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A refugee from war-torn Aleppo helped save a Canadian bride’s wedding day

Ibrahim Halil Dudu, a master tailor from Syria, helps Jo Du after the zipper of her wedding dress split open. (Lindsay Coulter)

Ibrahim Halil Dudu lost everything about three years ago when his home and his tailoring business in Aleppo were blown up by a bomb.

Today, Dudu still does not have much.

What he does have is a new home country — and unexpected recognition for doing something he didn’t think was a very big deal.

It all started Sunday in Guelph, Ontario.

Dudu, his wife and their three young children had arrived just days earlier in the Canadian city, about 60 miles west of Toronto, after David Hobson and his wife, Shari Wiseman, agreed to host the family of Syrian refugees.

Hobson was in his driveway playing basketball with the kids on Sunday when a bridesmaid approached him and asked whether he had any tools. The zipper of the bride’s dress had split open, she explained, and the bridesmaids had been trying — and failing — to fix it, Hobson told The Washington Post.

He realized he knew someone who could help.

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Hobson grabbed Dudu, a master tailor, saying only: “Emergency, come help!”

The two men took a sewing kit to the nearby house that the wedding party had rented to get ready for the ceremony.

Neither man speaks the other’s language — they’ve been using Google Translate to communicate — so Hobson couldn’t explain what was going on. But, he said, Dudu got to work as soon as he saw the dress.

“He knows what he’s doing,” Hobson said.

Within a few minutes, the dress was fixed; the bride, Jo Du, thanked them and hurried to the wedding venue.

But the moment would live on.

The wedding photographer, Lindsay Coulter, had taken some pictures as Dudu sewed the bride’s dress. The day after the wedding, she posted two of them to her Facebook page and recounted what she’d witnessed.

“Every weekend, I take photos of people on the happiest days of their lives,” she wrote, “and today one man who has seen some of the worst things our world has to offer came to the rescue.

“I am so proud to live in Canada, a country who has opened our doors to refugees countless times. I’m in awe of the families who have welcomed these strangers in to their homes and lives, and I’m inspired by the resilience of the Syrian people. We are truly blessed.”

The photos went viral, and the newly arrived Syrian refugee suddenly found himself featured in local, national and foreign news outlets.

Speaking with The Post with the help of an interpreter, Dudu said he did not expect that doing the very thing he’s trained to do would make international news.

At age 10, his father told him that they couldn’t afford school, so he had to learn a skill. He worked for a neighbor who owned a small tailoring business, and later, he started managing his own tailoring shop.

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Shortly after a bomb destroyed his home and his business, Dudu and his family fled to a nearby village. They then went to Turkey, where they lived for three years until they were approved for resettlement by the Canadian government. The country has resettled thousands of Syrian refugees — more than 30,000 since last November.

After months of promises and weeks of preparation, the first Canadian government plane with Syrian refugees landed in Toronto on Dec. 11, 2015. (Video: Reuters, Photo: Nathan Denette/Reuters)

In Guelph, Jim Estill, a businessman and philanthropist, had decided to use his own money to sponsor 50 Syrian families and asked residents whether they could help by taking refugees into their homes. Hobson, a technology manager at the University of Guelph, and his wife, a veterinarian, had agreed to host a family of five. They’d renovated their basement and added a bedroom, a living room and a washroom.

They had “no idea who [was] coming or how they [were] coming,” Hobson said.

At 11 p.m. on Sept. 22, the family arrived: Dudu, 38; his wife, Emine, a former schoolteacher; and their children Azad, 11, Simaf, 9, and Muhammed, 7.

“They were very brave to just hop on a plane,” Hobson said. “They literally didn’t know where they were going. We picked them up, put them to bed and they slept for 14 hours.”

Hobson and his wife will host Dudu and his family until they are able to support themselves.

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For now, they’re looking for an apartment; Dudu’s children will soon start school. A GoFundMe campaign started Wednesday has so far raised more than $2,000.

“It’s been hard for us to do this as a hosting family, but it’s been one of the best experiences of my life,” Hobson said. “It really makes a difference at the personal level. You see it in the kids’ smile. You see it in the appreciation of the people.”

Dudu said he was happy his experience came in handy.

Eventually, he said, he hopes to open a tailoring shop in Canada — and people are already offering to help: Inspired by the wedding-dress story, a man in Toronto wrote on Facebook that he’d like to give his commercial sewing machine to Dudu.


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