Community where Barho family first settled holds vigil in memory of children

The Nova Scotia community where the Barho family first settled after fleeing the civil war in Syria held a vigil Friday to mourn the seven children killed in a house fire.

Children's mother wants community to know she is grateful for the support

Children light candles at a vigil in Elmsdale, N.S., for the seven Barho children who died after a fire swept through their Halifax-area home. (Angela MacIvor/CBC)

The Nova Scotia community where the Barho family first settled after fleeing the civil war in Syria held a vigil Friday to mourn the seven children killed in a house fire.

Hundreds gathered at Riverview United Church in Elmsdale to share condolences for the siblings — three-month-old Abdullah; Rana, 2; Hala, 3; Ola, 8; Mohamad, 9; Rola, 12; and Ahmed, 14.

The children perished when a fast-moving fire tore through their home in the Spryfield neighbourhood of Halifax on Tuesday. Their father remains in critical, but stable condition in hospital. Their mother was not physically injured. 

People gathered at Riverview United Church in Elmsdale, N.S., to mourn the seven Barho children who died in a house fire on Tuesday. (David Laughlin/CBC)

The sponsorship group that helped bring the family to Canada in 2017, the Hants East Assisting Refugees Team Society, shared memories of the children during Friday's vigil.

Ahmed was described as a "ladies man" and "mature beyond his years" by the society's Cathy Miller. Rola, she said, was a "little mama" who nurtured her siblings and excelled at school.

Mohamad, too, loved school and would be remembered for his sweet smile, while Ola would be missed for her hugs and love of playing pranks, dancing and singing. 

Miller described Hala as a "spitfire" who "ruled the roost," while dimple-cheeked Rana was always cheerful. The littlest Barho, Abdullah, was known affectionately as the "Canada baby," having been born in the country just last November. 

Five of the Barho children with their parents. (Ummah Masjid/Facebook)

Miller said the children's mother, Kawthar, wanted to let everyone in the community know she is grateful for their support.

A friend of Ahmed's, Jakob Perry, fondly recalled his compassion for his peers.

"One of my favourite memories of Ahmed outside during lunch, if he thought that somebody —whether it was a girl or a boy it didn't matter— if he thought that they were sad, he'd kinda go up to them and he'd be like, 'it's okay, don't be sad, you're beautiful,'" said Perry.

People have been placing teddy bears on their porches as a show of support for the family, including at their first Canadian home in Elmsdale.

The Barhos had intended to move back to Elmsdale in the coming weeks. 

Stuffed animals line the porch of the Elmsdale, N.S., home where the Barho family first lived in Canada. (Angela MacIvor/CBC)

A public funeral will be held for the children at the Cunard Centre in Halifax on Saturday.

Federal officials are also in the process of trying to bring as many as 10 relatives of the family to Nova Scotia.

With files from Angela MacIvor