Two local organizations are working together to help sponsor a family seeking refuge from Afghanistan. Khatera Saeedi along with her mother, sister and two young children managed to escape the country before the collapse of the government in August of last year.
The campaign started last November by the Rideau Bridge To Canada and the Ceilidh Girls, with the help of fundraising, donations, and local groups; recently, the Merrickville Artists’ Guild held an auction which raised approximately $6,500 for the campaign. After these efforts, the organizations have been able to achieve most of their financial goals, raising $61,000 of the $80,000 they need to help Khatera and her family.“We feel we have to help this family”, said Jane Graham, a member of the Ceilidh Girls. “We watched everything happen on the news and thought we can’t do much, but we can do something and this is what we can do.”
Back in Afghanistan, Khatera worked as a journalist for a Canadian funded radio station which focused on women’s rights before moving on to work with the Norwegian Refugee Council. Her mother worked as a human rights attorney and participated in the prosecution of members of the Taliban. Their noble, brave work made the family targets when the government collapsed. Hoping to escape the fate of being sold as wives, or worse, they fled for Kabul a week before American troops made their final withdrawal from the country. On August 30, 2021, when American forces left Afghanistan after over 20 years of war, the Taliban forces were able to quickly regain control of the country. People fled in panic as the shift in government grew imminent. For days, American cargo jets carried soldiers, equipment, and thousands of new refugees to allied countries such as Greece; this is where Khatera and her family now sit in limbo waiting for their departure to Canada. Once here, they will finally be able to make their way to their new home here with us in Merrickville.
Khatera and her family are not the first people looking for a safe and stable life in our small piece of the world away from the horrors of war. Two other families have made Merrickville their home after they escaped the devastating conflict in Syria. Following their arrival, the families quickly became part of our community. Soon, their children will be attending college in the area, with one studying to become a nurse and the other working towards a future in cyber-security. Merrickville has successfully helped families regain their footing after devastating times in the past, and as a community, we can do it again. If you would like to contribute to help Khathera and her family, please get in touch with the Rideau Bridge To Canada at www.merrickville-bridge.ca or donate through the Ottawa community Foundation.