Emily Vance photo - The Oct. 4 fundraiser concert will go towards bringing Samar Al Hbayo’s brother and his family to Canada. From left: Zeinab Al Faraj, Samar Al Hbayo, Fatima Al Faraj, Bader Al Faraj and Oday Al Faraj.

Syrian guitar quartet to play Parksville fundraiser for refugee family

The Orontes Guitar Quartet plays Knox United on Oct. 4

The sounds of Damascus will grace the halls of Knox United Church in Parksville on Oct. 4 as part of a fundraiser to bring a Syrian family to Parksville.

The Orontes Guitar Quartet, currently on a year of residency at the University of Victoria, will be playing in benefit of the Hesham Refugee Sponsorship Group.

They are raising money to bring the relatives of Parksville’s first Syrian refugee family to Canada.

The four members of the Orontes Guitar Quartet met in Damascus in 2013 while they were studying at the Higher Institute of Music. They lived and played in Beirut, Lebanon, and were back in Syria when civil war pushed them to Beirut, this time as refugees.

READ MORE: Coming to Canada ‘like a dream’

The group is a fitting choice for the fundraiser’s cause.

“They’re no strangers to war themselves. One of the quartet members took a piece of shrapnel to his arm. At the time, he thought he wouldn’t be able to play the guitar,” said Terry Roberts, one of the event organizers.

“Fortunately, it’s back to normal, and he’s back on the guitar.”

With the help of Susan McDonald, a guitarist and composer who works with musicians in conflict zones, the group was able to come to Canada.

Since then, they’ve toured B.C. extensively, and played other charity benefits.

The group plays a range of musical styles, including classical, romantic, jazz, flamenco, blues and country.

The Hesham Refugee Sponsorship Group has raised about half the amount of money needed to bring Samar Al Hbayo’s brother Hesham to Parksville. The group has recently received news that the Canadian government has accepted the application for Hesham, his wife, and five children to emigrate to Canada.

Al Hbayo came to Parksville in December 2017 with her husband, Bader Al Faraj, and their three children. Al Hbayo is anxious to bring her brother and his family to join them. The two haven’t seen each other in 10 years, and Hasham has never met her two youngest children, his niece and nephew.

Jennifer and Terry Roberts are Parksville residents that helped bring Al Hbayo and her family to Parksville. Now they’re helping bring Hesham too, so the families can be reunited.

READ MORE: Parksville’s Syrian refugee family arrives on Island

Currently, Hesham is in Turkey with his family, as the war in Syria forced them to flee.

So far the Hesham Refugee Sponsorship Group has hosted two Syrian dinners featuring Al Hbayo as the head cook, one in December 2018 and one in January of 2019. Jennifer Roberts says the dinners were very well received.

The group aims to raise between $33,000 and $40,000 to pay for the family’s living expenses for one year.

Al Hbayo says that moving to Canada was difficult at first. It was cold, she didn’t speak English and after her experience living in Turkey after fleeing Syria, she was afraid that people wouldn’t welcome her. Now she smiles as she speaks about the people she’s met here.

“Beautiful group. I have beautiful group,” said Al Hbayo.

“Now I have family here… my grandma and grandpa [are] Jennifer and Terry,”” said Al Hbyao with a big smile.

The concert takes place at Knox United Church on Oct. 4 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance, and $30 at the door. They are available from Mulberry Bush bookstores, the Source in Qualicum Beach, Parks West and the Paradise Seashell Motel in Parksville.

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