Yasmin Faris, her husband Bashar and their eight children just want to live a normal life in Canada.
The family is currently living in a refugee camp in Jordan, where they have lived for the past 10 years after escaping the civil war in their country.
Yasmin’s younger sister Rana Faris, her husband Ali Al-hamadi and their two children Hussein and Layan are also Syrian refugees that were sponsored to come to Canada four years ago and have been living and working in the Cowichan Valley since then.
The Faris family is working with the Cowichan Intercultural Society to privately sponsor Yasmin and her family to come to the Cowichan Valley, but they must first raise $60,000 which the Canadian government requires to sponsor the family before the Cowichan Intercultural Society can submit their application.
Speaking to Yasmin and Bashar in the refugee camp on FaceTime, the couple told the Citizen that there is no life for them there.
Yasmin said there is no electricity, a very basic education system that isn’t meeting their children’s needs, and limited health care.
She said the lack of health care may see Bashar and their sons Mohamed and Adam, who have a genetic eye disease, go blind if they are not treated properly soon.
“Bashar and the children need more treatment for their eyes, but we have no money,” she said.
“We are not allowed to work here, although we do some volunteer work. My eldest son just finished high school but has no way to continue his education as university is very expensive here.”
Yasmin is a hairdresser and Bashar has a bachelors degree in education and is an Arabic teacher but, while their lodgings are paid for under a United Nations refugee program, the family must pay for all their food and other expenses with the $40 a month each family member receives from the U.N., as well as some money that Rana sends them.
“We can’t wait to come to Canada, and the first thing that must be done when we get there is to get Bashar and the children’s eyes dealt with, and get the kids in proper schools,” Yasmin said.
“We just want to get on with our lives.”
But first they must raise the required $60,000, and $12,000 of that has already been raised through bottle drives, personal donations and a CanadaHelps fundraising site.
People can link in at the CanadaHelps site at https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/cowichan-valley-intercultural-and-immigrant-aid-society/ and all funds raised will be held in trust by the Cowichan Intercultural Society to help bring the family to Canada.
There are two fundraisers later this month that will also help with the cause.
One is an authentic Syrian dinner organized and cooked by Rana Faris and her family.
It is being held at St. Peter’s Quamichan Church Hall on Jan. 21 at 5:30 p.m., with tickets going for $20 each.
For more information and to buy tickets, call 250-746-6262, 0r email firstname.lastname@example.org
The other fundraiser is a book sale that will take place on Jan. 28, from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., at the Duncan United Church.
A huge trove of books have been collected for the sale, which will be by donation.