Photo courtesy Lindsay Coulter Photography

Following a bride’s chance wardrobe malfunction, a University of Guelph staff member and his newly extended family are making headlines across North America.

This past Saturday, David Hobson was at home in Guelph with his family when a woman wearing a bridesmaid’s dress ran up his driveway. Next door, the bride’s dress zipper had broken, with the ceremony just hours away.

Only days earlier, Hobson had taken in a Syrian refugee family of five, including Halil Dudu, a master tailor.

“None of the family speaks any English, and we don’t speak any Kurdish or Arabic, so we used a lot of hand gestures to explain to Halil what the issue was,” said Hobson, a technology transfer manager at U of G’s Catalyst Centre.

“We were there maybe 15 minutes while he fixed everything up and made it look great. The photographer took a few pictures, but we didn’t think much would come of that. We went back to our house and figured that was the end of the story.”

Hobson-Syrian-tailor-Facebook-postHowever, the story was just beginning. The photographer, Lindsay Coulter, posted photos on Facebook.

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

“I’m in awe of the families who have welcomed these strangers into their homes and lives, and I’m inspired by the resilience of the Syrian people. We are truly blessed.”

From there, the story picked up speed. It has more than 30,000 likes and been shared more than 11,000 times.

Hobson has been interviewed by a large number of media, including the Washington Post, CTV News, CNN and Inside Edition.

“What an amazing thing that one picture made such a difference,” he said.

“The Dudu family is suddenly the new face of refugees in Canada. It’s great they provide a different perspective to the refugee story, and it shows how they are integrating here.”

Dave Hobson
David Hobson

Hobson, his wife, Shari Wiseman, and their three children had been waiting since spring for a family to join them, after Guelph businessman Jim Estill announced that he was sponsoring 50 Syrian families to come to Guelph.

At his own expense, Hobson renovated his basement and added a bedroom, living room and washroom. The new space has helped, but “it is definitely more crowded and kids are everywhere,” he said.

The Hobsons are looking for an apartment for the Dudu family. Their three children — ages 11, nine and seven — will start school soon.

“We could always use volunteers with cooking and other things,” said Hobson.

“They also don’t have a lot of dental care where they are from, and we just found out Halil’s wife needs a root canal, which the government doesn’t pay for. Many Syrian refugees have tremendous needs. We’re trying to collect money for them through Guelph Refugee Forum.”

Coulter has also set up a Go Fund Me page where people can donate towards the needs of all the Syrian refugees in Guelph, including the Dudu family.

Hobson said he’s glad his family got involved.

“We didn’t know what we were getting into, but these people have lost everything, and to see the smiles on their faces — that means a lot to us.”

From left: Interpreter John Jowin, David Hobson, Halil Dudu, his children Muhammed, 7; Azad, 11; and Simaf, 9; and his wife Emine
From left: Interpreter John Jowin, David Hobson, Halil Dudu, his children Muhammed, 7; Azad, 11; and Simaf, 9; and Dudu’s wife Emine