A beloved school caretaker who has lost his battle to remain in the UK flew home to Kenya yesterday after a last minute hitch with his passport.
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 village would always be in his heart.
Before leaving 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 flew from Manchester on Wednesday 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: “Losing Portas is not for the good of this country and our lives will be the poorer without him.
Claire Strachan who has been campaigning to keep Mr Ongondo in the country said there had been a few problems with Immigration and getting Mr Ongondo’s passport back and then the flight was delayed.
“Everyone is deeply saddened that Portas has had to return to Kenya, especially the children at the school.
“But we will all continue to support him in his fight to return to the UK to be with his son’s, and the community that campaigned so hard to keep him here.
“Thank you to everyone who helped, you all gave him the hope and courage to carry on.”