'Now is the time to act': Couple cancels wedding to support Syrian refugees
With a venue, caterer and guest list in place, a Toronto couple made a dramatic change in their wedding plans, opting to host a fundraiser to resettle Syrian refugees instead.
Samantha Jackson and Farzin Yousefian said they were in the midst of planning their March 2016 wedding when the photo of Alan Kurdi surfaced.
The image of three-year-old Syrian boy's lifeless body on a beach in Turkey, following a desperate and ultimately deadly attempt to reach Europe, inspired the couple act.
"We kept thinking of this unimaginable decision that so many Syrian families are forced to make," Jackson told CTV's Canada AM on Monday.
Jackson, who began working this year with Ryerson University Lifeline Syria Challenge, an organization coordinating the resettlement of 1,000 Syrian refugees in the Greater Toronto Area, says she and Yousefian were talking about the issue a lot.
The couple thought that their wedding could be an opportunity to spread awareness of the plight of Syrian refugees and help raise funds to sponsor a family to come to Canada.
"We immediately called our families and they were ecstatic," Yousefian said. "They just appreciate the fact that now is the time to act. We can't just be passive observers while this crisis unfolds."
Three weeks after making the decision to cancel their March nuptials, the couple got married on Thanksgiving weekend at a ceremony at Toronto City Hall followed by a reception at a local bar that doubled as a fundraiser.
Fortunately, the couple was refunded their wedding venue deposit, which went towards their $27,000 fundraising goal -- the amount needed to privately sponsor a refugee family of four.
"(The wedding) was a moment for us to all come together to say Toronto welcomes refugees…and this is what we want our city to stand for," Jackson said.
So far, the couple has raised more than $22,000.
Donations to the couple can be made by visiting Lifeline Syria and selecting Yousefian and Jackson's profile under "Team Leads."
Yousefian said in the wake of the attacks in Paris, and the various anti-Muslim incidents that have taken place in Canadian communities since then, it's easy to get caught up in the "negativity" surrounding the refugee crisis.
"We need to not lose sight of the message here,” he said. “Which is that Canada is welcoming to refugees and now is the time to act.”