In the summer of 2008, Maureen Eykelenboom visited Afghanistan on a mission to set up a fund that would honour her son, Cpl. Andrew Eyklenboom’s legacy.
It was during this visit that she first met Niaz Hussaini, a man whose life her son Cpl. Andrew Eyklenboom had saved years prior. Tragically Cpl. Eyklenboom, a CAF medic, died while serving in Afghanistan.
She still remembers her first meeting with Hussaini, how he came in the room wearing his prosthetic legs as a result of the incident that almost took his life, how they both had lunch and how they both cried.
“Niaz put a shawl over my head and said: ‘in my country, a man does not give a woman a gift if she is not a relative. However, an exception can be made when she is as important as a relative,” remembered Eykelenboom.
Now, years after that first visit, Eyklenboom is fighting tooth and nail to find a way for Hussaini and his family to be allowed to settle in Canada.
“I am bent on getting Niaz and his family to Canada,” said Eykelenboom. From roughly 2006 until 2012, Hussaini worked as an interpreter for the Canadian Armed Forces during the Afghanistan Mission.
“Their (the Hussaini Family) beautiful souls. They’re good people. They would be a benefit to Canada. They’re hardworking. They’re industrious. The kids are smart. He worked for Canada. He helped save some of our military guys. He was able to get the information and translate what was happening. I think we owe them,” Maureen Eykelenboom
“Those military members that knew him totally appreciate and value him and what he did for the Canadians,” commented Eykelenboom.
It was while Hussaini was working as an interpreter that he almost died when a bomb went off and Cpl. Eykelenboom saved his life.
“He has the greatest respect and appreciation that Andrew was there and wouldn’t give up and was determined that Niaz would live,” noted the Silver Cross mother.
Cpl. Eykelenboom was died shortly after by a suicide bomber on Aug. 11, 2006.
According to Eykelenboom, all five of Hussaini’s children, who range in ages from six to 12, know about Cpl. Eykelenboom, they know his story, and they feel closely connected to him.
According to EyKelenboom, after Hussaini’s employment came to an end with the CAF, he was told to go to Pakistan with his family. It would be there where his refugee status would be processed to come to Canada. But Hussaini refused believing that it would not be safe for him and his family.
“It wasn’t safe for interpreters to be there because they weren’t just shot. They were tortured and their families too,” explained Eykelenboom.
It is because of this that Eykelenboom believes Canada now refuses to let Hussaini and his family live in Canada.
Since Hussaini also worked with the American military as an interpreter, he was brought to the U.S. where he lives with his family in California.
However, according to Eykelenboom, they do not feel safe there and are often met with racism and bullying.
In her attempt to bring them to Canada, Eykelenboom has reached out to various politicians and former military members including Gen. (ret’d) Rick Hillier.
Eykelenboom remembers when meeting Hillier, he pointed to a picture of Hussaini and said, “Canada owes this man.” As it turns out, Hussaini was also often an interpreter for the former Chief of the Defence Staff.
Now with the elections on the horizon, Eykelenboom must wait to see who will come into office and who can help her bring Hussaini and his family to Canada.
“Their beautiful souls. They’re good people. They would be a benefit to Canada. They’re hardworking. They’re industrious. The kids are smart. He worked for Canada. He helped save some of our military guys. He was able to get the information and translate what was happening. I think we owe them,” said Eykelenboom.