A beloved school caretaker who has lost his battle to remain in the UK was today flying home to Kenya.
But Portas Ongondo said the outpouring of love and support from people in Collingham had left him feeling optimistic rather than sad – despite the thought of being separated from his three adult sons.
And he said whatever the future held, the Yorkshire village would always be in his heart.
The 55-year-old said: “I remain part of this community even though I’m going away.” Mr Ongondo’s right to live and work in the UK was dependent upon his relationship with his wife, which has broken down.
But parents of youngsters at Collingham Lady Elizabeth Hastings School and local residents rallied to his aid, gathering more than 1,000 signatures on a petition backing his right to stay.
And their fundraising campaign to help him establish a new life over there raised a staggering £4,916, thanks to support from parents, staff, donations from the public and support from the Lady Elizabeth Hastings Charity.
Mr Ongondo said: “I really, really appreciate what they have done. This was a special thing that has happened in my life and something I will treasure forever.”
Mr Ongondo was due to fly from Manchester this morning after his appeals to the Home Office were rejected. But he hopes to continue his fight from Kenya.
Katy Frankland, mum to Tom, 12, and William, nine, said she was “very disappointed” with the Government’s decision, adding: “He has made a very real contribution to our community and will be sorely missed.”
Pastor Stephen Thompson from The King’s Church in Boston Spa said: “Our lives will be the poorer without him.”