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Newmarket families raise money to reunite Afghan 'son' with his family

Marilyn Church and Phillip Smith and four other Newmarket families have started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to bring their Afghan "son's" family to Canada.
Newmarket couple Marilyn Church and Philip Smith

Marylyn Church and Phillip Smith are hoping they'll receive a phone call any day now telling them that Ehsan's mother is arriving in Canada.

Ten years after taking guardianship of Ehsan — whom they call their son — Church and Smith have started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for Ehsan's family to come here and be reunited with him.

"We were hoping that with the current situation in Afghanistan, and the fact that Canada has now said they will accept 40,000 Afghan refugees that they would come quickly now. We were hoping they would get here by November but we're not sure," said Church.

So far, they've raised just over $11,000 of their $30,000 goal.

"The support that we've been given is amazing in the Newmarket community," said Church.

Church and Smith are part of A Group of Five (G5) — a Canadian sponsorship process that allows five families to privately sponsor refugees from abroad to come to Canada.

In 2011 the then 15-year-old Ehsan was attending school in the United States on scholarship when his school program was revoked. He couldn't continue to live in the States but couldn't go home to Afghanistan.

"He couldn't go home because the Taliban would kill him for being western-educated," said Church.

Church and Smith, who have three grown sons of their own, received a call from the Canadian Friends Service Committee (CFSC), the peace and social justice agency of Quakers, asking if they would sponsor Ehsan and take him home.

Church and Smith, who have a long history of taking in and helping refugees from various countries, immediately agreed.

"We had three sons so one more is not a problem," said Smith.

"We now have eight grandchildren and we've lived long enough to know the world can turn upside down overnight and if the situation were reversed and one of my grandchildren needed shelter somewhere in the world, I would pray that someone would say 'yeah, I can take that kid.'"

From the moment Ehsan came to live with them Church and Smith decided that when the time came they would help reunite him with his family, said Church.

"We had always promised him as he was growing up and going to school that when his mother decided it was time to leave we would help him get his family here."

Ehsan's mother decided to leave Afghanistan in 2019 and she and her other son, together with his wife and children, became UNHCR refugees.

It was then that Church and Smith began the process of trying to bring the family to Canada.

For their protection Church and Smith won't divulge the exact whereabouts of Ehsan's family except to say "they're in a safe third country."

According to Church, the family are Hazaras — a persecuted ethnic group — and Ehsan's mother is a women's rights activist and revealing her name or occupation publicly would put the family's safety at risk.

Ehsan recently completed his masters in International Affairs and, according to Church, couldn't be happier that he will soon be reunited with his family.

The family are aware of the GoFundMe campaign and "can't believe how generous the Newmarket community is," said Church.

Smith said Ehsan's mother hasn't directly thanked them for looking after her son but they know she's grateful.

"Mother's don't have to use words, they know."

As they continue to await word of the family's arrival Church said she can't wait to finally meet her "son's" mother.

"We'll be glad we can give each other a big hug after 10 years," said Church.

To donate visit the GoFundMe campaign.










About the Author: Michele Weisz

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