Ottawa

Mark Monahan sponsors family fleeing Syria, hopes others will do same

As the Syrian refugee crisis continues, the head of Ottawa's Bluesfest is opening up for the first time about the family he privately sponsored three years ago in the hopes it will inspire others to help.

If story 'encourages 1 other sponsor to come forward, I think it's well worth it,' Ottawa Bluesfest head says

From left: Yousif Eiramya, Rober Babuna, Sandra Babuna and Eiman Dalal immigrated to Ottawa in 2012. (CBC News)

As the Syrian refugee crisis continues, the head of Ottawa's Bluesfest is opening up for the first time about the family he privately sponsored three years ago in the hopes it will inspire others to help.

Mark Monahan says that if his sponsorship encourages even one other person to sponsor a family, it's worth it. (CBC News)
In 2010, after being approached by a neighbour who had sponsored refugees, Mark Monahan and a group from Bluesfest committed to sponsoring another family.

From that point it took two years of paperwork by the Ottawa Catholic Immigration Centre and others to make it happen.

Eiman Dalal, her husband Yousif Eiramya, and their two children — 19-year-old Sandra Babuna and 15-year-old Rober Babuna — arrived in Ottawa in November 2012.

The family had fled the war in Iraq in 2006, becoming refugees in Syria. For five years things were fine in Syria, but then violence broke out again.

'It's hell'

"It's hell," Babuna told the CBC's Ashley Burke. "Every morning you wake up, you don't know when you are dying, when your [hour] is coming to die. You walk in the street, you don't know when the bomb is going to happen.

"We lived in Syria for seven and a half years, waiting for somebody to save us, to take us from the hell that we were living in," Babuna said.

When the family finally received word they were being sponsored to come to Canada, Babuna said they were overjoyed and couldn't believe it.

"When they called us and they told us that [we would be leaving] we were crying. We were happy but we were crying. We didn't sleep all night," Babuna said.

Her mother, Eiman Dalal, said that if they had stayed in Syria, she's not sure they would have survived.

Monahan hopes their story will encourage others to come forward and commit to sponsoring a family.

"What's going on now is really tragic and really difficult to watch ... And sometimes it takes someone, or a photograph, or something to really crystalize one's feelings about these things," Monahan said.

"So if this story, or the family speaking, can even encourage one other sponsor to come forward, I think it's well worth it."

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