New­comer finds team stronger than fire

The Observer (Sarnia) - - NEWS - HEATHER RIVERS

Shot as a boy and left hob­bled by the wound and botched med­i­cal pro­ce­dure, Lon­don high school foot­ball player Josh Ruboneka ar­rived in Canada as a refugee from the Congo just two years ago.

Now, along with eight mem­bers of his fam­ily, the Bant­ing se­condary school stu­dent has been dealt an­other blow — the fam­ily lost ev­ery­thing in an apart­ment fire last week.

En­ter Ruboneka’s team­mates on the Bant­ing Bron­cos foot­ball squad, who are re­spon­si­ble for set­ting up a Go­FundMe ac­count so the fam­ily can get back on their feet.

Eigh­teen-year-old Ruboneka, along with his fa­ther, aunt, one brother and four cousins lost all of their be­long­ings and were left home­less af­ter a fire on Nov. 27 forced them from their Sum­mit Av­enue town­house.

No one was in­jured in the fire, which was be­lieved to have been started by a heater about 9:30 a.m.

Ruboneka, who was shot in lower leg in the Congo as very young boy dur­ing a rebel raid on his vil­lage, was left with a per­ma­nent in­jury af­ter an med­i­cal in­jec­tion for an ill­ness hit his sci­atic nerve.

While Ruboneka doesn’t like to talk about his time in the wartorn coun­try, he is full of praise for the sup­port he has re­ceived from his Cana­dian team­mates.

“They have sup­ported me all the way,” said Ruboneka, who speaks five lan­guages. “We had heard ru­mours it was an amaz­ing and car­ing coun­try (be­fore we came). It’s re­ally be­yond that — peo­ple are so car­ing it is amaz­ing.”

Team­mate Will Brown set up the Go­FundMe page for the fam­ily, who are cur­rently liv­ing in a ho­tel.

“As a team we dis­cussed that we needed to do this,” he said. “It was team idea and we shared it on so­cial me­dia and within four hours raised $1,000.”

Coach Todd MacKay said Ruboneka has been “re­luc­tant and ap­pre­hen­sive to ac­cept all this help and as­sis­tance.”

“I think grow­ing up in the Congo there is a cer­tain way to live that isn’t nec­es­sar­ily trust­ing and un­der­stand­ing of why peo­ple would want to help you, but I think he is learn­ing that here in Canada and at Bant­ing we take care of each other,” MacKay said.

De­spite his phys­i­cal im­pair­ment, Ruboneka never let his in­juries get in the way of the game, MacKay said.

“He prac­tises ev­ery day and gave 100 per cent and was able to keep up. He never al­lowed (his im­pair­ment) to be an ex­cuse,” he said.

For his part, Ruboneka said one of the rea­sons he joined the team was that MacKay “em­pha­sized char­ac­ter and good be­hav­iour and en­grained it in the team.”

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