Spotlight: Nedal Izdden – A Humanitarian and an advocate for Human rights

June 22, 2023

By Zara Khurana, Communications Generalist    

Nowadays, our world needs more kindness than ever. That’s where Nedal Izdden comes in.

A dentist, basketball player, and compassionate individual, Nedal has made a significant impact in both Syria and Canada. His relentless efforts to save lives during the Syrian civil war and his dedication to supporting his community have earned him the prestigious Human Rights Award during the 2023 MOSAIC Awards held on June 15, 2023.

Nedal, a Syrian refugee, came to Canada with his wife, Waad Shurbaji, and has since become a permanent resident, settling in Burnaby. Though he has had a hard life, it hasn’t stopped him from working tirelessly to save lives during the civil war in Syria, and it’s something he continues to this day. However, that’s not all he’s done.

Knights in White Armor: White Helmets

Nedal played a pivotal role as one of the founders of the White Helmets in Homs, Syria, in 2014. White Helmets, officially known as Syria Civil Defence, is a volunteer organization that operates in parts of opposition-controlled Syria and Turkey. Currently a volunteer and board member of White Helmets, Nedal supports many brave volunteers that undertake vital tasks such as medical evacuation, urban search, and rescue, and providing essential services. Despite limited resources and extreme danger, they have saved approximately 100,000 lives so far.

Canada Bound but Not Leaving the Past Behind

Nedal’s humanitarian efforts extend beyond the borders of his home country. After arriving in Canada in September 2018, he has continued to make a difference in the lives of others. Nedal’s work as a liaison officer for besieged areas and his involvement in educating volunteers about international humanitarian law showcase his commitment to making a positive impact.

Initially, Nedal arrived in Canada with the intention of leaving his past behind and starting anew. However, he realized that it’s not so easy to forget your roots. “I wanted to start my new life. But I discovered that I belong to my past, my culture, and where I come from, and that’s when I decided to continue my humanitarian work, but focusing on what I can do. For example, advocacy, fundraising, and showing the true state of Syria,” he tells us. According to Nedal, the Syrian media only shows a tiny part of what is really happening, and he wants to show the world the hidden reality. Now his mission is to shed light on the real struggles faced by his people and communicate their urgent needs through extensive research and personal experiences.

Working as a peer researcher in the Syrian Men’s Mental Health Project, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), Nedal focuses on supporting Syrian men and their families in Canada, who continue to face trauma and displacement. Nedal’s contributions will not only aid in the recovery of Syrian refugees but also help inform similar initiatives for other newcomer groups facing similar challenges. Through collaborations with organizations like OptionsBC and WorkBC, Nedal is actively working to assist Syrian refugee families in British Columbia in integrating seamlessly into Canadian society.

One notable example of Nedal’s efforts was co-founding Co-Hub BC with a friend, with a singular mission of helping in the aftermath of an earthquake in Southern Turkey and Syria. Their initiative successfully mobilized resources and garnered substantial donations for the affected regions. Nedal describes that once people knew how they could help, it was a successful endeavour since this allowed individuals to make a tangible difference.

Resonating with MOSAIC

MOSAIC holds a special place in Nedal’s heart. When he arrived in Canada, he realized that it’s not just an organization, but a collective with an understanding of the world’s complexities. MOSAIC’s commitment to staying informed about global situations impressed him, and he recognized the organization’s genuine dedication to making a positive impact on a personal level as a MOSAIC client. Additionally, Nedal is part of the MOSAIC program – Social and Civic Opportunities: Pathways to Equity Project (SCOPE), with the aim of helping immigrants in Canada to positively impact their communities by engaging in social & civic initiatives such as boards, and committees.

His selfless work has not only saved lives but also provided hope, support, and essential services to those affected by the Syrian civil war, as well as helped thousands of individuals rebuild their lives and find solace amidst adversity.

Nedal was nominated by Dr. Nancy Clark, Assistant Professor of the School of Nursing at the University of Victoria.  She tells us, “When I heard that there was an award to nominate someone for the MOSAIC Human Rights Award, it was without hesitation that I nominated Nedal Izdden. I first met Nedal through Dr. Amea Wilber because I was looking for a peer researcher who could help with our Social Sciences and Humanities Research project exploring Syrian refugee men’s mental health and labour employment in Canada. Nedal answered the call and we have been eternally grateful. Nedal has shared his life experience of living through extreme violence and displacement. Even though he himself came to Canada seeking refuge, through our research I learned that Nedal has saved and helped thousands of people escape the civil war in Syria. Nedal is a humanitarian through and through and continues to help his community while establishing himself here in Canada. I know this award means everything to Nedal and we are honoured with his achievements. We are thrilled and thank MOSAIC for supporting Nedal in this award.”

Thank you for your commitment and constant dedication to your community and the lives of those around you, Nedal. Congratulations on winning the 2023 MOSAIC Awards.