Haifaa enjoying winter at Murphy’s Mountain toboggan hill in Merrickville.

Rideau Bridge to Canada is looking for the community’s help in finding a permanent home for their most recent refugee family. The Alabouds arrived in Merrickville on October 7, 2020, after experiencing heavy delays in their travel plans due to COVID-19. At first, Rideau Bridge to Canada member, Audrey Bridge, opened her home up to Odai, Haifaa and their two children Sham (4) and Zain (1), but they were eventually able to find them temporary housing in an Air B&B close by. “We have been able to rent a cottage, but we only have it until the end of March,” Audrey says.

The Alabouds have been fitting in well in Merrickville and would like to stay in the community, if possible. Sham is enjoying going to school at Merrickville Public School, and Odai got his drivers license and has been busy looking for a job in his field. Their main concern right now is finding somewhere to live, which is proving to be a huge challenge. “We’re getting to the point that we might have to change communities, because we just can’t find any place to rent,” Audrey says.

Odai is the brother of Ataa Al Aboud, who is the mother of the first family that Rideau Bridge to Canada sponsored in 2017. Ataa, her husband Saleh Erhayel, and their four children live in Merrickville and go to school and work in Kemptville, so it would be great if the Alabouds could find a place in either community so they could stay close to their family. “None of them ever expected to see family ever again,” Audrey says. “Up until two years ago, no one thought that this would ever be able to happen.”

It has been amazing how the community has rallied around Rideau Bridge to Canada to support the Alabouds. Because of COVID-19, they were unable to hold their usual fundraisers; but many local organizations and businesses came up with unique ways to raise money. The Merrickville Artists Guild (MAG), Merrickville Organization for Culture & the Arts (MOCA), and the Merrickville and District Chamber of Commerce came together to hold an auction. The Lion’s Club gave Christmas presents to both Syrian families, and The Yellow Canoe raffled off a yule log to raise funds. “It has been such a great community effort,” Audrey says.

If Rideau Bridge to Canada can’t find a place for the Alabouds to live, they will have to start looking in the city. “We’ll have to look in Ottawa, which would be a disappointment for everybody, because they really do love the whole rural aspect, and just the community in general,” Audrey says. “It’s just been so wonderful.”

Rideau Bridge to Canada would love to hear from anyone who has any leads on a two- or three-bedroom home or apartment in the North Grenville or Merrickville-Wolford area. Anyone with information can contact Audrey at 613-266-4825, or ajkbridge@aol.com.


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