20 Nov 2015
Samantha Jackson and Farzin Yousefian’s big March 2016 wedding — which they had been planning for over a year — was just months away when a photo of a little boy appeared and shocked the world.
The image of the body of 3-year-old Alan Kurdi, who had drowned along with several family members in a desperate attempt to reach Europe in September, drew attention to the Syrian refugee crisis like no other photo before it.
While the Toronto couple were already well aware of the humanitarian situation, the picture had them rethinking their wedding plans.
The photo “was a turning point, in the sense that we knew this was a perfect time to act,” Yousefian told the Star. “We knew that people were aware of the issue because (the photo) had made such an impact and brought the issue to the fore … We wanted to build on the momentum of that photo. It was a tragic circumstance, and we couldn’t fail to act.”
The couple decided that instead of a big celebration, they would opt for a smaller event at City Hall last month, in hopes of raising enough money to sponsor a Syrian family of four.
Their wedding reception doubled as a fundraiser. Fortunately for the couple, their original wedding venue refunded their deposit, which was also a big help toward their $27,000 fundraising goal.
So far they’ve raised about $17,500.
“We felt we had an obligation, in light of the humanitarian crisis, to contribute, and we thought this was the perfect opportunity to do that,” Yousefian said.
“The joy we received from celebrating our wedding with family and friends would be amplified if we could use that as a platform to give back at the same time.”
Jackson began working this year as the volunteer coordinator at Ryerson University Lifeline Syria Challenge, which works with other post-secondary institutions to help resettle Syrian refugees in the GTA.
“When the opportunity came to be involved with the project, to let Canadians act directly and responsibly to the humanitarian crisis, I knew I couldn’t say no,” she said. “It was the opportunity to do something tangible and meaningful. It was something I couldn’t pass up.”
She said once the decision was made to change the wedding plans, there was never any consideration about turning back.
“As soon as the idea came across our minds, we knew it was exactly what we wanted to do,” she said.
The couple are continuing their fundraising efforts. Donations can be made by visiting http://www.ryerson.ca/lifelinesyria , and selecting Yousefian and Jackson’s profile under “Fundraising Team Leads” in the “Team Leads” section.