The wildfire in Canada has destroyed the homes of thousands of people in Fort McMurray. Many have been evacuated to Calgary, where Syrian refugees are now stepping up to support the victims of the wildfire.
Officials say a wildfire burning in the western Canadian province of Alberta remains out of control. A wildfire manager says the blaze is expected to take months to extinguish. The wildfire, which has forced the evacuation of the city of Fort McMurray, has left about 1,500 evacuees staying in schools in the city of Calgary.
Calgary is also the new home of a large number of Syrian refugees. These are now “returning the favor” and are helping those that offered them a safe place when they were fleeing from the war in their home country.
Many Syrian refugees say they can relate to what the Canadians are going through: “We lost everything in a second […]. When I follow the news I see how they are suffering, I see the same feeling. I feel with them. It touched me in my heart,” Rita Khanchet, a Syrian refugee, explained her engagement in an interview with the local newspaper Calgary Herald.
The refugees helping the evacuees in Calgary organized themselves via Facebook. The Facebook group of the Syrian Refugee Support Group Calgary, a group originally founded to help refugees in their new hometown Calgary, is now being used by the refugees to mobilize support for the wildfire victims of Fort McMurray.
It all started with Naser Nader and Rita Khanchet, two Syrian refugees living in Calgary. Naser Nader posted on the support group’s Facebook page after he learnt of the extreme impact of the fire. He called on the Syrian refugee community to take the little they have to help those that have lost their homes to the flames.
The two Syrians see it as their duty to help the evacuees because the Canadians helped them get a new life in Calgary when the they first came.
After Nader’s appeal, the refugees started using the Facebook group to organize donations and help for the evacuees. Saima Jamal and Sam Nammoura, the founders of the group are supporting the Syrian volunteers with collecting donations and shopping for basic necessity products.
In a TV interview with CTV News Saima Jamal says seeing the Syrian families taking initiative was a proud moment for her. “Mind you these refugees have very little, everything in their own household is a donated item,” she said “[…] they saw in the last five months how much the Canadians have done for them […], they were waiting for an opportunity to give back.”
Many users are applauding the Syrian refugees for their efforts on social media.