Asylum seeker beats odds for college
An African student who arrived in Hong Kong as a penniless 15-year-old unable to speak a word of English has taken up a university place in Australia after an astonishing turnaround in his fortunes.
Duvalld Ndilou, 22, who studied under the daily threat of deportation, is believed to be the first asylum seeker in Hong Kong to go on to tertiary education after winning a place to study nursing in Adelaide.
Before taking the college place, he had to return to the Republic of the Congo for the first time since 2005. He had fled through a window when masked men burst into his home and abducted his parents and sister in an apparent political feud. They are still missing.
A church pastor helped him flee to Hong Kong, where he spent time in detention and later faced an ever-present deportation threat as his claim for asylum under the UN Convention Against Torture was processed.
Despite his precarious situation, he went first to a local school and then won a Youth Empowerment Scholarship for disadvantaged youngsters at Renaissance College in Ma On Shan, where he excelled.
Teachers and other supporters have now funded Duvalld's continuing education in Adelaide, but he first had to return to the Congo late last year to get the paperwork for the student visa without which he would not be allowed into Australia.
Duvalld went alone to the troubled West African nation, where he was initially detained and fined heavily because of his asylum-seeker status and the fact that papers served on him as he left Hong Kong indicated that he had technically been deported, even though he left of his own free will.
'I was detained at the airport in Brazzaville [his country's capital] and I had to use some money to free myself,' Duvalld, said. 'Going back to my home country was a very emotional experience for me. So much has changed.'
Duvalld spent 10 days in the Congo as his paperwork was processed, but while there discovered from the pastor who helped him escape that his family had not been traced. He was then able to collect a visa in Kenya and take up his college place.
The student hopes to become a fully registered nurse and one day return to his home country, where he plans to open a midwifery clinic for poor families and to continue the search for his kin. Ironically, despite his achievement, he is unable to return to Hong Kong because of immigration rules.
'To all the lovely people in Hong Kong, all I can say is thank you so much for the huge support you have given me,' Duvalld said.
A fund-raiser to support Duvalld's school and living costs is being held at Coast restaurant and bar in SoHo from 8pm on Saturday. Details are available at www.coast.com.hk.