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This article was published 28/10/2016 (1815 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
After years of uncertainty and fear, a Winnipeg woman was reunited with her nephew with help from the South Osborne community.
Tarek Al Abdellah, 19, arrived in Winnipeg from Lebanon on Oct. 25 where he was greeted by his aunt Zainab Ali, uncle Joseph Chaeban and more than a dozen members of the South Osborne Syrian Refugee Initiative (SOSRI). Al Abdellah is the first Syrian refugee sponsored by SOSRI to arrive in Winnipeg. The grassroots coalition has raised more than $90,000 over a year to bring three refugee families to Winnipeg.
Ali shouted her thanks to the community group supporting the family when she first spotted her nephew coming down the escalator at Richardson International Airport. She tearfully hugged Al Abdellah, while her children gave him flowers and a sweater with ‘Canada’ emblazoned on the front.
"I feel wonderful. I can’t explain my feelings right now," Ali said. "This is happening because of all these people around me. It’s a miracle.
"One year ago we didn’t know how to help and now it’s happened."
Al Abdellah had been living in temporary housing in Lebanon for the better part of the year. He and his family were forced out of Syria nearly five years ago when war broke out.
His mother and two siblings are still in Lebanon awaiting confirmation of travel plans through the Canadian government. The current status of Al Abdellah’s dad is unknown after he returned to the conflict area to check on the family’s property.
Travel plans for the other two families (a total of nine people) are still in the works.
For now, Al Abdellah will be living with his aunt and uncle in Winnipeg before settling in his own home when his family arrives.
"I just want him now to feel comfortable and take a rest, breathe and (know) life is waiting for you," Ali said.
The SOSRI is a group of about 200 residents of the Lord Roberts and Riverview neighbourhoods and members of Churchill Park United Church. The group was founded in late 2015 following a community meeting where Ali and Chaeban spoke about their family’s struggles in Syria.
Matthew Lawrence, co-founder and spokesperson for the SOSRI, said the community is very happy and excited for Ali and her family and is ready to welcome Al Abdellah to Canada.
"I’ve been thinking about what a journey he’s had. We’ve had a bit of a journey — it’s been a year of ups and downs and stress — but thinking about his journey is mind boggling," Lawrence said.
"We’ve got a well-oiled machine," he added. "Between the church and our group he’ll be taken care of."
The SOSRI will be hosting a benefit concert on Nov. 6 at Churchill Park United Church (525 Beresford Ave.) to supplement the cost of temporary housing in Lebanon.
For more information about SOSRI, search "South Osborne Community Refugee Sponsorship Initiative" on Facebook.
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.