After three years and thousands of kilometres apart, Reham Abazid is fighting for a family reunion.
“I need to grab my family because I need them to see why I choose Saint John to be my home now. Because I will never get back to Syria; I’m here to build a future for my kids,” she said.
A volunteer committee has helped Abazid to raise two-thirds of the $30,000 required to bring her parents and two brothers to Saint John. Now, they’re asking the public to help them cross the finish line.
“It exactly reminds me about my feeling when I arrived to Canada three years ago. I was super happy, and today is the same feeling because I will have my family soon, like this year,” Abazid said when asked about the fundraising push.
Abazid arrived in Saint John with her husband and two children after being displaced by the ongoing conflict in Syria. Upon arrival, Abazid wasted no time, quickly learning English and beginning to volunteer in the community.
Now, she works at the Greater Saint John YMCA as a translator, helping other newcomers adjust to life in a strange place and volunteers as a cook at Outflow.
Abazid says she feels that it’s important to give back to a community that has shown her immense kindness.
“When I arrived to Saint John, I don’t have any idea about people or where I am going. But maybe after five days when (I) arrived to my home from the hotel, a lot of people, they came and they support me,” she said.
“That’s why I love Saint John. People here are so kind.”
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Kate Wallace, who is part of the fundraising committee trying to bring her family to Canada, first met Abazid while interviewing her for a story about the Syrian newcomer community.
“Reham is a dear friend now,” she said.
“When I first met her, it was in the capacity as an interview subject. I was writing a magazine article about the Syrian newcomer community in Saint John, and she was someone whose name kept coming up, and I just thought I had to meet this incredible woman.”
When Abazid approached Wallace about trying to sponsor the rest of her family, she jumped at the chance to help.
“I just saw her, despite all her challenges, giving so much. So when you see something like that, she comes and says, ‘I need your help,’ you don’t hesitate,” Wallace said.
The group has set up a GoFundMe to help raise the last $10,000 and hopes to reach their goal by the end of the weekend, hopefully clearing the way for a summertime reunion.
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