Parrywinkle April 21, 2016

Have to be honest, dear readers. With the Syrian refugee debacle continuing to make international headlines daily, and hundreds believed drowned in the Mediterranean Sea while trying to reach Europe earlier this week, I find it sometimes difficult to put this whole humanitarian crisis into proper perspective.

I know that what began as a trickle, turned in to a flood, and morphed in to a tsunami is heartbreaking. Particularly when images of parents and their youngsters are shown in living colour on TV and in the print media. But it all seems so far away.

And then I see that big brown UPS truck and its always-friendly driver - Syrian-born Anas 'Andy' Fakhri - dropping off deliveries around Hudson and environs including Rigaud, Pointe Fortune, and Vaudreuil-Dorion, and it hits right home. They are people just like you and I. Obviously with a different language, history, and culture. But with the same desire to laugh, love, and live in the freedom that so many of us here in Canada just take for granted.


TRUE TESTAMENT - Regular readers of Your Local Journal may recall a story I wrote on Andy and his beautiful wife, Hanar, some three years ago now. About their frustrating battle with bureaucracy in their struggle to bring her parents to live with them in Vaudreuil-Dorion. For the record, although now in relative safety as opposed to then, they are still not here in Canada. But as a true testament to the human spirit, the couple who have three sons - Shadi (14), Sami (11), and 15 month-old Rimi - have never lost hope.

And that hope was boosted immeasurably this past Saturday, April 16, when Andy and Hanar were special guests of honour at a memorable and emotional fundraising evening of 'song, reflection, community action, and belonging' at St. James' Anglican Church in Hudson spotlighting Vivianne LaRiviere in concert with proceeds going to help Syrian refugees, as well as the church itself.

And what a wonderful evening it was. White linen table cloths, candles, delightful decor, gourmet finger food created by Cleopatra's Dinners, wine, fabulous auction with donations from numerous local businesses, and talented musicians all there for the cause.

Other special guests comprised Vaudreuil-Soulanges Liberal MP Peter Schiefke who would speak about his work experience with those affected by wars in East Africa, and Paul Clarke, executive director of Action Réfugiés Montréal, a non-profit, faith-inspired organization that seeks justice for refugees with a special focus on the most vulnerable. Namely women and children.

Seeing them all sharing the same table, I couldn't help but think that this little gathering really put a human face on the difficulties being faced by families seeking help for their loved ones in Syria, politicians of all stripes grappling with the problem, and organizations out there to do simply what they can.


WILL NEVER FORGET - As Andy told me the next morning, “We felt very special and privileged to be invited to this amazing evening and we really appreciate the kindness and generosity of everyone who participated and attended the concert. We were also very glad to meet Mr. Schiefke who was very supportive of me and my family and he promised to do everything he can to bring and unite us with our family. He mentioned that he will personally follow up on all the applications we have made concerning Hanar's parents and her 22-year-old cousin, Wasim, who is stuck in Sudan and is waiting for us to help save his life.”

Added Andy, who has been driving for UPS for 15 years, “Since the story first appeared in Your Local Journal, everyone in Hudson has been very helpful and supportive of my family and we are very happy and proud to be included and adopted by this generous community. We will never forget your stand beside us and beside all the innocent Syrian children who have been displaced or who have died in this senseless war.

“Viviane LaRiviere and her beautiful music, including her Anthem for Peace, was very touching and descriptive of the pain and agony that refugees from Syria feel when they are forced to leave their homes and run away from the death of war. A war of greed. And, finally, I would like to thank God for Canada and for us becoming Canadians. I and my family are blessed to know you and all the people in Hudson. We know that your love for us is unconditional and that we are at home here. And we hope all the people of Syria can share in this feeling.”


NOT SMOKE AND MIRRORS - A feeling clearly reflected in the opening remarks by Laurie Tomia who, together with Michael Legg, co-sponsored the evening. Said Laurie, “This We are Called to Care initiative, the brainchild of Vivianne LaRiviere, is not only designed to raise funds for the church and Syrian refugee support, but also to bring our community together. To explore a new sense of togetherness, of action, and of belonging.

“Now that may sound like smoke and mirrors, but I assure you that when you leave this place tonight you will have experienced something new and very different. And we hope that we can repeat this experience for we realize the enormous task of helping and sharing our good fortune with those in need. And doing it as a community. United in action.”

Bravo to one and all who made this one happen. Including musicians Bryson Davis, Noam Guerrier-Freud, Bill Riley, and the Gypsy Angels comprising Terry O'Shaughnessy, Patricia Halford, Padre Carol Bateman, Mark Drake, and David Langlois. Hallelujah!


BOSTON BOUND - And now from Syria to Boston. For while attending the concert on Saturday, I happened to bump in to Hudsonites Marilyn and Tom Pound, who told me they were off to that city the following day to watch and support their daughter, Christy - now living in Halifax - who was running in the world-famous Boston Marathon on Monday.

Said Marilyn, upon her return, “Christy ran a great race and it was so exciting to be part of the event. However, we did go with mixed feelings as we were all there three years ago happily congratulating her for a great run in the post-race meeting area when the bombings took place. Our son, Peter, and family live in Boston so she had a full cheering section complete with posters made by our grandchildren.”

Way to go Christy! And as someone who wouldn't run to catch a bus, I can only admire your fitness, dedication, and super stamina!


BOOK NOW - And now from Boston to books and bibliophile bargains not to be missed. For according to co-organizer, Loney Montemagno, there will be thousands of them priced as cheap as chips at the Wyman Memorial United Church's annual sale on Friday, April 29, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and on Saturday, April 30, from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.. Completely volunteer-run, this wonderful initiative raises funds for so many worthwhile causes both in our local community and further afield.

Loney tells me that members of the Hudson Fire Department will be there during the day on Friday helping to carry, sort, and stack books prior to the doors opening. Barring, that is, an emergency call that will obviously take priority. Ergo, if you would like to help out from 9 a.m. for a couple of hours, Loney - who says that all hands would be graciously welcome - would love to hear from you. And she can be reached at (514) 453-9712. See you there?

And that's a wrap!


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