Sydney Bears.

Next sea­son, he will play for Red­cliffe Dol­phins and hopes this could be his break to reach the top of the game. “I feel like the sky is the limit,” Kar­whin said.

While some of his friends are on the “wrong side of the law”, Khar­win’s fo­cus re­mains strong.

“It would seem like a waste, for my mother to go through all of that, to res­cue me, for me to be­come a wannabe thug,” he said.

“My mother strug­gled to get me out of that, so I see it as I have to make some­thing bet­ter of my­self. I need to make her proud.”

Pic­ture: BRI­ANNE MAKIN

Hav­ing fled civil war, Obed Kar­whin dreams of play­ing in the NRL.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.