Meet Atheer (2 1/2 yo), Omar (4 1/2 yo), Bessan (6 yo) and Saeed (8 yo).
A little under five years ago, Iman (the mother) gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Omar, all alone in their home, in Dara'a, Syria - no doctor, no midwife, no husband. When her contractions started, her husband, Mohammed, went frantically searching for a car or a taxi to get her to the hospital but couldn't get back in time because of shelling and checkpoints. The war was just reaching a fever pitch in their hometown and it was becoming more and more dangerous. Iman and Mohammed knew, even with a newborn, they needed to flee. They made it to Jordan on foot with three small children and the possessions they could carry. Mohammed, like most refugees in Jordan, was forbidden to work. He worked on and off, getting paid under the table, but was consistently harassed and threatened with arrest and deportation.
Unable to provide for his children and seeing no other immediate alternatives, Mohammed and his brother Tariq decided to try and make their way to Sweden for the good of their children. The brothers traveled by land from Jordan to Turkey where they managed to find a boat that would smuggle them into Hungary. They arrived safely in Hungary and camped in the forest while making plans to get to Sweden. After being attacked by robbers, the brothers were separated and Mohammed was taken into custody by Hungarian police for entering the country illegally. Mohammed spent nearly three months in jail, with no way to contact his family to let them know he was still alive. When he was finally released, he made it to Sweden and was happily reunited with his brother. The brothers then began the long process of applying for residency and for the right to bring their families to join them.
They finally got permission a few weeks ago... and Miles4Migrants stepped in with plane tickets, through donations to the Aeroplan Member Donation program, for Iman and her kids. Mohammed's brother, Tariq, also recently got residency permits for his wife Najlaa and their three children, and Miles4Migrants donors will be reuniting them next month!
Atheer was only a few months old when her father left Jordan to give her a brighter future. Saeed was six and Bessan was four. Omar was only two and a half -- his language has been slow to develop. Omar had started speaking, but abruptly stopped after his father's departure. The closer Omar gets to seeing his father in person (the kids chat regularly with their father on WhatsApp video), the more verbal he's becoming - his progress has also been helped by therapy assistance provided by Helping Refugees in Jordan donors. Omar's current favorite words are watermelon ("buh-tee-khah" in Arabic) and "mama."
Iman and her children had never been on a plane before -- they'd never been to any countries other than Syria and Jordan -- but they left last Sunday morning to fly to Sweden where they were finally reunited with Mohammed. What a joyful reunion it was!