A Halifax neighbourhood is organizing a tribute to the seven young people killed in a house fire, and are inviting the rest of the city, province and country, to take part by putting a teddy bear on their front porch.
Organizers say they want to show support for the family, and also to the first responders who arrived at the harrowing scene.
“When you think of a child and what comforts a child, it’s a stuffed animal,” said Angela Pellerine, who is organizing the campaign along with her neighbour, Andrea Bennett.
The children — ranging in age from four months to 14 years old — were killed Tuesday when an early-morning fire ripped through their Spryfield home.
The family had come to Canada in 2017, as privately-sponsored refugees after fleeing war-torn Syria.
Natalie Horne, vice-president of the Hants East Assisting Refugees Team, identified the father as Ebraheim Barho and the mother as Kawthar Barho. She said the children who died are: Ahmad, 14; Rola, 12; Mohamad, 9; Ola, 8; Hala, 3; Rana, 2 and Abdullah, who was born in Canada last November.
The parents remain in hospital. Ebraheim was said to be in critical condition, having suffered burns after trying to rescue the children.
Neighbours in the Governor’s Brook subdivision, where the home was situated, have decided to each put a teddy bear outside their doors to show support for the parents.
Bennett and Pellerine say the idea was inspired by a similar tribute last April, where Canadians put out hockey sticks on their front porch in memory of the 16 people killed in a bus crash involving the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team.
“We will always remember these seven children. We are there for the family,” said Pellerine.
“Our community is very strong.”
The two women are inviting those outside the neighbourhood to join them, and to share photos of the stuffed animals with the hashtag #Bears4BarhoChildren.
They say they have already seen photos of stuffed animal tributes from around the country, and have heard people as far away as Florida and California will be taking part.
“We’re both mothers,” said Bennett, when asked what prompted them to organize the memorial.
“Some people might not have the means to help the family financially but this way here, everyone has some sort of childlike thing they can put on their door step or their window.”
Jennifer Watts, CEO of the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS), said the non-monetary acts of kindness matter too. In the wake of the tragedy, she encouraged folks to welcome a newcomer to their neighbourhood.
“So really reaching out and saying we’re welcoming you here, we want to get to know you, we’re glad you’re here,” she explained. “We want to make that connect so that when these tragedies happen, everyone has that kind of social support and social network to be with them.”
Meanwhile, support has been pouring in for the family. A GoFundMe campaign for the family had reached close to $300,000 within 24 hours. The goal, which had been set at $300,000, has now been raised to $1 million.
A group of local businesses, including Vandal Donuts, Two If By Sea and Peace by Chocolate, are also donating a full day of sales to the campaign later this week.
Rana Zaman, who is helping co-ordinate public messaging around the campaign, said she’s overwhelmed by the community’s generosity.
“It’s stunning. Like I’m stunned, honestly. It’s just amazing the outpouring of love and support,” she told Global News. “This is the only way people know how to show their love and support. So they’re doing it all out.”
A growing memorial can be seen outside the Barho home, where neighbours held an impromptu vigil Tuesday night to support the family.
A public memorial has been planned for 7 p.m. Wednesday in Grand Parade outside Halifax City Hall.