A Canadian couple decided to forego the wedding they'd spent more than a year planning, to hold a fundraiser for Syrian refugees instead.
Samantha Jackson and Farzin Yousefian told the Toronto Star that their decision came after they saw the photograph of a 3-year-old Syrian boy who drowned while trying to reach Europe.
“[It] was a turning point, in the sense that we knew this was a perfect time to act,” Yousefian told the Star. “We knew that people were aware of the issue because (the photo) had made such an impact and brought the issue to the fore.
We wanted to build on the momentum of that photo. It was a tragic circumstance, and we couldn’t fail to act.”
Jackson and Yousefian were supposed to tie the knot next March, but instead decided on a simple City Hall ceremony last month. They put their refunded venue deposit towards their $27,000 fundraising goal.
The couple transformed their reception into a fundraiser, raising $17,500. “The joy we received from celebrating our wedding with family and friends would be amplified if we could use that as a platform to give back at the same time," Yousefian said.
Earlier this year, Jackson began working at Ryerson University's Lifeline Syria Challenge, which seeks to coordinate 75 teams of people to host 75 refugee families for at least one year. “As soon as the idea came across our minds, we knew it was exactly what we wanted to do,” she said.
Toronto has been attempting to combat rising anti-Muslim sentiments, which so far have included a mosque fire and a Montreal man threatening to kill one Muslim a week. On Wednesday, two young women wearing hijabs were accosted at a subway station, pushed, and called "terrorists," according to the Toronto Star.
Brad Ross, executive director of the Toronto Transit Commission, said in a statement to the newspaper, “The TTC condemns this behaviour and racist act utterly and completely. We are working with police to identify these cowards.”
In response, several Toronto residents and regular transit riders have started using the hashtag #IllRideWithYou to offer companionship to Muslims who may feel unsafe using buses, subways, and more, CBC News reports.