Brothers reunite in Marshalltown

Two brothers separated by war at a young age in their native Sierra Leone, West Africa have been reunited in Marshalltown.

John Boland, 15, who was adopted by Mark Boland and Karen Jennings-Boland and came to Marshalltown in 2008, welcomed his brother, Paul Tarawali, to the same home this week.

Paul and John were separated from each other for several years and in the past couple of years the Bolands have been able to locate him. It took them a year to get him to America.

Paul, 21, arrived in Marshalltown this week, which is his first time out of Sierra Leone.

“It’s been kind of surreal,” Jennings-Boland said. “I see a completeness in John that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before.”

John and Paul have been catching up sharing memories of family, playing a soccer video game and watching the World Cup.

“It’s exciting to have someone that you know and comes from the same family,” John said.

Paul said it’s been very strange to be in America. He’s getting exposed to the many foods offered at local stores and also wondered if the Bolands have electricity available to them all the time. His first time on an elevator this week also caught him by surprise.

“Many things are strange,” Paul said.

Paul’s arrival in America goes beyond just seeing his brother. Paul has sickle cell anemia and the Bolands thought he would be better served in America – especially with the ebola virus outbreak in West Africa. Paul also plans to study at Marshalltown Community College this fall as he is in the United States under a student visa.

“We thought we could get him here and get him a better education and try to build up his strength,” Mark Boland said.

John and Paul’s father died of sickle cell anemia as well as two of their siblings. Their mother still lives in West Africa.

Paul hopes to eventually study medicine and go back to Sierra Leone to help those in need. For now, the two brothers are happy to be back together.

“It’s pretty exciting,” John said. “To have him here I can learn more about my family.”

The last time they lived together John was 4 and Paul was 9 in West Africa.

“I remember walking him to school,” Paul said.

The Bolands also have two other children adopted from an orphanage in Sierra Leone, and their own biological children, so their busy house just got a little busier.