Community rallies around Ghanaian family in need, parents hope for family to reunite soon

Dickerson Automotive donated a car to a family in need just in time for Christmas as part of its Wheels With Heart program, and one woman close to the family said that she couldn’t think of a more deserving family.

It was seven years ago when Rebecca Rivas first met Sulelumana “Sule” Issah when she hired him to work at the Nestle plant in Springville. Issah had just moved to Utah from Ghana after having won a lottery which awarded him all the documents that he needed to immigrate to the U.S. Unfortunately, Issah had to leave his wife and four children behind while he forged a path for them to come join him. According to Rivas, from the very start, she had never had a more dedicated employee.

“He arrived in Utah when it was snowing and all he had was Ghanaian clothing – you know, T-shirts,” she said. “He borrowed a bike from somebody and he lived at the top of Provo Orem Hill and every day he rode it to Springville to work. I just remember the very first day of training was at 6 a.m. and I remember he got to work before I did. It was snowing and his hands were so cold that he couldn’t even write his name. He was not dressed appropriately because he didn’t know what our weather was like. 

“He was never late one minute, and he never missed a day of work,” she continued. “He worked every day and every overtime shift possible. He has taught me about determination – this man who’s literally riding his bicycle in the snow because he moved to make a better life for his family.”

As the years went on, Issah worked hard not only earning money that he would support his family, but worked diligently with officials to be able to bring his family over with him. According to Rivas, Issah was able to travel to Ghana twice to visit his family, but was never able to bring any of them with him. 

“He  went back to Africa three times in the last seven years to see his family; one of those times his wife got pregnant again, and so then they had their fifth baby,” Rivas said. “He’s been trying to get the family here and the immigration process is horrible. You always hear bits and pieces about immigration, but I’ve been working with him trying to get his family here and it is so hard. He finally became a U.S. citizen in July of last year, and usually once you become a citizen, family can get here pretty quick – usually within 30 to 60 days. We were pretty sure once we became a citizen, they were going to get here soon and nothing happened. I could just see the heartbreak on his face, you know, he’d never met his baby yet.”

Making a home for his family

Amidst heartbreak, Issah continued to work and save to make sure that when the time came to bring his family over, he had a place to welcome them and a life for them to live. He worked the graveyard shift at Nestle and went to school during the day, working toward a degree in public health –  an area he worked in while in Ghana. He even managed to put himself in a financial situation where he was able to purchase a townhome in Payson.

Rivas said he was hopeful that his family would soon be able to join him, but he was dealt another blow when he found out that he would need to begin the process all over again. 

“We were working with Congressman Burgess Owens, and they went over all the paperwork and then they realized that once he became a citizen, he had to do a whole new application system,” she said. “He had to redo everything all over again and pay the fees all over again”

Issah scheduled interviews with the African Embassy for his wife and two of his children, and was told that they could come back after they passed. He went back to Ghana during the interviews, and assumed that once the wife and two children were able to come, that the other three would be falling right behind, but that didn’t happen. Three of his children, ages 14, 10 and seven remain in Ghana. 

“They had to come back with his wife and two Children because they had to come within a certain amount of time because if they don’t come within that certain amount of time, they can never come,” Rivas explained. “He waited as long as he could and he brought his wife and two of their children, but the other three are left behind which is just horrible. His poor wife is just so distraught.”

A car for the Issah family

The family is moving forward with the hope that they will all be reunited, and Issah is still making sure that he has all he needs when his other children are here; one of those things is a car. Rivas said that when she heard about the Wheels With Heart program at Dickerson Automotive, she knew that there wasn’t a more deserving family.

“Sule was worried about how he was going to carry his family of seven in a vehicle,” Rivas said. “So while he was in Ghana, that’s when I started trying to figure out what can be done, and a friend of mine told me about Dickerson Auto’s Wheels with Heart program. I had nothing to lose, so I submitted a letter to them a few months back and they emailed me a week later and they said we would love to help.”

On Dec. 11, Dickerson Automotive presented the family with a fully refurbished Dodge Caravan, and Rivas said that Issah and his family were so grateful. Dickerson Auto’s service consultant, Brenda Dudley said that they are so grateful to all who helped to make the donation possible. 

“We so generously had this Dodge Caravan donated to us from a customer,” she said in a statement sent to Serve Daily. “Our team has worked many hours on this van replacing the transmission, engine mounts, suspension parts and tires to make this a safe and reliable van for the family to enjoy.  A special thank you to Wiggy Wash for detailing the van, Us Auto Force for helping with the tires, and the Jensen Family for donating the van.”

A call to action

Rivas said that the community has really rallied around the family, not just by providing them with a car, but by helping with clothes and furniture and welcoming the couple’s daughter at school. She said that the best gift of all would be to find a way to reunite the family. 

 “It was bittersweet,” She said. “He does have this amazing vehicle and I’m so grateful for Dickerson. Now it’s just another waiting game. There are three Children that are just left behind. They’re being cared for by the village, but the children don’t understand. Sule said that when he left, he had to leave when they were in school because they kept crying saying ‘Why didn’t you get us a plane ticket?’ And so it’s been very hard on him. So now he’s trying to support his family here. He supports his family, the children back in Africa. And he also has to support all of the extended family in the village as well.”

“He’s just, he’s just the most amazing person and he just makes me want to be a better person,” Rivas continued. “I’m so glad that things are going well, but I know he just feels so incomplete without his other children here, and I just won’t rest until those children are here.”

Arianne Brown
Arianne Brown
Arianne Brown is a mom of nine who writes columns for many local and national publications. She currently resides in Payson, and enjoys looking for good happenings in her area and sharing them for others to read about. For more of her stories, search "A Mother's Write" on Facebook.

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