New Brunswick

From Egypt to Canada: Reuniting a refugee family in Saint John

Syrian refugee Nehad Almouradi's long wait to be reunited with his daughter and her family may be nearing an end, thanks to the efforts of volunteers at a Saint John church.

The Almouradis are getting help from Saint John's Forest Hills Baptist Church to reunite their family

Beth Button is organizing fundraising events to help bring Nehad Almouradi's daughter and her family from Egypt to Canada. (Jeri Knopp)

When Nehad Almouradi escaped Syria's civil war and fled to Egypt with half his family five years ago, he was asked at the embassy if he'd be willing to resettle in another country.

"Yes, even if we have to go all the way to Canada," he said, naming the most far-flung place he could imagine.

In February of 2016, there was a spot for him, his wife Elham and his 17-year-old son Eyad to come to Canada as refugees. The family settled in Saint John, where Almouradi says he's thankful for the help they've received.

"I like people of Saint John. Not the same as my country's. Everyone helps me," he said.

But there's something missing: with the large number of Syrians going to Canada — more than 40,000 since November 2015, according to Citizenship and Immigration — there was no room for Almouradi's daughter Rania and her family to go along.

Nehad, Elham and Eyad Almouradi fled Syria's civil war five years ago. They now live in Saint John. (Nehad Almouradi)

Long wait nearly over

After fleeing to Egypt, Almouradi learned that one of his two sons had been killed while volunteering at a Syrian hospital. The devastating news triggered multiple heart attacks.

Now, he has only 17 per cent of his normal cardiac function and says his heart will never stop aching until his family is reunited.

But his long wait may be nearing an end.

Beth Button and her husband Josh Graham met Almouradi while volunteering for the YMCA in Saint John.

They're working with a local church to help his daughter Rania, who is pregnant, and her family come to Canada. She's still in Egypt with Mohammad, her husband, and her three children.  

"From the get-go Nehad and his wife Elham have been asking for Rania," said Button.

Church agreed to help

Button and her husband went to the Forest Hills Baptist Church in Saint John for help. Their community has helped unify three refugee families from the Middle East.

Rania Almouradi and her family have already started the immigration process that will reunite them with their family in Saint John. (Rania Almouradi)

The church agreed to sponsor Rania and her family so they could come Canada. This means they'll cover the family's living expenses for a year once they arrive.

"Immigration Canada said it would take us at least five years to bring Rania and her family to Canada," said Button.

But Rania got a call from immigration in April and has already started the process that will bring her and her family to Canada. Button estimates they could be here in about six months. 

Almouradi said having them back will be, "Good for my family and good for me."

But Button says it won't be easy. The church has to raise $30,000. 

"(It) seems a little bit daunting but I know Saint John has a big heart," said Button, who already organized a yard sale and created a website outlining the Almouradi's family situation to help get donations.

Button spent Canada Day with Almouradi. She said he was waving at everyone. 

"I know there is love for this family in Saint John. Saint John and New Brunswick have been so supportive of newcomers so we hope that support will continue with this reunification."

Jeri Knopp