'This hits close to home': Lebanese Edmontonians join aid effort after Beirut explosion
EDMONTON -- Edmontonians Daniel Hassan and Nasser Kirameddine have talked for years about volunteering abroad, willing to almost anywhere but their ancestral home so they could see more of the world.
Both friends were born in Canada but have numerous family members in Lebanon, and have visited the country before.
But then a catastrophic explosion turned all eyes to Beirut, and suddenly, there was no other place to go.
"It changed our outlook completely. We said, 'OK, this hits close to home. This is something that we want to experience firsthand and be able to tell everybody back home,'" Hassan explained to CTV News Edmonton.
"Just show the Lebanese community that Canadians are here with them."
The explosion left 135 people dead and another 300,000 people homeless.
Kirameddine said, "On top of an economic crisis that's already happening, on top of a refugee crisis that's already happening, and on top of COVID-19 -- just to see that explosion, it's compounding, compounding, compounding on your brain, on your heart."
Within a week of coming in contact with the Canadian Humanitarian Coalition, the friends flew to Beirut.
The country mandates a 48-hour self-isolation period and COVID-19 test upon arrival.
When CTV News Edmonton spoke to the friends Tuesday morning, they had been in the country for less than 24 hours, and were waiting to finish the isolation period.
Assuming neither develops symptoms, Hassan and Kirameddine expect to begin work Wednesday, visiting the explosion site and helping bring those in need food and supplies.
"We're here to play a helping hand, to show what exactly is going on," Hassan said.
The pair will return to Alberta this weekend.
The Canadian Humanitarian Coalition is matching up to $5 million in donations until Aug. 24 for relief efforts.