Issack Aden says he owes his life to his older sister. Now, he's hoping to repay that debt, by bringing her family to Canada with help from local volunteers on P.E.I.
"I want to try to pay back what she did," said Aden.
Aden's parents were killed in civil war in Somalia 30 years ago. He and his orphaned siblings fled to a refugee camp in Kenya. His older sister, Muslima Hassam, just 12 at the time, quit school to help raise Aden and his younger brother. Aden came to Prince Edward Island in 2011.
Muslima, her husband and children remain to this day in Dadaab, the world's largest refugee camp.
Kensingston and Area Refugee Sponsorship Initiative (KARSI) aims to change that.
"There's a sense of urgency to get this family out," said Judy Loo, a volunteer with the group.
COVID-19 has hit Dadaab refugee camp, and the Kenyan government has said it wants to close the sprawling camp, with its population of about a half million people. Food is scarce. There's a sense that time is running out.
"I don't think anyone who hasn't lived it could have a full understanding," said Loo. "But we can empathize and we can show we care."
KARSI is now raising $60,000 and starting the application process to bring Muslima Hassam and her family — nine people in total — from Kenya to Canada.
The group's social media pages include details of fundraising efforts now underway, including a quilt and art work raffle Aug. 21.
There's a heightened sense of urgency to get this family out,' said Judy Loo, a volunteer with Kensington and Area Refugee Sponsorship Initiative. (Brian Higgins/CBC)
KARSI began in 2015 in response to civil war in Syria. The group took on this project after Aden approached them about a year ago. For this effort, the group sees its fundraising efforts extending Island-wide. Muslima's family may live in or near Kensington when they finally arrive, according to Loo.
Aden, a married father of two children, wants his sister and her children to finally have a real home — in Canada.
"My dream is for them to come here, get an education, and for me to help support them," said Aden.
"I want to bring her here and show her the good side of life."