Despite a life filled with tragedy, Irene Tshiguta always keeps a smile on her face, making her one of the most recognizable people at Carleton University.
Tshiguta has worked as a cleaner at Carleton for over a decade, having come to Canada in 2006 after fleeing violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo that left her widowed and raising her kids on her own.
"The fact that she's so wonderfully optimistic and kind, it really talks to her character, because her life has been very difficult," said Tristan Oliff, a former Carleton student, on The Sam Laprade Show. "She's just the most beautiful, wonderful soul, always smiling loves to be around children. And so many people have got to know her over the years and know her kindness."
Tshiguta has been saving up to bring her family to Canada, but in 2020 tragedy struck again.
Yolande, Tshiguta's eldest daughter, a widow, died leaving behind six kids.
"Irene has continued as she always has, fighting for her family to try and bring these six grand kids to Canada by herself," said Oliff. "When we found out that she was in a tragic situation, we just really felt like we had to do, as friends and community, everything we could to help her in this situation"
Oliff and a group of Carleton students started a crowdfunding campaign to help raise the additional $20,000 Tshiguta needs to sponsor her grandchildren and bring them to Canada.
Tshiguta has already saved $15,000 of her own, but needs to show she has the means to support her family before they can come here. Sponsoring six people requires around $35,000 according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
And the deadline is fast approaching. Tshiguta needs to submit all her documents by Wednesday, Feb. 15.
So far the fundraiser has raised more than $12,000 in just four days.
"There's just been tremendous community support so far," said Oliff. "Even the other day, she was on campus and someone came up to her and gave her $300 in cash to help her with the situation."
Regardless of whether or not Tshiguta's application for sponsorship is successful, the money raised will be going to a good cause - helping support Tshiguta's grandchildren currently living in Zambia with their aunt.
The fundraising campaign can be found on GoFundMe.
Listen to the full interview with Tristan Oliff on The Sam Laprade Show below.