Merell Awad’s mom has a cherished photo on her Facebook profile.
It’s a picture of Awad’s two younger sisters and her mom, taken from the last time they were all together in Syria.
Awad is determined to bring her middle sister to Campbell River and reinvent the photograph – by putting herself in it. Her sister, Rania Nassar, is stuck in Syria, left behind when Awad’s mom, and her youngest sister and her husband and two teenage sons, were admitted to Canada as sponsored refugees.
“It’s so stressful for my sister because all her family is here now. She’s so alone,” says Awad.
Making it all the more difficult is the fact Awad’s mother, before coming to Campbell River, had been living with Nassar, her husband and their two teenage daughters, ages 16 and 13, and the family misses their mom and grandmother dearly.
“Our family is so attached to each other,” Awad says. “We’re three sisters so we’re close to each other.”
Awad says she can understand better than anyone what her sister is going through. Up until half of her family was admitted to Canada in late June, Awad was going through the same thing – having her family living halfway around the world.
“She’s now in my situation, but hers is worse because she’s in the war. She’s now there by herself and the kids are so stressed because they were so attached to their grandma, their cousins, and their auntie,” Awad says. “They stay up most of the night to talk to their grandma because of the 10 hour time difference.”
What’s most troubling for Awad is the uncertainty surrounding Nassar’s situation.
Because Nassar’s husband is in the middle of trying to retire in Syria, when he will be ready to come to Canada is unclear. As a consequence, Nassar had to provide documentation proving she’s the legal guardian of their two daughters in order to bring them to Canada.
Awad says those papers were filled out and submitted to immigration authorities in February and it appeared everything would be in place for Nassar and her daughters to come to Canada along with the rest of her family.
Instead, Nassar received a phone call in early June saying medical tests would have to be completed, tests that the family had already done in January. Awad says immigration officials then told Nassar she would be contacted for a standard interview within a week or two.
Awad says Nassar received that call a couple of days ago and now the family is waiting to do their interviews.
The Campbell River Syrian Refugee Committee, which with the help of the Anglican Church, is sponsoring Awad’s family to come to Campbell River, is also awaiting two other family members from Syria – the parents of Sam Al Mouallem, the nephew of Awad’s husband who escaped Syria by flying to the United States and crossing over the Canadian border by foot. Almouallem is now living and working on Quadra Island but his parents are still in Syria waiting word of when they too will be able to come to Canada.
“We’re ready to welcome them and have them here and be responsible for everything,” Awad says.
With the generous support of community members, the Refugee Committee, and local businesses and service groups, donations have poured in to help the incoming family members with money for rent, household items, groceries and anything else they will need to help them settle into a new life.
But for now, Awad says all she can do is wait and keep the faith.
“I’m just looking forward to when Rania comes,” she says. “The mission will be accomplished when Rania comes and we take that picture.”