It was love that brought Wilson Ekayapan from his home in Kenya to Ballarat, but he says he couldn’t have chosen a better city himself.
He has now spent 13 years in Ballarat and has built a family, a career and friendships in the place he now calls home.
Mr Ekayapan first met his now wife at an orphanage in Kenya. He was working in administration where he had grown up as an orphan. She spent six weeks volunteering there as a nurse.
“We became friends and after a year and a half I followed her to Ballarat,” Mr Ekayapan said.
“She was 19 when we first met, I was 20. In 2004 I came to Ballarat and went to university. We married in 2006 and now have two children, eight and six.
“June 22 2004 was the day I landed in Melbourne. I can remember the date so well because I wasn’t prepared for winter. I landed in Melbourne about 2am. I was shocked by the cold. I thought, ‘I’m not going to survive in this place’. I drove to Ballarat the next morning and it was snowing.”
Feelings of excitement were overwhelming when Mr Ekayapan first made the decision to move to Australia knowing he would have a better life in Australia than he could ever have had in Kenya.
But he said there was always a concern in the back of his mind that he wouldn’t be welcomed because of his race.
“There was always the what if – what if they don’t like Africans… but I have felt welcome ever since.
“At that time there were not many Africans in Ballarat, a very small number compared to now, so many people were unsure how to approach me. Once you open up, so many people were interested in knowing about me.”
Mr Ekayapan said he felt proud to have seen multiculturalism grow in Ballarat. He has helped those new to the city in his previous role as president of the African Association and involvement in the establishment of the Harmony Festival.
“My role first was to unite the African community that came here and encourage the culture of Africans and share it with the community of Ballarat, so the newly arrived feel loved and accepted in their new environment.”
Mr Ekayapan has continued working with community in his new role as a residential care worker at Berry Street, after a career in IT with IBM. He has also established an IT consultancy company.
“I feel really proud of my city and that we are growing,” he said.
“Australia wasn’t one of the countries that was on my radar. I was going to study and work in Kenya. People keep asking me why Ballarat. It was where my girlfriend, now wife was. But I couldn’t have chosen a better city.” ‘
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