For Somali refugees, just stepping onto Canadian soil safe from the hell of war in their country is a relief.
But sometimes even on peaceful Canadian soil tragedy strikes.
Sahra Hassan’s husband, a former land assessor for the City of Edmonton, died last weekend from a cancerous brain tumour.
He leaves Sahra to support 11 children, five of their own and six refugee nieces and nephews. They are between the ages of 13 to 21. Although the two eldest boys are working part-time, Sahra’s salary as a nurse makes it difficult to pay basic bills.
The St. Albert United Church in partnership with acoustic folksinger Martin Kerr have stepped up to give the family a benefit concert on Nov. 14 at the church.
The much in demand singer-songwriter is a regional staple at a variety of venues from busking at St. Albert Farmers’ Market to playing major concert halls.
“We want to assist the family until the pension and life insurance and other things are settled,” said St. Albert United Church committee organizer Betty Mackey.
Sahra has been a Canadian citizen for 25 years and this country is the only home she knows. For six of those years, she spent time in Somalia looking for a family separated by war.
In a letter to the church requesting assistance, Sahra wrote that she came to Canada as a 14-year-old caregiver for family. Sahra was separated from her immediate family and the move to Canada was her best protection.
Sahra’s younger sister and her six children had settled in Mogadishu, but in 2008 after a grenade hit the area they dispersed. The sister ran with several children one way and neighbours grabbed the others and fled in a different direction.
Sahra’s younger sister ended up in an Ethiopian refugee camp.
“Her youngest child who was around two years old passed away in February 2009,” writes Sahra in a letter.
Just three months later, Sahra’s brother-in-law was killed and the family robbed.
“Out of desperation, I decided to travel back to Somalia in June 2009 … and somehow ended up in the camp these people stayed. It was different than what I had ever imagined, but I was glad I went on that trip because I was at the edge of breaking down and it helped me to deal with my grieving,” she writes.
Through word of mouth Sahra learned her lost nieces and nephews who everyone thought were dead were living in a village close to the border of Ethiopia and Kenya.
Sahra travelled to the village and found them. By now, the reunited children, all under the age of 18, had lost both parents.
Sahra and her husband resolved to adopt the six through the Department of Immigration. The costs were huge and she visited several churches in the area asking for financial assistance.
“When we heard Sahra’s story it touched our hearts. We responded to a woman who worked so hard to bring her family together,” Mackey said.
Trinity United Church, Rio Terrace Moravian Church and St. Albert United Church each committed $15,000 for airfare, genetic testing, renovations for the home, buying bunk beads, desks and paying school fees.
Mackey added, “We live out our belief that all people are equally important. We live in a very diverse society and there is room for all.”
The two-hour concert starts at 7 p.m.
© Radio Dalsan