Please note: Effective 12 March 2018, Vine Community Services Limited (VCSL) has changed its official name to Branches of Hope.
Joh and Hyppo were the former leaders of The Vine’s African fellowship. They fled from Togo to Hong Kong in 2005, and have resided here for 9 years. They always refer to each other as their own “brother”. Though not related by blood, they’ve shed blood, sweat, and tears together throughout many difficult years.
Joh and Hyppo used to be election monitors in their home country of Togo. During the 2005 elections, they, along with four other monitors, refused to sign false documents for the president, and were thus beaten, electrocuted and threatened with death. To flee from this military dictatorship that has ruled Togo since 1967, they came to Hong Kong seeking asylum.
They had no place to stay when they first arrived, a stranger cheated them for their money soon after their arrival, and they had to sleep at the airport, around the Star Ferry, and on the street for months. Without any money, they could only ask for bread from charities, and that was all they had for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Life was beyond difficult for them. They wandered on the street for months, until a day when they met a French lady called Ann at a charity, who later introduced them to The Vine.
The Vine provided Joh and Hyppo financial support for rent, transportation and food throughout their years in Hong Kong. It also offered them training and courses, such as the Million Leadership Mandate course – a leadership course, the Cleansing Stream course – a counseling and healing program, the Alpha course, etc. These courses aim to equip, educate, and empower people like them to become positive and contributing members of the community. It prepared Joh and Hyppo for the future, and gave them an opportunity to utilize their new skills to serve the community.
“I am not allowed to work in Hong Kong. I have food to eat through The Vine. I have transportation to go anywhere. I signed up for different courses at The Vine. The Global University course is an accredited university course and by the end of the course I can get my bachelor degree. The Family Impact Course is all about building family and transforming the community. I like this course because I am engaged and I am sure this course will prepare me to be a better husband one day,” Joh said in 2010.
“The Vine gave us a home when there was no home. They gave us opportunity where there is no hope. In 2007, my father died and I was so depressed. But the Vine family was there encouraging me and supporting me. All these years, they always opened their arms to welcome us. I remember my first year learning sound – people came to me saying, ‘Hyppo you can do it. Have confidence.’ The sound team gave me so much strength and encouragement. The leaders were there to push me and that’s how my dream came true to study sound engineering. All of them at the Vine have impacted a lot in my life,” Hyppo said in 2014.
Joh and Hyppo met their wives in Hong Kong and were both married in 2011 and 2013, but they didn’t seek assistance from their wives for visa application. The pair applied and was accepted by Canada under the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Programme, a scheme that allows citizens or permanent residents over the age of 18 with personal relationships with refugees to offer sponsor and financial support for them.
They left Hong Kong on 9th July 2014 after 9 years of seeking asylum. Moving forward, Joh is pursuing his dream to be a pastor, and Hyppo is planning to study sound engineering. To read more about their story, please visit http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1547630/african-torture-victims-stymied-hong-kong-accepted-canada-refugees