February 5, 2016 8:29 pm
Updated: February 10, 2016 2:51 pm

‘Backup mommies’ step up for Syrian family in Calgary

WATCH ABOVE: There have been delays in getting baby Yousef, a Syrian refugee new to Alberta, the medical care that he needs—and his mom has her own health issues. Global’s Stefan Keyes explains how Calgary volunteers are helping to provide much-needed support, and what is still needed.


CALGARY – Baby Yousef now calls a room at Alberta Children’s Hospital home after his family had to flee war-torn Syria as refugees.

His tiny body is battling the pain and discomfort that comes with having a blocked urethra. In the midst of this, his mother has had her own medical complications.

As he waits for surgery, so-called “backup mommies” wait on him–female volunteers who stepped in while his mother couldn’t be by his side.

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“When he first came, he had an incredibly, like, almost tight-as-a-drum stomach. It had ballooned out,” said “backup mommy” Rishma Somji.

READ MORE: Needs of some Syrian refugees in Canada higher than expected, report finds

Somji has been taking the overnight shift in spite of having a baby of her own at home. She said she feels compelled to help and that Yousef has made considerable improvements since first arriving at the hospital Monday night.

“The sooner we can get this done…the sooner he can go home and recover with his mom and dad and sisters,” she said.

READ MORE: Sixteen Syrian refugees arrive in Calgary

There have been delays in getting Yousef the surgery he needs. A vital instrument called a resectoscope is broken and the hospital is waiting for a replacement.

“Replacement equipment is in transit to the facility and we are working to schedule the procedure as soon as possible,” Alberta Health Services said in a written statement.

His parents said they are anxious for a full recovery. Using a translator, they told Global News they want to focus on learning English and giving their children the best life possible. When they arrived in Canada, the six-month-old was in good health. They noticed changes in his condition when mom took sick and had to stop breastfeeding.

“Everybody is giving you so much love,” Saima Jamal said, as she gushed over the baby. But it is clear love may not be what this family lacks.

Jamal said they live in a southeast complex with 10 other Syrian refugees as neighbours.

“We need furniture. We need household items,” Jamal said.

Jamal belongs to Calgary’s Syrian Refugee Support Group. She said the warehouse holding donations is starting to dwindle in supplies. The families are in good standing when it comes to clothes and bedding but, according to Jamal, furniture and appliances like washers and dryers are desperately needed.

Donation drop-off times are listed on the group’s website for those who wish to help.

READ MORE: Refugee flu outbreak ‘paralyzes’ Alberta social services, says memo

Watch below: Global’s ongoing coverage of the influx of Syrian refugees to Calgary

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