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Ethiopian communities band together to help parents of three children killed in tragic collision

Meseret Shiferaw (centre) with her three young children who were were killed in a crash near Hanna on Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017. Calgary’s Ethiopian community is helping raise funds to transport the girls’ body home to the United States. Supplied photo

Ethiopian communities across borders are working together to help a family bring the bodies of their three children home after a fatal crash in Alberta.

Last Wednesday, a collision between an SUV and a semi-trailer in southern Alberta resulted in the death of an 11-month-old girl, an 11-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl. The siblings’ parents, Meseret Shiferaw and Soloman Adugna, survived the crash and remain in stable condition at the Foothills Hospital.

But they’re a long way from home and it could cost as much as $30,000 to transport the parents and their deceased children back to Spokane, Wash. 

Adugna’s cousin, who lives in the U.S., set up a fundraising campaign to help cover the costs, and members of Calgary’s Ethiopian community are joining forces with them to raise the necessary funds. 

“When something like this happens, everyone comes together,” said Anwar Sultan, who is heading the efforts in Calgary. 

The family was visiting a relative in Saskatchewan and had planned to stop in Calgary to visit a friend before returning home. The crash happened as they were on their way to Calgary, at the intersection of Highway 36 and Highway 570 near Hanna, approximately 220 kilometres east of the city.

Sultan said language and cultural barriers — not to mention being outside of one’s own country — can make it difficult for people to access help after tragedies. When Sultan heard about the crash on the news, he and other members of the Ethiopian community immediately offered their help to Shiferaw and Adugna.

“It’s especially hard for this kind of community that see everything in the eyes of a new generation — in their kids,” he said.

Most Ethiopians living in Canada have endured previous hardships and many have spent time in refugee camps.

They came to Canada to start a new life, with the hope their children will never have to think about the difficulties their parents went through in Ethiopia or in different camps, said Sultan. 

That’s what makes this tragic loss so difficult, he said. 

“If you go to the hospital to see the family, you will see Ethiopian Canadians from all walks of life that don’t know each other but they know it’s one of them that is impacted,” he said. “They cry together, they mourn together.”

The online fundraiser had raised more than $10,000 of the $30,000 goal as of Sunday afternoon, thanks to the donations from Americans and Canadians. Sultan said the Calgary community has offered incredible support since the accident and that Ethiopians from across North America have been reaching out to lend a hand to help Shiferaw and Adugna.

“We have to stand up for one another,” said Sultan.

An investigation into what caused the collision is still underway.

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