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From Lebanon with love: a Red Cross romance

By Melanie MacDonald, Communications Coordinator in Atlantic Canada

It was love at first sight for Canadian Red Cross volunteer Georges Yaacoub who met his wife at a Red Cross Valentine’s Day party in his birthplace of Zahlé, Lebanon. Born into a benevolent Lebanese family, Georges spent his childhood surrounded by humanitarians.

Canadian Red Cross volunteer Georges YaacoubImmigrating to Canada in 2010, Georges settled in Nova Scotia. He sat down recently to share his incredible journey from hometown to Halifax and his love for all things Red Cross.

“My whole family were involved with the Lebanese Red Cross.  When I was a baby,” beams Georges, “I was often found in the arms of Red Cross ladies while my grandmother volunteered. I know the fundamental principles well. I grew up on them.”

Georges also has his own fundamental principles. “For me, it’s love, humanity and mercy.”

In Lebanon, Georges volunteered with the youth program. “We put on plays for kids, teaching hygiene, bullying awareness and respect for the environment. Every Christmas Eve, we gave out food and heating oil to the poor.”

His wife, Joelle, was also a volunteer. “The Red Cross gave me my most cherished gift of all, my habibi, my love.” They were greeted, as part of their ceremony, by a contingent of ‘Red Crossers’ honouring them with lilies.The couple were married in Zahlé.  They were greeted, as part of their ceremony, by a contingent of ‘Red Crossers’ honouring them with lilies.

Happy to be living in Canada, Georges smiles and says he now has two hometowns. “Like my parents, I cannot choose one over the other,” he explains. “Lebanon is my mother. It is my heart, soft and full of emotion. Canada is my father, also full of heart, hard work and strength. I love them both the same."

Asked about holiday traditions, Georges shares that like Canadians, the Lebanese also enjoy the Christmas log. “And always,” he adds, “someone in the family dresses as Santa for the kids.”

Georges, an engineer, and Joelle, a software developer, work for the same telecommunications company. They have one daughter and are expecting their second child in June.

Two years ago, Georges became a disaster management volunteer with the Red Cross in Nova Scotia. “I want to instill the family tradition of giving back to community to my children.” 

He remembers well his first response. “I got the call at three a.m. and jumped out of bed. It was an apartment fire. Twenty people out on the street.” Georges noticed the growing hunger among the evacuees and volunteered to do a Tim Horton’s run. “I didn’t care what it cost. I would have paid it myself to bring coffee and muffins to the people.”

Georges has a message to anyone considering becoming a Red Cross volunteer. “You need to balance emotion with work,” he says. “But you will find a part in you that was missing and it will show you meaning of what it is to be human.”
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