Dream of move to Saint John one step closer for Syrian woman

A young Syrian woman is one step closer to immigrating to Saint John, and a local fundraiser being held this weekend will be another demonstration of the community’s support for Noor Ogli and her family.

Fundraising efforts for Noor Ogli, 27, and her family continue this weekend

Zoë Caddell and Noor Ogli met in May 2016, when Caddell was volunteering at rural camps for Syrian refugees in Turkey. (Zoe Caddell)

Saint Johners have been rallying in support of a young Syrian woman for months and now Noor Ogli's dream of immigrating to the city with her family is one step closer to becoming reality.

Ogli, 27, who was injured in a school bombing and now uses a wheelchair, met Saint Johner Zoë Caddell, 24, last May when Caddell was working in rural camps on Turkey's Aegean coast.

The two became fast friends, bonding over Arabic and English lessons.

Caddell, Kennebecasis Baptist Church and community members have raised $18,000 to privately sponsor the immigration of Ogli, her brother, Ahmad, and their mother, Amal, to Canada.

Earlier this week, the federal government approved the church to sponsor the family's immigration.

"I was flying in the sky," said Ogli. "I was so happy that I cried. I hope it doesn't take a long amount of time because I need to get out of here. I am not happy here."

Noor Ogli, pictured with James Smith, a volunteer in Turkey, wants to finish her studies and work in Canada. (Zoe Caddell)
Ogli was a law student at Damascus University until 2012, when a bombing at the school killed several of her friends and left her with lingering injuries that slowly robbed her of mobility.

Although Ogli is a qualified Arabic-English translator, she has been denied work opportunities in Turkey due to her disability.

"I want to work and achieve many things in my life," she said. "I like to work and study. I don't want to take money from the government."

"I want to get medical care and complete my education."

Halfway to fundraising goal

But significant obstacles remain. Ogli and her family are awaiting their interview and medical assessment by the Turkish government so they can be officially released from the country.

Noor Ogli, 27, (left) from Damascus, Syria, and Saint Johner Zoë Caddell, 24, (right) have forged an unlikely friendship. (Noor Ogli)

An additional $13,000 is also required to settle Ogli and her family.

"It could be eight to 10 months before they land in Canada," Caddell said. "It'll be a massive relief to have them here this coming winter. It's a reflection of the deep sense of community we have here."

'About building our country'

The most recent fundraising push is a 5K charity run/walk on  April 2 at Kennebecasis Park Elementary School at 10 a.m.

"The run represents not only an opportunity to raise some money, but also an opportunity to show Noor, the church, and everybody else that the community is behind this and we will be here for Noor when she gets here," said race director Daryl Steeves.

He hopes Run for Noor will attract between 50 and 100 participants, with all proceeds from the $20 entry fee for adults and $10 entry fee for a children's 1km run/walk going toward her family's sponsorship.

"At the risk of sounding corny, I think this is a story of the future," said Steeves.

"Zoë is really the future for us: she's a strong young woman. But Canada needs new blood too — and Noor is clearly a person of quality, and we need that for the future of Canada too.

"If we help her now, I think she's going to help us out later. So this is a story about building our country."

With files from Information Morning Saint John