National Migration Week: A Family’s Story

He was a skilled artisan back in his home country. He was a furniture maker and interior designer, just like his father and his grandfather. He was successful. He provided well for his family. Then the war changed everything.


Ziad and his wife, Eman, were forced to flee their homeland of Syria with their two children and seek refuge in Jordan, where they had their third child. Wanting a better life for himself and his family, Ziad applied for refugee status in Jordan.


In 2016, the family was picked up at the airport by Sarah Aljanabi, a refugee case manager for Catholic Charities to begin the process of resettlement. 


Now, the family is more determined than ever to start a new life in the United States, a journey which began at Catholic Charities’ Camden office.


Upon the family’s arrival to South Jersey, staff members of the refugee resettlement program worked tirelessly to find them housing, schooling for the children, and healthcare.


“In Syria, I owned my own home. I owned my own business there for 21 years. We had a nice life,” Ziad explained, speaking partially through an interpreter as he showed pictures of vibrantly colored rooms filled with intricately crafted furniture that he designed and built from scratch in Syria.


“I want to stand on my feet. I want to be independent. I desperately want to work in a job that allows me to provide fully for my family. With the language barrier, it is a real challenge. But I am determined to learn because I want my family to have the best possible life here in America,” he added.


Moustafa Aldouri, a refugee case manager with Catholic Charities, assisted Ziad in finding basic work, and he is now employed as a housekeeper at a local hotel.


“But once I have a better command of English,” he said, “I want to find a job in my field of work. I have so much experience and skills to offer”.


In order to assimilate and realize his goal, Ziad attends English classes at Catholic Charities whenever he is not working at his current job. “I need to improve my English. That is my number one goal right now. When it comes to things like making appointments, it’s difficult if I can’t communicate properly. But I’m learning,” he said eagerly. “My wife’s English is better than mine,” he added with a smile.


Ziad explained that with his current entry level job, money is often an issue, and at times it’s difficult to make ends meet. “[Catholic Charities] has truly been a blessing to our family with the support they provide. We always feel welcome here. Everyone always greets us warmly and with a smile,” he said. “They’ve helped us start our life here, and we’re taking it one step at a time. But we’re eager for what’s to come.”


“Ziad is the type of client who will stop at nothing to create a great life for his family here. Ever since he arrived, he’s been as determined and hard-working as it gets. I have no doubt this family will fit in well here and become contributing, productive members of our community. He and his family truly are assets to this country.” remarked case manager Aldouri.


National Migration Week (January 8-14) provides an opportunity for Catholic parishes to reflect on the circumstances confronting migrants, including immigrants, refugees, children, and victims of human trafficking. The theme for National Migration Week 2017 draws attention to Pope Francis’ call to “create a culture of encounter” — to not just look at migrants as “others”, but to truly encounter them, to engage with them as children of God who are worthy of our attention and support. For Pope Francis, “this word [encounter] is very important to me. Why? Because faith is an encounter with Jesus, and we must do what Jesus does: encounter others.”

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