On Friday night, Hiba Djeddi got a frantic call from her sister in Damascus, terrified that the airstrikes had started.
The Calgary woman says she could hear the sound of explosions over the phone.
“They said listen to the sounds outside; it was bombing sounds, scary sounds. The kids were scared. And we were praying for this to end very fast,” Djeddi said. “I was really scared and crying and praying for them. We didn’t know how things would end up.”
On Saturday morning after little sleep, Djeddi was at the Canadian Blood Services’ Eau Claire location for the Calgary Syrian Community Blood Drive. Twenty-eight donors from the Syrian community lined up to give back to the country they now call home.
Organizers say the terror in their homeland makes people more sensitive to suffering and makes them feel the need to help.
“You feel the pain of other people, whether a loss of life or being bombed or being injured. So the question comes to mind, ‘what can I do to help?’ They don’t want to be just watching the news, they want to be part of the solution,” said organizer Sam Nammoura.
Saturday marked the second time the Syrian community has organized a blood drive in Calgary. This time, it was part of a nation-wide effort.
Organizers say the tragedy in Humboldt demonstrates the demand for more blood donations.
“Because you just don’t know who is going to need it,” Nammoura said, explaining the need for more donations. “So I’m a donor today but then I could be a user or beneficiary tomorrow. Who knows?”
Djeddi says her family in Syria is safe for now, but they don’t think the airstrikes are the solution to Syria’s troubles.
“They feel the same way and they think it’s not the right thing. We had enough war there. It’s time to stop that. We don’t want extra airstrikes and extra bombing. We don’t want to lose more people,” Djeddi said.
While the worry for family back in Syria never goes away, donors say giving blood is a welcome distraction and a chance to shake off feelings of helplessness.
“I am grateful to Canada and Canadian people and I am proud to live in Canada,” said blood donor Sam Khaldi. “This is my homeland now,”