C-K shows its support to orphaned crash victims

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The family that is taking care of three young children whose parents were killed in a recent motor-vehicle crash were shown the love Saturday during an event hosted by the Chatham-Kent Muslim Association.

Haysem El-Rifai and his family were special guests at an Eid celebration held in Chatham Saturday to mark the end of Ramadan. The event included presenting the El-Rifai family with nearly $14,000 raised in the community.

El-Rifai and his wife and children are now caring for the three young children left orphaned after his brother, Khaldoun (Sammy) El-Rifai, 48, of Dresden, and sister-in-law Rabia Sayour, 26, died from injuries in a two-vehicle crash on Longwoods Road near Bothwell in the early evening of May 25.

“It’s really very nice. We appreciate whatever they do for the kids,” El-Rifai said of the support received during his family’s visit to Chatham. “We don’t feel like we’re by ourselves. It’s like we have a big family.”


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El-Rifai and his wife, who have 11 children of their own, are now caring for his brother’s children – Ayat, 4, Arkan, 2, and Ameer, 1.

“Everyday is better than the other day,” he said, “but it’s still tough.”

He noted the the children still have injuries from the crash.

El-Rifai’s daughter Samara, 25, is among the older children helping to care for her cousins.

She said they are doing their best to keep up a brave face to help the children heal.

“We can’t show them that we’re sad all the time because it affects them,” Samara El-Rifai said. “When they see that everyone’s happy and everything’s OK, it makes them happy being around us.”

She said her cousins, who visited often, know the family well, so that has helped with the transition.

Although she feels good her family is caring for her young cousins, Samara El-Rifai admits to also being a little nervous because the children will be looking to them as role models.

“So, it’s making sure we put our best foot forward with everything we do and showing them they have support no matter what with everything they do,” she said.

Hassan El-Khodr, who was a childhood friend of Khaldoun El-Rifai in Lebanon, said customers were coming into the Chatham convenience store and gas bar he owns to donate money for the children after reading in The Chatham Daily News they were friends.

El-Khodr, who is also president Chatham-Kent Muslim Association, said the local Muslim community decided to build on the donations he received and raise more money, and invite the family come to their celebration to receive it.


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More than $2,700 was also donated through the Chatham-Kent Asian Cultural Association.

Noting donations came in from people of many different faiths, El-Khodr said it “shows the love and the care in this community.”

He added the support makes him proud to be living in Chatham and also made him realize “humanity’s still in good shape.”

“There’s lots of people who still care. That really moved me a lot.”

El-Khodr also offered a prayer to the El-Rifai family as they take on the responsibility of raising these children.

“We pray to God, as a community, to give you the strength and the patience to raise those children as they are your own,” he said.



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