Calgary senior replaces Sudanese refugee’s stolen wheelchair: ‘You give me hope again’

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Calgary senior replaces Sudanese refugee’s stolen wheelchair
WATCH: There was an emotional meeting in Calgary between a recent refugee from Sudan and a Calgary widow. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, a stranger’s generosity turned loss into a gift. – Feb 27, 2024

Since December, life for Amal Zyad has been confined to a bed in her living room.

The mother of four, a recent refugee from Sudan, is not able to walk because of a spinal infection. When her wheelchair was stolen from her front porch late last year, she was devasted and felt like a burden to her children.

After seeing Zyad’s story on Global News, Calgary senior Jean Driver knew she had to do something — so she donated roughly $5,000 for a new wheelchair.

The two women met for the first time Tuesday at Zyad’s home.

With the help of a translator from Calgary Catholic Immigration Society, the two got to know a little about each other.

Zyad spoke about how she used to run a clothing business in Sudan and how she went back to university after having children to get her MBA.

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Driver shared stories of immigrating to Canada in the 1970s as well as her love of travel and animals.  They found they had a shared knowledge of travel to Egypt.

Through an interpreter, Zyad told Driver she was very grateful and “felt like she was a very close family member.”

“I am very grateful for your help and support. When I lost the wheelchair I was devastated and you give me hope again,” Zyad said.

“I was so sad when I lost the wheelchair because my kids are young they cannot always hold me and without the chair I can’t do anything,”

Driver has a long history of volunteering with all walks of life in Calgary including theatre groups, people experiencing homelessness and newcomers to Canada.

“I’ve always felt I was put on earth to serve and to help people because I’ve had a blessed life. I’ve been very healthy. I’ve always had food on the table and a roof over my head and money in the bank – not a lot of money but enough money to be able to do things,” Driver said.

Driver doesn’t pass any judgement on whoever stole the wheelchair, she just feels grateful to be able to help.

“I’m not quick to judge. I try to listen to the whole story because there are many stories out there that have two sides to them,” Driver said.

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The young mother from Sudan and the 85 year-old Calgary grandmother have both seen their share of hardships, but are now sharing the wealth of new friendship.

“I just knew one of these days I would meet her. I will meet my friend and here it is and I’m very happy,” Driver said as she held Zyad’s hand.

Driver said said there’s no reason why help can’t be offered to both people here at home and those wanting to call Calgary home.

“I think there is a guiding line that says ‘yes, we can do both if we all do our bit’,” explained Driver.  “That’s the thing.  There’s such an inequality of money and wealth passed around, which is life.  I can only do what I can do and try by example. Somebody might say ‘oh well that was nice of her. Maybe I should do something.’ If I can do that, then I’ve done my bit and I shall continue to do that as long as I can.”

Driver is a member of the Christ Moravian Church in Calgary that is involved with many community projects.

“It’s a mission church so we’re used to hearing big stories about things that happen and raising funds. I’m very proud to be part of that,” Driver said.

“I don’t think twice about it. If it’s something that touches my heart and I can do that,  I don’t question it.  I just do it and I’m fortunate that I can do it.”

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On Tuesday, the federal government  launched  a program for up to 3,250 Canadian citizens and permanent residents to sponsor relatives in Sudan to enter Canada.

Sudan has become the world’s biggest displacement crisis, with eight million people forced from their homes in the past 10 months, according to United Nations agencies.

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