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Appeal to fulfil Norfolk charity founder’s dying wish

Congolese refugee and founder of the Bridge Plus+ project in Norfolk, Gervais Kouloungou, died on March 19 and his family are crowdfunding to fulfil his wish to be buried in the Congo. Helen Baldry reports.

Gervais (pictured above) fled to Norwich 20 years ago with his young daughters as a refugee due to war in Ivory Coast and Congo. Gervais was a Catholic and attended St John’s Cathedral on Unthank Road. He was a member of the church parish council representing minority voices and also worked for the British Red Cross and taught at UEA. 

Unfortunately, Gervais contracted Covid-19 in December 2021 whilst on a business trip to Paris, and never recovered. It had a devasting impact on his body and neurological condition, and he remained in hospital for the past two years. His children have been travelling over regularly to Paris, at a devastating financial and emotional cost to them.  

Gervais died on March 19 at the age of 55 after contracting a kidney infection. He leaves behind three daughters in Norwich, the youngest of which is only four years old. One of his wishes was to be buried in the Congo, and so his family have decided to crowdfund to support with the cost of flying his body from Paris to the Congo, as well as flying out his mum, father, and two of his daughters to attend his funeral there.  

The total cost of this is estimated at 20,000 Euros. 

Gervais’ daughter Thesia describes her father as, “A wonderful father, son, friend and kind soul, who spread love and happiness everywhere he went. Always laughing and smiling, bringing people together and lifting people up by his happy demeanour and generosity of time and spirit.” 

Gervais contributed contributed significantly to the Norwich community, particularly to those from ethnic minority backgrounds. Writing in BME Voices magazine Gervais said, “I found the church to be one thing people will look for when they move to settle in a new place. I think the church plays a very important role in people’s lives and it is one thing that continues to play a traditional role in fostering understanding and tolerance.” 

In 2012, Gervais and his friend and colleague Pa Musa launched a voluntary organization in Norwich called The Bridge Plus+ (www.bridgeplus.org.uk) . Led by people with lived experience, the Bridge Plus+ offers information, advice and advocacy support to people from ethnic minority and migrant backgrounds.  

Gervais’ family appeal to the kindness of the Norfolk community to support their appeal for a man who touched the lives of many.