Ornella fled Cameroon with her family due to war and resettled in Durham, NC with the help of World Relief in 2017, when she was just 17 years old. Her mother and many family members tragically died prior to her arrival. Ornella had little English, but she held - and maintains - a firm belief that God has a purpose for her here in the U.S.
Within just a few years, Ornella has become fluent in English, a graduate of Jordan High School, a student at Durham Technical Community College, a camp counselor, a trusted and beloved friend, and a valued member of All Saints Church in Durham. Ornella acknowledges that the road to community integration had many challenges. “It wasn’t easy for me to come to a new country not knowing the language. But I like to be around people who talk a lot, and I learned English faster that way!”
She particularly credits World Relief Durham’s mentorship program with providing meaningful social interaction, health and wellness education, and support for her efforts to learn English, get a driver’s licence, find a job, and more. Mentorship Coordinator, Selina Máté has provided consistent and compassionate mentoring to Ornella through high school and beyond. “Selina changed my life. She said that things would get better, she told me to keep going. I used to think I was alone, but I took Selina’s advice and moved forward with my life. Selina is like a sister to me!”
Selina feels the same about her relationship with this remarkable young woman. “Working with Ornella has been one of the biggest joys of my time at World Relief. Our journey together has encapsulated what a true mentorship journey looks like - growth, difficulties, celebrations, and togetherness. Ornella has turned to the World Relief Durham team with every hardship she has faced over the last year. While some have been especially tough situations, it has been an honor to be entrusted with that role. Alongside the challenges, Ornella has shared every celebration with us. We’ve had the opportunity to watch her graduate high school, begin her first job, and start college. Meeting Ornella has been nothing but a blessing and I am thankful to have spent the last year mentoring her while she begins to navigate adult life.”
Ornella radiates joy; she is truly unforgettable and has a bright future ahead of her. Her ability to find the positive, to create a new life for herself in a different country, to become a successful scholar and employee, and to inspire her friends at World Relief Durham and throughout her new hometown is beyond admirable. Though COVID-19 is changing her plans and limiting her interactions, this resilient woman is undeterred: “The virus can stop me from going outside, but it won’t stop me from continuing my education. Life keeps going on, and I have all the support I need. Why would I complain? I am so thankful to God.”