Edmonton Muslims host Fort McMurray evacuees

Edmonton Muslim groups have connected a dozen Fort McMurray evacuees with host families.

'When one of us hurts, the rest of us should feel it'

After evacuating Fort McMurray, the Ahmad family is being hosted by Choudray Muraad (fourth from left) and his wife. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Like 80,000 others in Fort McMurray, Tahir Ahmad knew it was time to go.

With his wife and three daughters, he packed cookies and water, but knowing he only had a half a tank of gas, he feared running out of fuel. 

However, there was no choice, they had to leave. Then Ahmad got a call from the Muslim community in Edmonton.

"'What do you need? Do you need fuel?' I said, 'We need fuel and then obviously we need accommodations'," Ahmad said.

"We kept in contact throughout the travel. When we got here people were waiting for us."

Ahmad was speaking with a member at the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama'at Hadi Mosque. The mosque reached out to members of their religious group and set them up with host families around the city.

Tahir Ahmad and his family relax in the south Edmonton home. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Now Ahmad and his family are being hosted in a south Edmonton home by a family of three. There they keep up with the news of how the fire is affecting their Timberlea neighbourhood, while his family's basic needs are met.

"We didn't worry about anything, and we don't worry about anything coming up. There's no concern of where we're going to go, or how we're going to be supported."

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama'at is currently hosting seven families.

Across town at the Rahma Mosque, two evacuees spent the night there. The Muslim Association of Canada is setting them up with hosts along with four other families.

Evacuees get to sleep in beds in spare rooms, and basements, instead of cots in recreation or expo centres.

Aminah Aboughouse stands outside the Rahma Mosque. The mosque is setting up Fort McMurray evacuees with shared accommodations provided by host families. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Aminah Aboughoushe handles donor relations for the mosque. She says they have 10 more families ready to host and are just waiting for evacuees to come to them. For her, the reason for helping is simple.

We're Canadians. We are a part of this fabric just like everybody else is. When one part of us hurts, the rest of us should feel it.- Aminah Aboughoushe

"If you were in need, you'd expect someone to help you because you're in need," she said.

That help isn't limited to the 8,000 Muslims who live in Fort McMurray. The mosque will help host any evacuee who needs it.

Aboughoushe says offers of help by Muslim groups had been questioned on social media.

"Some people have said, 'What's the alternative agenda?' There's no alternative agenda," said Aboughouse. "We're Canadians. We are a part of this fabric just like everybody else is. When one part of us hurts, the rest of us should feel it."

Tahir Ahmad is content for now because his family is grateful for the food and shelter provided by their host family. He's just hoping his family's home will make it without burning.

Meanwhile members of the Rahma Mosque already have a group of volunteers ready to head to Fort McMurray to help with rebuilding efforts.

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