Members of the Syrian Refugee Support Group in Calgary, Alberta, are buying supplies for wildfire evacuees.
Courtesy Saima Jamal
Members of the Syrian Refugee Support Group in Calgary, Alberta, are buying supplies for wildfire evacuees.

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Syrian refugees in Calgary, Alberta, pool $5 per family for relief supplies

"It's our turn to be a part of this community," Syrian refugee says

CNN —  

The images of burning homes and clouds of smoke brought tears to his eyes.

Naser Nader had lived through something similar in his homeland of Syria.

This time, it wasn’t besieged Damascus; it was in Fort McMurray, Alberta, the site of this week’s wildfires.

“I’ve lived it. I’ve been there,” he said through a translator. “I’ve seen the fires. I’ve seen the blood. I’ve experienced the losses.”

Nader is one of many Syrian refugees in Calgary, Alberta, giving what little he has to return the favor to his adopted country. Nader and other members of the Syrian Refugee Support Group are pooling money to buy relief supplies for those affected by the wildfires.

How Canadians are stepping up to help

Nader arrived in Canada in December with his wife and two children. He fled Damascus in 2013 and lived in Jordan for three years before moving to Canada. He knows from experience that every little bit counts when you’re on the move.

“We felt like we had to do something because we lived through that experience.”

Nader and fellow Syrian refugee Rita Kallas purchased diapers, toothbrushes, toilet paper, bandages, water bottles and pillows on Thursday along with laundry hampers to hold the supplies. They drove through Calgary on Thursday night to collect $5 per family in different neighborhoods.

What we know about the fire

It was Kallas’ idea to call on Calgary’s Syrian community. Speaking on the phone as she drove through the city with Nader, Kallas summed up her motivation in one sentence: “We understand what they’re feeling.”

She arrived in Canada with her husband and son in December. When she heard the news it reminded her of everything she left behind in Syria.

“You can’t bring it back. When you lose everything it’s very sad. It’s very terrible for you,” she said.

She posted a message on Facebook and was instantly overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response.

“The Canadian people have helped us a lot. It’s our turn to pay them back,” she said. “It’s our turn to be a part of this community.”

Syrian crisis hits small-town Canada

CNN’s Amanda Watts contributed to this report.