From Sudan to Utah!

For: Edana Gama
Organizer: Phoenix Ostermann
From Sudan to Utah! (Edana Gama)
of $14,000 goal
96% Complete
Raised by 122 donors
This fundraiser is closed. Thank you for your support!

The Story

In 2008, Edana and her then 8 year old daughter Catherine came to Salt Lake City, Utah to get life changing surgery to repair Catherine's severe cleft palatte, leaving the rest of the family behind. Life in war-torn Karthoum, Sudan was hard enough without having a child who could not eat solid foods and did not speak until she was 5 because of her congenital deformity.

The Second Sudanese Civil War beginning in 1983 defined every struggle about Edana's adult life.  Held captive for 5 years after seeing her parents murdered, Edana was raped as a teenager by a soldier and gave birth to a son.  Soon after, she met her husband John who promised a better life.  They went on to grow their family and do the best they could for them.  When the opportunity to join relatives in Utah to get a much needed operation for Catherine came about, Edana was the best candidate to bring her here.

Once here, Catherine received her operations through the generosity of Operation Smile and life was looking up. However, the 2 of them faced many struggles in the beginning, including homelessness. Nevertheless, life was better in Utah than in Sudan where her 2 oldest daughter's fate sadly mirrored her own. The teens were both raped by soldiers within 6 months of each other and both gave birth to daughters 3 years ago. With the help of a lawyer, Edana sought Political Asylum for herself and Catherine and recieved that status in 2010. Edana's central focus became having her family reunited in Salt Lake City.

Now enter the amazing Utah Health and Human Rights and the International Rescue Commity (IRC). Without these 2 extraordinary organizations, Edana would not be the english-speaking, hard-working, person she has become today. And without the IRC, I would not be telling you this story of her life.  After a training session, I became a 'Family Mentor' volunteer for the IRC in the Summer of 2011. it would take 3 months for me to be matched up with Edana and Catherine and I can honestly say that my and my family's life is forever changed since befriending this family.

Catherine, now 13, is a regular fixture in our home, coming over often to play with my 3 chidren. She readily passes for an american teenager singing along to all her favorite pop songs on the radio declaring "my bad" when she mixes up the lyrics.  She has had six surgeries to date that have transformed her face and quality of life. (AUGUST 5th UPDATE: Catherine had her 7th surgery, this time reconstructing her upper lip.)

After 5 years apart, this family will now be reunited. The hard work of the IRC office in Salt Lake City has paid off - the U.S. handed down the final approval just a week ago to come as "Derivative Assylees". They just need a way to get here.
  • AUG. 9TH UPDATE: Phase One of this fundraiser has now allowed 4 of the 8 family members to fly to Salt Lake City.  The two oldest daughters and the two grandchildren HAVE ALREADY ARRIVED and the tickets were paid for with the first $7,300 raised. There was an urgency for the grandchildren to arrive before August 15, when their Humanitarian Parole was to expire.
  • AUG. 14th UPDATE:  Phase Two is underway! With the help of and $2,500 in gifts from supporters, the 4 remaining plane tickets have been purchased for $4,850.  The reunion will happen Sept 6th.
  • SEPT. 9th UPDATE:  The 10 have been reunited!  Edana's husband and 3 remaining displaced children arrived in SLC on Sept. 6th.  Any gift made from today forward will go into the hands of this family to help with rent for a bigger place, winter clothes, groceries etc.)

Now it is your turn to forever alter the path of this family.  Your gift will secure the one-way plane tickets for Edana's husband John, her daughters Lina, Nelly, Rose and Carlene, her son Samuel, and her granddaughters Emanuela and Helda. A Christmas fundraiser was held for them in December. That money allowed them safe passage in May out of South Sudan to and lodging in Kampala, Uganda in May, where they await today. (THEY ARE NOW IN SALT LAKE CITY!!  PLEASE HELP US REACH OUR ORIGINAL GOAL OF $14,000!)

If this story touches you, considering sharing it with friends and family. Thank you.

(The deadline of this fundraiser has been extended to September 10th so that all of the supporters can stay be updated with the news and photos of the family's Sept. 6th arrival)

Fundraiser Updates

Posted on September 10, 2013

Posted on September 10, 2013


The end date for this fundraiser was arbitrary from the start and it was a date that kep getting pushed back to accomodate milestones.  Today will be the last day that I will officially be raising money at YouCaring.  

The coverage done by Deseret News did generate one generous gift from a stranger. The article also did as it was meant to - touch many people as understood by this data found on the online version: 







My hope was that Edana's story would seep into the hearts of many and it would have an infinite ripple effect. I feel like that is happening.

The time and energy that I have put into this fundraising campaign was a labor of love.  I will however miss the feeling that I am not doing this alone.  I have felt your love and support through the ether as you read these updates and as I watched the supporter list grow every day. There is still much to be done for this family and the best gift I can give them is empowerment. The less I do for them now the better, which feels counter intuitive to my heart, but I know this to be true.  

My friendship with Edana has taught me many lessons and many things about the complexities of life. Throughout this process, one of my daughters has struggled with feelings of injustice: How is it that we want for nothing and this family HAS nothing, is the basic gist of her inner dialogue. Every day I try to point out the things they do have ('eachother' is a big one) as to help her make sense of something that really doesn't make sense. I am pretty sure that 99% of the way our lives turn out has to do with where we are born.  And what I tell my daughter is that we don't have to feel guilty about the fact that have it better than so many people.  The real key is to take our abundance and spread it around.  

Please don't hesitate to contact me in the future if you want an update about the family: [email protected]

Thank you everyone from me and from Edana and her family.  I wrote down all of your names on poster board so they could see how many people made their reunion happen and they display it proudly on the wall of their apartment now for all of their visitors to see. You did good, everyone!

Most sincerely,
Phoenix Ostermann

Posted on September 9, 2013

Posted on September 9, 2013


Thank you to Marjorie Cortez of Deseret News for this wonderful full-circle article!

Be sure to scroll through the 17 wonderful photos taken by Kristin Murphy.

Enjoy and pass it on!

Posted on September 9, 2013

Posted on September 9, 2013

I wanted to let you all know about a fundraising event happening this evening at City Creek Center that will benefit Bridges to America - the organization that was so instrumental in bringing our second group of 4 here.

Here is all of the necessary info: 

Join Bridges to America at a charity event with one of the coolest and most positive retailers out there, Alex and Ani

Stop by and browse or buy during the event and help us raise much needed funds to reunite a family of four from Kenya in late September. You will be amazed by this family's story. My entire family will be there and members of the family just reunited Friday night from Sudan will also be there. Love to see you there!

If you CANNOT MAKE IT you have two options:

1. Find something at their online store message me your order. I, or my daughters, will find the item(s) and buy for you and you can pay me back;
2. Go to support us with whatever size donation you can make.

A generous 15% of all sales made during the event go directly to Bridges To America.

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