Project Description

Meet the Agha family

Osama Agha is Alaa Agha’s younger brother. He and his wife, Nour Mustafa Karneb, have 3 children – daughter Islam, age 17, and one-year-old twin sons, Mohammad and Mulhem.

In 2012, the family fled their home in the town of Babilla, a suburb of Damascus where they had lived before the war, to escape heavy government bombing and brutal door-to-door home inspections in search of arms and men to serve as fighters.

They moved to a nearby town for a year and then fled to Jordan when the army and militia recruitment became intense in that location as well. The journey to Jordan was perilous, as it involved passing through Dara, a rebel area near the border where the government armies patrolled and shot civilians attempting to pass through. Encountering both government and rebel checkpoints along the way was dangerous and depleted their funds. To get to the Jordanian border, they were left at night in the desert to walk three hours so the government forces would not see them.

They reached Jordan and now live in Irbid, where Osama’s brother and his family also lived before coming to Canada. The brothers worked together in Irbid and were very close and the two families helped each other out until Alaa and his family left for Canada. Their separation has been particularly hard for Osama and his family.

The family lives in very difficult conditions, sharing two small rooms in a building with no privacy and overrun by rats and other pests. Osama is not permitted to work in Jordan and getting caught twice results in deportation to Syria. He works under the table at odd jobs with no guarantee of getting paid and since he has no legal status in Jordan, he is vulnerable to exploitation by employers and by his landlord. He manages to earn some money independently by making naim, a flatbread that is sold from a hand-held cart, and by performing, when this work is available, in a traditional singing and dancing group at weddings and celebrations.

Nour cannot work because it is not safe for refugee women to go outside the house and work under the table or for extra cash. Women are regularly harassed and at risk from danger on the streets if they work outside the home or leave the house alone. It is dangerous for their daughter Islam to work or go to school, although she is trying to continue her high school studies in Irbid.

The two families are eager to be reunited in Canada and will support each other in every possible way. Osama says that if they are able to come to Canada, he and Nour will work hard to learn English so they can find work here and Islam hopes to be able to continue her studies and hopefully attend university. They have heard much about how wonderful Canada is and how nice people in Ottawa are, and would like to become part of Canadian society just like his brother and family have been able to do.

The Government of Canada requires that we have $33,700 to sponsor the Agha family. With in-kind and monetary donations, this family’s application is almost funded, with $2,250 remaining to raise by December 31, 2017.A sponsorship application for the Aghas has been submitted by OCRA and First United Church Ottawa to the United Church of Canada.