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Update on the Syrian Refugee Family

Updated: May 26, 2023

by guest writer Rose Dudley

As the Syrian refugee crisis heated up in August 2015, a caring group of Lions Bay’s young women knew that it was time to get involved in helping some of those people have a better life.

Along with the support of the whole community, they held a fundraiser to sponsor a Syrian refugee family at the home of Ruth and Rob Simons. All of those present will never forget the beauty and imagination of the décor, which resembled a glamorous movie set. Such a combined effort went into that event which raised over $20,000 in a matter of hours.

Combined with additional donations collected by students from Mulgrave, Gleneagles Ch'axáy and Pauline Johnson schools, and the sale of a donated car, the funds raised were almost enough to sponsor two families and support them for their first year in Canada.

It took more than a year for their arrivals to be processed, with lobbying from MP Jenny Kwan, but in March 2017, Salma and Nihad and their three small children arrived at the Vancouver Airport to a rousing welcome from an excited group of Lions Bay residents. They were followed by Salma’s sister Amal, her husband Agid, and their two children in August.

Prior to their arrival in Canada they had all been living in Kurdish refugee camps in northern Iraq, where each had fled after Islamic militants invaded eastern Syria in 2014. The youngest children had been born in the refugee camp and had known no other life.

Salma and Nihad moved to Burnaby, while Agid and Amal initially lived in Lions Bay at my daughter Alison’s home, where they received much help from neighbour Judith Jordan, who became very attached to the family.

Nihad soon found work in carpentry and construction and last year proudly opened his own painting company, Rain Colours Painting. Salma is thinking about training as a nurse.

Agid leveraged his experience as a former crane operator in Iraq to obtain his crane operator's license in Canada. You might see him working on several of the big tower cranes around the Lower Mainland. Through sheer grit, and putting in unfathomable hours of overtime, he and Amal managed to purchase their first home in Surrey in 2021, just four years after their arrival, proving the old adage, 'where there’s a will, there’s a way'.

Both families became Canadian citizens in 2022, in a ceremony held over Zoom. Salma’s family’s ceremony was scheduled on the morning of the Queen’s death, so their ceremony was delayed by half an hour while the citizenship judge sought confirmation that she should swap in a reference to the new king in the citizenship oath.

Agid and Amal received their Canadian passports in January of this year. Agid says that his first trip will be to visit his Mum and Dad who are still living in an Iraqi refugee camp, and who he and his family have not seen for almost five years.

Amal and Salma have often told us how relieved and grateful they are to be bringing up their children in a safe, democratic country. The sisters have now managed to sponsor their own parents, who had initially remained in Syria, and caused them concern on a daily basis. Happily, they are now reunited.

Agid has partnered with Alison, along with some Mulgrave School students, West Van United Church, the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster and Canadian Lutheran World Relief to sponsor his remaining family members. In October, he was delighted to welcome two of his younger brothers to Canada who he is helping to support in a house in Surrey while managing to pay the mortgage on his own townhouse. One brother has already found work and the other is looking to complete his education.

Special thanks to local residents Ami Mackay, Kelly Taylor, Ruth Simons, Meighan Jury and Alison Dudley who generously donated cash, beds and linens and some beautiful art to help Agid’s brothers when they arrived in October.

We would still gratefully receive monetary donations towards the sponsorships of Agid’s parents and additional brothers, in care of the West Vancouver United Church. Donations can be sent straight to the church, (marked Lions Bay Refugee Sponsorship) so they can be set aside for Agid’s family. All donations are eligible for a tax receipt.

With these families in our lives, we feel we have gained an extended family. Whatever we attempt to give to them is returned tenfold. Salma and Nihad were amongst my husband John’s first visitors following his accident last May. And whenever Agid and Amal visit Lions Bay, they also say that it feels good to be back “in their village.”

It is heart-warming to witness what our small community has achieved in completely changing the lives of these two families. They will be forever grateful to the people of Lions Bay.

Editor's Note: Information regarding the latest fundraiser for the family can be found HERE. We value our readers' opinions! Share comments below, or email your thoughts to

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