Old St. Andrew’s joined the “Interfaith Refugee Resettlement Committee”, a group of Hartford area houses of worship – Christians, Jews and Muslims – all working to resettle refugee families in Bloomfield. We did not know yet where the family will be coming from. We did know that this family has been vetted through the government screening system and have been found to need resettlement because they have suffered persecution and face danger in their country of origin. Our first family came from Syria.
The Interfaith Refugee Resettlement Committee project is split into 7 spokes of a wheel covering different needs of the refugee family that we will settle. Other houses of worship will be responsible for spokes such as locating apartments and healthcare.
Old St. Andrew’s has been working with Eunice Medwinter, the founder of the Hyacinth Willliams Foundation Bloomfield Backpack program. Earlier, OSA parishioners helped with furnishings for the apartment- furniture and items and stocking a pantry with culturally appropriate food. Now, several parishioners continue to follow up. The names and pictures of the refugee family are not on this web site for their own protection.
- Time flies in our lives and theirs. Our family passed their one year anniversary on May 13th and so much has changed in the past twelve months. Fadi is still working daily at a restaurant in Hartford where he has become a bit of a star from the recent press on Yahoo News. His winning way, adorable smile and talent goes far to win friends and influence people. We hope he will start weekend work with a local caterer in June when the wedding business picks up. Meanwhile Eman is at home much of the time with the two small children, who keep her very busy. She keeps a spotless apartment which is a challenge with so much traffic! In addition
She is remarkably hospitable; always offering sweet coffee or tea with a cookie or a few dates to anyone who arrives -even for just a moment! She continues her ESL 5 days per week and has become quite accomplished. We even expect her to take the Ct. driving test in English next week. Both Fadi and Eman can carry on conversations in English and over the phone and in person, which has greatly improved their independence. Iris expects volunteer support to end at the end of year one, but realistically i suspect it wanes in many cases and does not abruptly terminate. We have set November as our date that we expect this lovely family to be financially independent and able to handle day to day living with little help. This is quite remarkable considering they knew no English and had no job prospects one year ago.
As for the children; Hamdi had his 9th birthday in February… and is enjoying school in Bloomfield. the principal, bus steward and teachers have been incredibly helpful ensuring his smooth integration into the academic and social life. He appears to make friends easily and is nearly caught up with peers in his academics. He still gets a bit of tutoring at home and after school. He clearly has his dads’ winning smile and ability to win over those he meets at school or on the soccer field.
The girls inherited this touching trait which will carry them far in the coming years. Farah is now two and one half and we hope she will be going to preschool in the fall. She is high energy and still loves to climb to the highest point in a room and dive or jump to the nearest chair. She is enamored with the cell phone which brings Mom some quiet and allows her to watch American or Syrian videos. Sham turned one one a few months ago and is quite like her sister with out the temper tantrums. I suspect that will come in time. She smiles non stop and is a ball of energy from sunrise to sunset. I find them both beguiling in every way!
The major factor that influences our current relationship is the effort to help them become independent. Fadi has a driving permit and hopefully will have a license after Ramadan in July. a van has been donated so we hope they can get to doctors, dentists shopping and recreation activity without our help. They will continue to get government assistance if all goes well. Fadi will supplement his income by catering but is still a meager wage earner.
Please keep them in your prayers as they assimilate into our diverse American family yet maintain their cultural identity and traditions. It has been and will be one of the most uplifting experiences of my life and I will continue to enjoy a special friendship and bond.
President Trump’s ban on refugees and lawful permanent residents and dual citizens from 7 Muslim countries brought protests at airports throughout the country. OSA parishioners spontaneously went to protest at Bradley Airport and some of us bumped into each other!
UPDATE ON OUR SYRIAN FAMILY IN BLOOMFIELD
It is hard to believe that two months has passed since I filled you in on the progress of our beautiful family. In this current political climate, I hope this will remind you of what a joyful mission this continues to be. As the immigration news gets worse we can only stay positive and keep moving forward, hoping that the open hearts of our resettlement family will impact their friends and might help open the minds and hearts of those who may be frightened into thinking that building walls and closing doors is the solution.
Please share a link to ; YAHOO NEWS/ American Goodness/ a Syrian family finds home in Connecticut/ with your friends and neighbors. This is a lovely documentation of the journey of Fadi and his family.
On Thanksgiving Fadi and his family shared a meal with a large group of refugees, St. Johns Church parishioners and the family of Nancy Latif. The Hartford Courant told this story with photos of the event which you can still access. The next day Fadi, Eman, Nour Sham, Farah and Hamdi came to Old Saint Andrews for a more intimate event. The highlight was a professional magician who shared magic tricks, to the delight of all, especially Hamdi who has taken quite an interest in card games and magic tricks since then. We shared a traditional turkey meal and enjoyed being able to communicate with our family as their understanding of English has progressed remarkably. I sense that this event touched them as much as it did us.
Some time before Christmas, we asked how they might feel about an outdoor tree with lights. Eman responded immediately with “why not inside?” Several days before the holiday, a tree remarkably appeared with a box of decorations and lights. As we decoratered the tree all three children’s eyes reflected the magic you may recall from the holidays of your youth. On Christmas eve Nancy Latif arrived in her santa hat with a large box of gifts. We spent several hours watching the children, looking so much like your grandchildren and mine, having the most fun I had witnessed since their May arrival. Of course Fadi and Eman fed us well with sweet creamy coffee and home baked goodies.
Since the holidays, I mark the passing time by the progress of the youngest child, Nour Sham, who is now shortened to Sham. She seems to have decided that crawling was an ineffecient way to keep up with her siblings,so after a few weeks on all fours she began to walk. She can almost be mistaken for her energetic older sister, Farah, as she sprints about and climbs any horizontal fixture or piece of furniture available. Not to be out done by her sister, Farah continues to keep baby sitters on their toes moving quickly from one room to another finding ways to frighten even the most seasoned grandparent, opening drawers and doors. She now watches American You- tube when Eman reluctantly relinquishes her I-phone for a moments peace. Hamdi had two weeks off school for the holidays but his language training continued and he now serves as the family translator. He told me that a Syrian girl joined his class at school and i think he enjoys being her mentor. His endearing smile must be a welcome site to her as she begins her journey in America.
Meanwhile Fadi is attempting, for the second time, to pass his drivers test in Arabic. His remarkable ESL team are tutoring him and Eman to pass this test as soon as possible. Our goal of course has always to move them towards independence and this is an important step. Please keep your fingers crossed for them. There is word of a free car waiting for them when all things come together. I have to say i feel a bit like the mom of a teenager who waits with trepidation as her child goes off in the family car for the first time! Clearly I have come to love this family in a way that I never imagined. We still have openings for sitters, drivers, handymen and women. Each time we welcome a new member to our resettlement group (as we did my old pal, Ginny Allen) it is not long before they, like auntie Ginny, may feel the warm arms of a new family relationship.
As the new year begins,my hope for our family’s happiness and succes is still blooming. Sadly, the land has weeds and the swamp has reptiles. I pray that we can work together, peacefully for the greater good and never ever forget that we are all one family.
Wishing you all the best.
December 20, 2016 – Our refugee dad is interviewed on Yahoo New’s American Goodness with Katie Couric. You can view the news clip here.
October 30, 2016 – The NPR broadcast about our refugee family has aired! You can listen to it here:
October 23, 2016
ANOTHER UPDATE ON OUR AMAZING SYRIAN FAMILY
from Barby Howe
On a spectacular Sunday about forty people gathered at the home of our co-sponsor-director in Bloomfield. His red barn was decorated with autumn leaves and traditional wonders of mother nature’s seasonal beauty. A large wooden boat had been made into a harvest table laden with a variety of foods from American potato salad to cous-cous and Middle Eastern specialities. The children played on the swings and slide while the co- sponsors from our churches, synagogues, temples and mosques milled about chatting and getting to know one another. Midway through the lunch, our host gave a heartfelt and touching speech to honor the refugee family and all those who had been a part of this remarkable mission. He gave a bit of historical background about their arrival in May and the rough road they traveled to get here from Syria. As I may have related; the dad Fadi, has a job as a pastry chef in Hartford where he is well respected and progressing remarkably. Recently Deborah Amos, of NPR, interviewed him for an upcoming episode which will air in the next few weeks. Nine year old Hamdi is doing well at Metacomet school and his language skills are improving at amazing speed. His mom tutored by our own Peggy Stanwood and a few other ESL teachers, is able to write quite well in English and able to follow simple conversations. Little Farah, the cell phone whiz kid, at 23 months is a classic energetic, stubborn and adorable toddler. Her sister Nour Sham smiles alot and has learned to crawl in recent weeks. Her sister enjoys grabbing the toys away from her which she accepts as just part of being the little sister. All in all their home is not unlike yours or mine. They have endless appointments, soccer games, social events and stacks of paper with which to contend. They have adjusted remarkably well but one can feel from time to time the sadness that lurks beneath the surface: the loss of a daughter, sister, father and many friends, coming to a new land where everything is different. It is nearly impossible to walk in their shoes, even for a moment. Our co-sponsor faith organizations do everything we can to provide for their daily needs looking ahead to their future. We still have open opportunities for drivers, ESL teachers and baby sitters so if any of you OSA folks would like to join in this rewarding mission, please call me at 860- 724-6621. Meanwhile please keep them in your prayers as we remember that we are all God’s children.
October 6, 2016 – The family is now receiving public attention. Our parishioners, Barbie Howe and Peggy Stanwood received news that the family has been interviewed by National Public Radio journalist Deborah Amos. The family has settled in well and are now giving moral support to other new refugees. The father Fadi Al Asmi has been able to find employment as a pastry chef at City Steam restaurant. The children are now enrolled in school.
Chris George, director of IRIS, brought Deborah Amos to City Steam. She is a seasoned NPR journalist who has worked for years as a war correspondent in the Middle East. She actually knew Chris George when he worked of Save the Children in Palestine. More recently she has been covering the refugee crisis. Perhaps some of you heard her stories on NPR from New Jersey.
Both Fadi and City Steam agreed to have her interview Fadi at City Steam as part of a large story she is doing on the resettlement process. Barbara Howe and other volunteers had a chance to visit with her during the time she spent in the kitchen with Fadi and talking with Fadi about his aspirations. Below is a picture of the interview in the kitchen:
August 20, 2016 – Since their arrival in May, they have progressed beyond our early expectations. As of this writing, dad is been working as a pastry chef in Hartford. The 10 year old son, is in summer school and attending camp. His few English words are spoken perfectly with no discernable accent and a smile that melts one’s heart. Two year old daughter wanders about, listening to her favorite Jordanian teen idol. She is adorable and impish with boundless energy and joy. Her baby sister has brown curls, can turn over by herself and smiles most of the time with the same elfin smile. Their mom has taken some time to adjust from the harrowing life left behind, but it was a joy to watch her chatting recently with a new Syrian pal at the local park as her children played on the swings and slides, seemingly oblivious to the profound challenges behind and ahead.
The family had many medical and cultural orientation appointments in the first few months, necessitating many trips to New Haven. Around the time Ramadan ended in July, they settled into a reasonable schedule with English as a Second Language teachers coming to their home several times weekly. The family goes grocery shopping, visits the library and took a trip to an amusement park in Middlebury. A visit to their home always brings out their amazing hospitality.
May 17, 2016: Thanks to the Vestry and all parishioners who took such an active interest in this project. The refugee family arrived late Wednesday evening. The family consists of parish and three children; 18 months, 2 months and 10 years old. When we met them the following day to show them how to work the appliances int he apartment, they were very grateful and touched by all of the people who were helping. Even with the language barrier, their feelings were very apparent. They have begun taking English lessons. Later this week they will be going to Yale-New Haven hospital and getting medical checkups. The family seems overwhelmed by all of the gifts and kindness of the volunteers. They are being assisted by local Arabic speakers and the Iman from Bloomfield is assisting them in finding a mosque where they would feel comfortable with worship. So far it has gone amazingly well. The Interfaith Refugee Resettlement Committee (IRRC) and our committee will continue to follow this family. IRRC plans to resettle more families in the future. So far, the organization of many houses of worship working together as a group has gone smoothly. – For more information, contact Barby Howe and Frank Lacroix
April 2016 – The Committee has received word that we will be sponsoring a refugee family, a mother, father and three young children, from Syria who will be arriving to Connecticut on May 11, 2016. Efforts are underway to locate housing and complete collection of furniture and household basics. Please contact the church office for further information.