Thanks to the efforts of a group of local mothers, hospital staff, and many community members, a family room at the QEII Health Sciences Centre has received a much-needed renovation — all in honour of the Barho family.


When Kawthar and Ebraheim Barho lost their seven children in a fire in February 2019, the tragedy gripped the surrounding community. Lubna Channaa, from Hammonds Plains, recalls hearing of the tragic event.


“When I first heard the news, as a mother myself, I felt so much for these parents. I wanted to help them, even though I didn’t know them personally.”


Lubna and two other women from the Muslim community, in collaboration with the Ummah Masjid and Community Center, were inspired to start the fundraising group Barho Friends to honour the Barho family and to acknowledge the work the QEII had done in treating Ebraheim Barho.


After consulting with the QEII, it was decided that the group would raise funds to renovate a family room in the hospital’s intermediate care unit (IMCU).


“As Muslim Canadians, we ran this campaign as a gesture of appreciation to the overall community, and the QEII, for its outpouring of support to the Barho family and our community,” says Lubna. “We also hope that this will help future families in need.”


Lubna felt that before the renovation, the family room left a lot to be desired.


“It felt more like an office space than a family room,” says Lubna. “It’s not a space you want to spend time in when you’re in the mental state of being with a loved one receiving treatment in the hospital.”


“Unfortunately, it reminded me of the room which we all spent too much time in while helping Kawthar Barho through her difficult time,” adds Dr. Ahmad Hussein, chair of the Ummah Masjid and Community Center board. “It was outdated with overused furniture and felt like it had no warmth or love in it.”


While hospital staff mapped out plans for the renovation, Barho Friends joined forces with the QEII Foundation and the local community to raise funds to make the renovation come to life.


Fundraising efforts began before the COVID-19 pandemic, with the group hosting in-person events such as lemonade stands, a paint night, and a henna tattoo booth at the Halifax Shopping Centre. They also approached local businesses to raise funds and sold winter clothing.


Barho Friends received overwhelming support from Ummah Masjid and Community Center and other local mosques. “Barho Friends had the full support of our community,” says Dr. Hussein. “We are proud of Lubna and how she rose as a leader during a difficult time.”


“They’ve really gone all out to support the fundraising,” Lubna shares. “That stretched to the whole community. Everyone at our events really responded so strongly. People were so touched by the story.”


In total, Barho Friends and the community raised more than $8,000 for the IMCU family room renovation.


“The fact that we reached our goal to renovate this room in honour of the Barho family, thanks to the community, is incredible,” says Emily Briand, health services manager for the IMCU. “I think everyone was touched in one way or another by the tragedy and that will not soon be forgotten about, and this is a great way to honour the family.”


Due to slow-downs caused by COVID-19, renovation plans were temporarily delayed. After careful planning and background work, the new space is now complete as of March 2022.


The new room is a welcome contrast to the prior dull, cluttered environment. A bright, airy colour scheme brings the space to life. Expertly planned features make the environment truly feel like home.


As an honour to the Barho family, Barho Friends, and the surrounding community, there’s also a plaque dedicated to the Muslim community who helped drive the fundraiser. A beautiful art mural by Karim Jabbari, a world-renowned calligraphy and light artist, has also been ordered for the space.


“The changes are as we hoped they would be. The room is now brighter, spacious and well-designed,” says Dr. Hussein.


Some new features that will benefit families are comfortable furniture, countertops and a microwave for meal prepping, a new television and a new pull-out cot.


Emily explains that having this version of “a nice hotel room in a hospital” will help families feel calmer during stressful and uncertain times with their loved ones in the IMCU.


“Just knowing that there’s a place to go that's safe and quiet and they can gather their thoughts, collect their emotions and be able to remove themselves from the busyness of the unit is going to be huge.”


Emily explains that QEII hospital staff are also excited about the new IMCU family room and grateful for an area where they can bring families who are facing stressful situations or difficult news.


The family room is now open on a limited basis, with a small number of families able to access the rooms due to pandemic protocols and a few pending finishing touches. The area is expected to open at full capacity in the next few weeks.


Barho Friends, Ummah Masjid and Community Center, hospital staff  and the QEII Foundation are deeply grateful for the outpouring of love and support from our community for this family room renovation.


“We have so much gratitude and appreciation for everyone who came together to make this renovation come to life,” Lubna expresses.


“Nova Scotians, like all Canadians, share this beautiful trait of giving back and rallying together to do good in the face of adversity, no matter their background,” says Dr. Hussein. “I am very proud to call this place home.”