We have had an extraordinary three years. Year one was dedicated to advocacy, learning about the needs of Syrian refugees worldwide and the possibilities of directly assisting and resettling families here. Jewish Family Services (JFS) Metrowest worked through HIAS to bring eight families, supported by several area congregations to this area. With a matching grant from Ed and Barbara Shapiro and strong encouragement from Rabbi Sisenwine, we raised sufficient funds to commit to assisting two families. In addition, dozens of generous congregants offered numerous donations of furniture, household goods, clothing, gift cards, computers, specific services, etc. And finally, in November 2016, we welcomed the Hayani family – parents and with four young children. Four months later, after several delays, the Aljelous family, with three small children (one only a month old) arrived. And then this past March, the the Aljelous greeted with jubilation a baby – a new United States citizen.
With the goals of safety, stabilization and economic self-sufficiency, JFS and 12 amazing core family volunteers plus 11 family support volunteers provided nurturing, job preparedness, English language acquisition, transportation for medical and government services as well as shopping, navigating schools and other educational programs, and understanding of expenses and budgets. Cultural differences and language barriers melted away, and deep connections have been made. Other volunteers have assisted with researching housing and job opportunities. Some have also provided assistance to families sponsored by other congregations.
We have been impressed with the love, warmth and dedication the parents show their children. Desiring stability for their children to remain in the same school and for them all to continue to work with JFS and TBE volunteers, the families wish to remain in Framingham. In less than 2 years, they have demonstrated resilience and strength and an eagerness to be independent. The Hayanis are thrilled with their new rental home, and the Aljelous will move in January to a house, offered at cost, by a local church. Both families appreciate being close with other newly settled Syrian families. Another milestone was reached when the adults obtained their driver’s licenses, allowing for greater independence and mobility. Cars were donated by a non-TBE member.
All the children have thrived. Some have attended day camp. One, too young for preschool, attended an early intervention program. Both fathers have acquired greater work experience and have expanded their job hours, while the mothers are considering work options and learning to drive!
For now, we continue to provide financial support for specific needs including pre-school this year. Many of the volunteers remain connected. In addition, the team has come full circle as it focuses on immigration advocacy and developing ways to assist other individuals and families seeking asylum and a better life in the US.
We are enormously grateful to everyone who has shared in this successful and sacred journey; it has been gratifying to each of us, and indeed, it has allowed new beginnings to 2 families who were escaping strife and uncertainty.