Imagine escaping war for safety, then having your family scattered around the world.
That’s the reality Syrian refugee Doha Kharsa lives with every day.
“We feel very lucky to be in Canada,” she said in an interview with 650 CKOM. “But at the same time, we worry about our other family.”
She’s particularly concerned for her younger sister Heba, 24, and brother Wafic, 16.
The two are stuck in Malaysia, where refugees live in a “limbo” of sorts. The government doesn’t allow free access to their schools, and refugees are unable to work.
“It’s very hard for them to survive there,” Kharsa said. “They can’t even travel freely in the city.”
She said she’s applied for them to receive refugee status in Canada, but relations between the UN and Malaysian government have prolonged the process compared to typical applications.
“For some, it takes eight, nine years,” she said. “It’s very hard for them to wait that long and survive.”
Kharsa knows the struggle of going through Malaysia all too well. She was stuck in the country with five of her six children for three years before being allowed into Canada.
Her husband and oldest son joined them more than a year later, after a failed attempt to enter Australia.
Saskatoon refugee support
The mother isn’t alone in the effort to save her siblings.
Friends Jocelyn Orb and Kyla Avis heard of Kharsa’s sister and brother, and decided to do something about it.
The two started “Moms 4 Refugees,” a fundraising organization designed to help reunite refugee families in Saskatoon.
“They’re my friends,” Avis said of the Kharsa family. “I would do this for any of my friends if their family had been fractured and gone through what they’ve gone through.”
A GoFundMe account has been started to help raise money for the private sponsorship of Heba and Wafic’s refugee applications. As of Feb. 16, the account had raised $1,540 of its $25,000 goal.
If they reach the halfway point, the Mennonite Central Committee will join the effort and begin negotiations with the UN, Canadian government and Malaysia.
“They handle all of the procedures,” Orb said. “They’ve been working successfully with refugees for many years.”
Kharsa said she is very thankful for Orb and Avis’ efforts.
“I don’t know how to repay them.”