‘It’d be like a dream’: Pope airman from Ghana hopes to become a citizen for his daughter
FORT BRAGG, N.C. (Tribune News Service) — There are several reasons why Airman 1st Class Tayki Botchway wants to become an American, but he considers his daughter the most important.
Botchway, an air freight technician with the 43rd Air Mobility Squadron at Fort Bragg’s Pope Army Airfield, is originally from Ghana.
His 7-year-old daughter still lives there, but Botchway hopes he can sponsor her coming to the states once he becomes an American citizen.
His own path to America has been met with a few roadblocks that he calls learning experiences.
Botchway lived in Ghana for the first couple of decades of his life, ultimately becoming a teacher at a girl’s school after earning his bachelor’s degree.
He said that in 2014, an opportunity came up where he won the lottery program that guaranteed his entry to the U.S.
According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program “makes up to 50,000 immigrant visas available annually, drawn from random selection among all entries to individuals who are from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.”
“In Ghana, everyone has a dream of traveling or moving to America one day,” Botchway said. “You see a lot of things in the movies. You see and hear a lot of people talk about it, or you see people that have experience of going abroad or traveling to America.”
Botchway said that when the opportunity came up through the program in 2014, he took a chance.
“I really didn’t think about emotions and just thought about the opportunity, but leaving my daughter was the sad part,” he said.
One of his brothers was already in the states.
But about three months into living in America, Botchway said, he learned the hard way what being in a new country meant.
He wasn’t 100% familiar with all the laws at the time and he trusted others too much, he said. He was arrested — twice.
The first arrest was in about February 2014.
A friend of his cousin had sent a package that he was asked to pick up, he said. As soon as he went to the post office and retrieved the package, officers showed up and alleged the contents were stolen.
He spent about a week in jail.
“That was one of the biggest heartbreaks,” Botchway said. “The judge released me when they realized I didn’t know what was going on.”
A few months later, Botchway found himself in another legal misunderstanding.
His next-door neighbor told him she wasn’t feeling well and asked him to drive her to the bank. At a drive-thru ATM, the woman handed Botchway the card to withdraw money.
The card was stolen, and his was the only face that cameras captured.
“It was eye-opening,” Botchway said. “Being in a new country, you need to know the laws. I’d never think this would happen, but it informed me. It’s an experience I don’t ever want again.”
The charges in both instances were dismissed.
He describes it as another chapter in his life and is more careful about those who he’s trying to help.
Despite the setbacks, Botchway said, there have been other more light-hearted lessons.
Before he came to the states, he watched the movie “Home Alone,” and noticed the kids in the movie playing in the snow on Christmas day.
“So that’s what I thought America would be like,” he said. “I always looked forward to snow. I wondered how it felt, or how cold it was.”
Another change he noticed from living in Ghana was fast food.
“Back home, there’s not a sandwich shop,” Botchway said. “Here, there’s Subway, then you have to make all these choices I didn’t know anything about. I’m trying to use Google to figure out what all the different cheeses were. It was a whole new world.”
In September 2019, Botchway joined the Air Force to focus on moving his life forward in the U.S.
Botchway said he always liked planes growing up and when he saw images of the American military on CNN, there was no other branch for him than the Air Force.
In March 2020, he arrived at Pope Army Airfield.
Botchway, who wants to become a pilot, said he’d learn that having a green card would limit him in certain career advancement.
That’s another reason why he decided he wanted to become an American.
An Air Force liaison put him in contact with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
He is now counting down the days and hoping his application is approved.
“It would really be a big turning point,” Botchway said. “It’d be like a dream ... It’s been like running a marathon.”
Botchway said he clings to hope, and imagines being able to tell his daughter.
“She’s always asking when she can visit,” he said. “I’ll be so happy when I can break the news and tell her to come to live here.”
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