The Islamic community in the city of Abbotsford is ralleying around the family of a young girl who was struck and killed by a transit bus while walking to school on Friday.
The girl, 9-year-old Hala Albarhoum, was on her way to Ten Broeck Elementary school when she was struck by a bus while crossing at the intersection of Hill-Tout Street South Fraser Way where there was no crossing guard present.
Parents of children who attend the school had been complaining for the last few weeks because there was no crossing guard at the intersection, guards that are provided on a volunteer basis by Abbotsford Community Services.
“Our thoughts are with the family, friends, classmates, teachers, transit staff and first responders in this difficult time,” said Community Services executive director Rod Santiago. “We have already begun looking into today’s tragedy and will provide whatever assistance we can to the Abbotsford Police Department as they conduct an official investigation.
“For us, today’s tragedy strikes deep for our staff. We are truly heartbroken.”
The Albarhoum family, originally from Seria settled in the city of Abbotsford back in 2016 and were adjusting quite well to their new home despite the difficulty faced by Hala’s father in locating steady work due to the language barrier he faces.
Tahir Khalid, a director with the Abbotsford Islamic Centre, remembers when the family first arrived: “The community was very excited to welcome them into Abbotsford. Everybody gathered around in the mosque here and then we drove over late evening to the Sandman Hotel where they were first arriving,” he said. “They had few belongings and were exhausted from the journey. Many of the children had gone days without sleep.”
Addressing the difficulty faced when it comes to finding employment, he added: “That has been an issue for them in settling down here. You need the language for any kind of job you want to do.”
The funeral for the little girl was held on Saturday in accordance with traditional Islamic customs at the Abbotsford Islamic Centre, before Hala’s burial in Chilliwack.
A GoFundMe page has also been set up to help the family cover the cost of the funeral, and as of this morning more than $20,000 has been raised. Money that is not used for funeral costs will be used by the family to cover living expenses as Hala’s father continues his search for employment.
Brad is a former Senior Fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University, is an award-winning travel, culture, and parenting writer. His writing has appeared in many of the Canada’s most respected and credible publications, including the Toronto Star, CBC News and on the cover of Smithsonian Magazine. A meticulous researcher who’s not afraid to be controversial, he is nationally known as a journalist who opens people’s eyes to the realities behind accepted practices in the care of children. Brad is a contributing journalist to Advocator.ca