LETHBRIDGE, ALTA. -- A Syrian refugee who relocated his family from his homeland to southern Alberta in pursuit of a better life, has died from COVID-19 before fulfilling his dream of becoming a Canadian citizen.

Majd Yared moved to Lethbridge in 2016 after his home and business in Syria were bombed. His family was left with nearly nothing and they lived together in a small room for nearly a year while awaiting approval from the Canadian government.

After arriving in Lethbridge, the father of two dreamed of buying a home, opening an Arabic-Syrian restaurant and becoming a Canadian citizen. His goals never came to fruition as the 41-year-old died in hospital on Oct. 27 after contracting the novel coronavirus.

Family friend Brian Wright says Yared loved his adopted country.

"He couldn’t say enough about Canada. He was so excited about being here."

Majd Yared, Elen, COVID-19, Lethbridge

Undated image of Majd and Elen Yared (supplied)

Yared’s wife Elen contracted coronavirus while working at a daycare and the couple's 12-year-old and seven-year-old daughters also became sick. Despite being in good health and having no underlying medical conditions, Yared soon fell severely ill.

He spent two weeks in hospital where he was placed on a ventilator. The virus attacked his lungs and other organs resulting in cardiac arrest. He did not survive.

Wright says the family members, who have since recovered from their bouts with COVID-19, are devastated.

"They’re still in a state of shock. It was totally unexpected," said Wright. "They’re strong people. They’ve shown their strength through what they’ve come through in life, coming from Syria, but it’s still going to be very hard.” 

Wright's daughter Heather Spiess considered Yared to be a member of her family and lauds his effort to help his wife and daughters. "I know he wanted to come to Canada to give his girls a chance for a better, safe life. Although he’s no longer with them, he’s accomplished that goal and I know he’s watching from above and will always be there for them."

Member of the local Syrian community and strangers alike have come together to support Yared's family.

More than $20,000 was donated to the 'Support for the family of Majd Yared' GoFundMe campaign in its first day. The money will help cover funeral expenses and provide the family with financial support.

Joliana Rezk moved to Canada from Syria at roughly the same time as Yared and his family. She's staying with his wife and children to help them through this difficult time.

"We’re going to miss his laugh, his big heart, his kindness," said Rezk.

She wants her departed friend to know she'll always be there for them. "I’m just going to tell him that we’re here with them and we’re not going to let them be alone, and, we love you Majd, and you’re going to be missed."

The family continues to work toward fulfilling Yared's dream of becoming Canadian citizens in 2021.