Left in Lebanon: Syrian family trying to reunite with refugee brother
“My only wish is to have my brother in Regina,” Rawda Al Khalifa said softly.
Two years ago, a six-month pregnant Rawda Al Khalifa, her husband Abdelkarim Alelaiwy and their two boys Omar (5), and Ali (3) said goodbye to Khalifa’s brother, and to the overcrowded refugee camp they had been living in for a better life in Canada.
Since then, Khalifa has given birth to Maria (2) and Fatima (8 months) and is expecting another child, however, while their family expands in Canada, so too does the gap between her and her brother.
“We call our brother and his family every couple of days, the situation is getting worse every day. They live in almost like a tent, and the refugee camp is around two million refugees,” Alelaiwy explained.
In 2012, they were forced to flee their home and their country, and like many Syrians, they found refuge in Lebanon in a cramped, makeshift plywood shelter.
“We lived together in the refugee camp for four years, our kids were born in the same place; we’re family,” Alelaiwy said.
But the mounting conflict in the Middle East has them worried.
“If the conflict escalated, we would lose hope. Bringing him here might not be possible in a month or so,” Alelaiwy noted.
As much as this undertaking is about ensuring their brother’s safety, it’s also a chance for them to feel a little more at home here in Saskatchewan.
“When Rawda came here, she really had bad depression, because of the separation,” Alelaiwy continued, “Omar, his autism became much worse because of the separation. He was born in that camp and grew up with his siblings, that isolation really impacted him.”
Now, two years later, the situation hasn’t improved.
“We feel isolated, even the kids feel isolated, when we go, the kids don’t have friends to play with yet,” Alelaiwy noted solemnly.
With the help of a local church – and all the savings they have – the family is close. They’ve raised over $11,000 of their $16,500 goal.
A GoFundMe has been created, with the goal of raising the remaining $5,000 as soon as possible to sponsor their brother’s voyage; something that could take up to two years to complete.
Alelaiwy paused, “we really need this family reunion.”
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