Bornse Odilia Anyachi Okonga gives Africa a voice in the Netherlands

Coffins on car roofs

Odilia Anyachi Okonga was born and raised in Kenya. She came to Europe for the first time at the age of thirty-two. At the time, she visited family in Belgium and then traveled to Hengelo, where a friend lived. He took her to the Africa Festival in Hertme, where she met her future husband Hans. The spark was ignited and Odilia decided to leave Kenya behind.

“Europe is very different from Kenya. The cold and the snow. Brrr. I had never seen snow before, ”says Odilia. Another example were the ski boxes on top of the car roofs. In Africa it is customary for the coffin with the deceased on the roof of a car to be taken to the final resting place. “I saw all kinds of cars on the highway in the Netherlands with those strange suitcases on the roof and I made the link with Kenya. I kept thinking, ‘How sad. Those people have lost someone. ‘ Until one time I saw a family laughing around a car in a parking lot with a suitcase on the roof. Then Hans explained that they are luggage trunks! ”

Neighbors

The first start in the Netherlands was not easy: “It is very difficult. Firstly, there is the language that you do not speak and it is also more difficult to establish contact with your neighbors. In Africa it is very different. You can just walk to the neighbors and sit at the table. You get something to eat and you have a chat ”, says de Bornse.

Once she had settled in, she noticed that children adopted from Africa, among others, needed to learn more about their African roots. She decided to establish the African School, a knowledge institution where people can learn Swahili and learn more about African culture.

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