I escaped war, now watch me play NRL
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.”
Having fled civil war, Obed Karwhin dreams of playing in the NRL.