First Line for Syria fundraising to bring third Syrian refugee family to the region

February 10, 2022   ·   1 Comments

By Sam Odrowski

In one of many Jordanian refugee camps sits roughly 200,000 displaced Syrians, who’s homes and lives have been destroyed through a civil war that started in 2011.

Sadly, most of Syrian refugees will never make out of the camp, but a local non-profit group, First Line for Syria, is working to create a difference one family at a time.

Last October, after much fundraising and four years of trying to bring eight members of the Al Diri family to the region, they were successful and reconnected them with their relatives who are living locally. The family is currently working on learning English as well as getting acclimated to the Canadian way of life.

While the volunteers at First Line for Syria are ecstatic they were able to reconnect several members of the Al Diri family a few months ago, their two brothers, two sisters in-law and nine children (nieces/nephews/cousins) have been left behind.

“We saw videos of them saying goodbye to their two brothers, and two sisters in law, and their children who are still in the refugee camp, and it was heartbreaking,” said Karin Klouman, First Line for Syria volunteer.

“The refugee camp is out in the desert. They live in a five by six [foot] tent in Jordan. The kids have no schooling. The adults cannot work. It’s sort of like a prison.”

To reconnect the 13 remaining relatives of the Al Diri family, First Line for Syria needs to raise $160,000, so it recently launched a fundraiser with Mochaberry Coffee (177 Broadway).

High quality coffee roast blends and hot chocolate mix can be pre-ordered now until Feb. 22, and as of March 8, people will be able to pick everything up. To place an order call Adelle at 519-217-5189 or Sabine at 416-697-3473. Alternatively, orders can be placed via email at Tax receipts are available.

The eight members of the Al Diri family who have settled in the region has overcome great adversity.

“Their homes were leveled to the ground by bombs,” said Klouman. “They had to flee to another town and then walk to the Syrian/Jordanian border through the night time, carrying young children, because during daytime there’s sniper’s fire.”

One of the brothers of the Al Diri family was tortured, and another brother was assassinated, as they were targeted by the Syrian Government, which doesn’t look fondly upon people who try to flee the country. If the Al Diri family were spotted by the authorities during their travels to the refugee camp, they would face a sure death.

First Line for Syria started in 2015 and welcomed their first Syrian refugee family, the Huseyin Alos’s, to Dufferin County in February of 2016.

They are a real success story says First Line for Syria volunteer Sabine Rohner-Tensee, with the Huseyin Alos family’s daughter currently in her second year at Western University. They now live in London, Ont so she can be closer to her education.

The daughter spent five years without schooling, not speaking any English, and is now no different than any other naturally born Canadian in terms of her education. The father works full time, and the family is completely independent.

Meanwhile, the $160,000 expense associated with bringing the remaining members of the Al Diri family to the region, is to cover the cost of their flights, rent and living expenses for a year. Over the course of 12 months, while they’re receiving financial support, they take English as a Second Language (ESL) courses, and work towards becoming independent Canadian citizens.

“For the adults, learning English is their big responsibility in this first year, so that hopefully after that they can get a job and become part of society,” said Rohner-Tensee

First Line for Syria provides lots of support to the refugee families by providing transportation to and from doctor appointments, dental appointments, eye exams, and other everyday needs.

Rohner-Tensee said the resiliency she’s seen with the eight family members of the Al Diri who are now in the region has been incredible.

“They’re so eager. When you ask the children what their favorite season is, they say winter. They’ve never known winter, and yet here they are experiencing it for the first time in their lives, and they’re saying it’s their favorite season,” she explained.

Wally Barr, who’s a First Line for Syria volunteer, said he showed the father of the newly setted family how to make a snowman when there was packing snow, and it was the first time he’d ever seen one.

Barr said he asked the father and his brother how they’re adapting to Canada and if there’s any depression or sadness that he feels, having experienced so much change and trauma over the last several years, to which he received a joyful smile and laugh.

“They looked at me and said if the refugee camp was the ground, Canada is the moon. That’s the difference between the two places,” Barr noted.

“When you consider what they’ve been through. It’s amazing that they’re not huddled in a corner. When you go to their home the children aren’t glued to their phones, or their tablets or anything. They’re laughing with each other. They’re having fun with their cousins. Smiling, offering you things, food, drinks. They’re very generous, and just a pleasure. Every time you go there you feel uplifted yourself. I’ve often said you couldn’t pay for the pleasure that we get from doing this work.”

First Line for Syria operates in partnership with the Shelburne and Primrose United Churches, which allows the small non-profit group to have charitable status.

The church is First Line’s Sponsorship Agreement Holder and ensures the group is following all the rules associated with sponsoring a Syrian refugee family.

In terms of the applications themselves, the reason it took four years to get the eight members of the Al Diri family relocated to the region is because of how stringent the process is.

“Everybody that comes in is very, very carefully vetted. They [the federal government] need to know who their cousins are, who their extended relatives are, and all that. They want to know their military service, background and all that kind of stuff,” said Rohner-Tensee.

The family members are interviewed separately and if their stories don’t match up or they lie to the government about their situation, they are denied entry to Canada.

Barr said he’d encourage anyone who can participate in the coffee fundraiser or support First Line for Syria’s effort, to please donate.

“We’re trying to give hope to people that have none,” he remarked.

Klouman shared that she is a child of refugees herself, with her parents fleeing from Norway during the Second World War, so her family has always had a focus on the status of refugees globally.

She noted that when you think that there are still millions of Syrian refugees who will never be able to actualize their lives globally, it can be overwhelming, but families, one at a time, has made a real impact.

“We can’t save the whole world, but if we can help one family, it becomes a concrete situation,” she said. “It’s one family at a time, that you can see flourish and become successful members of our society.”

Anyone who would like to donate to First Line for Syria directly, and help them get closer to their $160,000 fundraising goal, visit:

Going forward, First Line for Syria will be running more fundraisers and will apply for grants until they reach their goal.

“We’re so fortunate to be able put in a little bit of time to make sure that this happens. It’s nothing compared to what it translates into for the for the new families that come here,” said Rohner-Tensee.

Readers Comments (1)

  1. asmaa aldiri says:

    thats a lie the father didnt die he is my uncle and i know the person with the little girl is the dad


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